This holiday marks the end of slavery in the British Empire. It is a public holiday in several Caribbean countries and though the holiday commemorates events that took place on 1 August 1834, it may be celebrated in different days in these countries.
The British like other colonial powers had allowed the widespread practice of slavery to take place during the time of expansion to the new world. In 1772, the ruling in the case of the case of Somerset v Stewart determined that slavery was unsupported by the common law in England and Wales. While the ruling was not clear on the situation in other parts of the Empire, this case was seen as a key turning point in the change towards emancipation.
Slavery was finally abolished throughout the British Empire by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, which came into effect on 1 August 1834. The territories controlled at that time by the East India Company, Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) and St. Helen’s were excluded. Slavery was not abolished in these regions until 1843.