LONDON — A new database launched Wednesday lets Britons uncover uncomfortable information: whether their ancestors owned slaves.
Researchers at University College London spent three years compiling a searchable listing of thousands of people who received compensation for loss of their “possessions” when slave ownership was outlawed by Britain in 1833.
Some 46,000 people were paid a total of 20 million pounds – the equivalent of 40 percent of all annual government spending at the time – after the freeing of slaves in British colonies in the Caribbean, Mauritius, and southern Africa.
Their descendants include writers Graham Greene and George Orwell. Orwell’s real name was Eric Blair, and the trustees of his great-grandfather, Charles Blair, were paid 4,442 pounds for 218 slaves on a plantation in Jamaica.
Research associate Keith McClelland said the project would help show how the legacy of slavery still affects Britain.
He says 10 percent of wealthy…
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