“Methinks I see grim Slavery’s Gorgon form”
: abolitionism in Belfast, 1775-1865

  • Krysta Beggs-McCormick

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines abolitionism in Belfast from its origins in the late eighteenth century through to the late nineteenth century. In this period Ireland underwent fundamental change. Belfast was not immune. It was transformed from a small Presbyterian town on the periphery into Ireland’s preeminent industrial city. This study will demonstrate that Belfast abolitionism issued from many sources. The local context is important, most strikingly in the theme of the ‘Irish slave’. This noted, one must also appreciate how Belfast abolitionism was conditioned by contemporary local, national, transnational, and international events and campaigns. This thesis is the first to undertake a longitudinal study of Belfast abolitionism in its various and multiple contexts. It throws fresh light on local, national, and international history.

Despite the prominence and endurance of Belfast abolitionism it is an understudied aspect of Irish and British abolitionism, an imbalance this study addresses. Building upon earlier research, this thesis details how the formation of the Irish as slave mentalité and the impact of local demands for political and religious reform underpinned the appeal of abolitionism in Belfast. It examines how local change, for example the development of ‘Britishness’, impacted upon abolitionism. It also notes that there was strong continuity, most notably the survival of the Irish slave mentalité and ideas of liberty and natural rights, that ensured support for the abolitionist cause in Belfast. This made Belfast a prominent centre of abolitionism on the national and ultimately transatlantic stage.
Date of AwardOct 2018
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment of Education and Learning (DEL)
SupervisorIan Thatcher (Supervisor) & Kyle Hughes (Supervisor)


  • Anti-slavery
  • Ireland
  • Ideology
  • Religion
  • Liberty
  • Campaigns
  • Natural rights

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