This Evil Trade: Olaudah Equiano and abolition

Costumed interpreter as abolitionist Olaudah Equiano

Can you find evidence that will support Equiano's argument for abolition?

This session takes pupils back in time to the 1780s, where they meet and listen to the arguments of a slave trader, before being introduced to Olaudah Equiano (played by a costumed interpreter). Equiano tells students about his experiences as a slave, how he bought his freedom and how he is fighting for the trade’s abolition. Students are asked to support Equiano in his quest.

Using original documents held here at the archives, students are given the opportunity to find evidence that will support Equiano’s argument for abolition. Documents include the Barbot Journals from 1681, Treasury records from the 1780s and Colonial Records that provide evidence of resistance and rebellion amongst the enslaved.

At the end of the session, pupils will discuss their findings with Equiano on what life was like for the enslaved, how slaves rebelled and how they resisted slavery. They will also have the opportunity to see a letter written by Equiano to the political reformer Thomas Hardy in 1792.

Overall, a very impressive and enjoyable session. The pupils thoroughly enjoyed their day out, and learned a lot about the methodology of the historian through scrutinising primary documents.

KS3 teacher

This session is delivered as a workshop and videoconference. Find out more about the types of session we offer.

Session options

This session is delivered as a:


at The National Archives

2 hours


in your classroom

1 hour

Available: 20 – 22 October 2015

Cost: Free to UK schools

Suitability: Key stage 3

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All activities must be booked in advance.

Tel: +44 (0)20 8392 5365

Fax: +44 (0)20 8487 9202

Contact the education team