Ayrshire and Slavery


The following guide is a list of resources, including web links and print material, relating to Scotland’s and Ayrshire’s involvement in Slavery. We are hopeful efforts will continue (by us and others) to enable additional printed sources to be made available online.

We cannot change history, but we can, and should, learn from it.  The past cannot be undone, but we have to ensure that mistakes that were made are not repeated in the future.  The future can be changed.  It is our duty to do so, and that is best done through an informed and intelligent examination of the past, through a study of the facts.  It is with that in mind, and with a desire to see the issues around slavery, equality, morality and humanity debated in a thoughtful manner, that we have gathered together this list of appropriate sources.

Please read them, and explore further.  New material will, undoubtedly, be added all the time; this has become a hugely relevant area of research.  Remember to search around the names and titles we have listed, and to check the veracity and origins of any material you find.   Seek out evidence; keep an open and enquiring mind.

Ultimately, though, we hope that you will find that history, even if it isn’t all wonderful, and not always seen through rose-tinted glasses, can offer us lessons to learn from, and hope for the future.  The study of the past, its successes and its failures, its glories and its disasters, can be a rewarding and engaging activity.  Try it.

Rob Close, President.


The following guide is a list of resources, web links and print, relating to Scotland’s and Ayrshire’s involvement in Slavery. We are hopeful efforts will continue (by us and others) to enable printed sources to be made available online. Weblinks can go out of date, so please do search around the titles and authors if they are no longer working.  New sources and suggestions always welcome.

Scotland and Slavery

Web Resources


UCL’s Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership traces the impact of slave-ownership on the formation of modern Britain. Search the database to find out about individuals’ and families’ involvement in or relations to the Transatlantic slave trade, or browse the estates’ o explore the ownership of plantations and estates in the British Caribbean.


Scotland and Slavery overview.


National Trust for Scotland Resources Pack.


National Library of Scotland resources, which usually can be consulted in search rooms:

  • Papers of Scottish planters and sugar merchants
  • Information about enslaved people working in Scotland
  • First-hand accounts of the voyages of slave ships
  • Printed and manuscript material about the abolition and emancipation movements.


Guide to National Archives of Scotland resources. Collection includes records relating to individual slaves and former slaves such as Scipio Kennedy, originally from Guinea, who was a slave at Culzean and lived in Kirkoswald, Ayrshire until his death in 1774; also has Court of Session Papers on the The Montgomery v Sheddan case (1756) in which a runaway slave James Montgomery attempted to obtain his freedom from his master, Robert Sheddan of Morrishill, Beith. Montgomery died in the Edinburgh Tolbooth before the case could be decided. 

https://digital.nls.uk/travels-of-henrietta-liston/pdfs/scots-and-west-indies-resources.pdf National Library of Scotland comprehensive list of articles, books and theses on the Scots and the West Indies.


Eric J. Graham, Scotland and Slavery: The Evidence, National Library of Scotland Issue 6, Winter 2007


Richard Oswald of Auchincruive and the Bunce/Bance Island connection.

https://blog.royalhistsoc.org/2019/10/29/bunce-island-legacy/ ​ 

Royal Historical Society blog on Bunce and legacy in Sierra Leone.


Oswald and the Auchincruive estate.

There are several Black and British series of programmes on BBC/iPlayer:

Slavery: Scotland’s Hidden Shame

Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners

Black and Scottish

Black and British: A Forgotten History

Alt History – The Black British History We’re Not Taught in Schools

Print Resources

T. Devine (ed.), Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past: The Caribbean Connection (2015)

Eric J. Graham and Mark Duffil, Black People in Scotland during the Slavery Era
Scottish Local History, Issue 71, Winter 2007

Ayrshire and Slavery

Web Resources

Archaeological project to uncover Scipio Kennedy’s (see above) links to Culzean.

Resources relating to Montgomery v. Shedden Case (see above).


More on the life of James Montgomery.

Print Resources

Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, originally published in 1944

David Hancock, Citizens of the World, Cambridge, CUP, 1995.

Eric J. Graham & Tom Barclay, The Early Transatlantic Trade of Ayr: The Scots Lots in the Americas 1680–1707
History Scotland. Vol. 3, No. 4 pp23–31 July/August 2003

Eric J. Graham & Tom Barclay, The Early Transatlantic Trade of Ayr: The West Indies 1640–1680
History Scotland. Vol. 3, No. 3 pp241–47 May/June 2003

Eric J. Graham & Tom Barclay ‘The early transatlantic trade of Ayr, 1640-1730’ (Ayr: Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 2005)

Eric J. Graham, Sugar Plantocrats: the Cunynghams of Glengarnock and Cayon St. Kitts
History Scotland. Vol. 7, No. 6 November/December 2007

E. J.  Graham, Burns and the Sugar Plantocracy of Ayrshire (Ayr: Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 2014)

Abolition movement

Web Resources

Twitter account @fd_scotland  




Owen Roberts, Black Abolitionism and Anti slavery in Scotland, 1833-1861 thesis submitted for MA (Hons)History University of Glasgow February 2017 https://www.docdroid.net/Sr1DmLO/complete-version-pdf

Print Resources

Eric J. Graham ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ comes to Scotland: Harriet Beecher Stowe & the Scottish anti-slavery movement, History Scotland, Vol. 8, No. 6 Nov/Dec 2008

I. Whyte; Scotland and the Abolition of Black Slavery 1756-1838 (2006)

Geoff Palmer; The Enlightenment Abolished (2007)

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