Runaway Slaves in Britain: bondage, freedom and race in the eighteenth century

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This page contains additional resources which may help with using the database, with a glossary, an introduction to eighteenth-century British coins, and a list of further reading with useful websites.


The advertisements contain many words peculiar to the eighteenth-century, and you can find a list of the trickiest, as well as some general definitions here.

Alternatively, you can download the list from here.

Eighteenth-century coins and currency

The advertisements in this database often offer rewards for the capture and return of runaways. British currency at this time utilised non-decimal specie, and most of the advertisements offered rewards in pence (d), shillings (s), guineas and pounds (l, which eventually transformed into the £).

12 pence (12d) was equal to 1 shilling (1s)
240 pennies (240d) was equal to 1 pound (1l)
thus 20 shillings (20s) was also equal to 1 pound (1l)
21 shillings (21s) was equal to 1 guinea (1g)
21 shillings (21s) was also equal to 1 pound, 1 shilling (1l,1s)

What is the present-day value of the rewards offered in these advertisements? There is no easy or precise way of working this out, not least because of changes in prices and value between 1700 and 1780.

For a guide to various conversions utilised by historians, see

For a more classroom friendly conversion website, see")

For more information on currency during this period, be sure to visit:

Further reading

Eighteenth-century Britain

Stephen Ahern, ed., Affect and Abolition in the Anglo-Atlantic: 1770–1830 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013)

Anthony J. Barker, The African Link: British Attitudes to the Negro in the Era of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1550-1807 (London: Frank Cass and Co., 1978)

George Boulukos, The grateful slave: The emergence of race in eighteenth-century British and American culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

Stephen J. Braidwood, Black Poor and White Philanthropists (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1994)

John W. Cairns, ‘Slavery without a Code Noir: Scotland 1700-78,’ in Felix M. Larkin and N.M. Dawson, eds., Lawyers, the law and history (2013)

Brycchan Carey, British Abolitionism and the Rhetoric of Sensibility: Writing, Sentiment and Slavery, 1760– 1807 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)

Kathleen Chater, ‘Black People in England, 1660-1807,’ Parliamentary History, 26 (2007), 68-72

Kathleen Chater, Untold Histories: Black people in England and Wales during the period of the British slave trade, c.1660-1807 (2009)

Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837 (1992) (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005)

Ray Costello, Black Salt: Seafarers of African Descent on British Ships (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2014)

David Dabydeen, Hogarth’s Blacks: Images of Blacks in Eighteenth Century English Art (1987)

Audrey Dewjee, ‘Runaways,’ Black and Asian Studies Association, 60, 61 (2011) 20-22

Tom Devine, ed., Recovering Scotland’s slavery past: The Caribbean connection (United Kingdom: Edinburgh University Press, 2015)

Seymour Drescher, ‘Manumission in a society without slave law: Eighteenth century England’, Slavery and Abolition, 10:3 (1989), 85-101

Madge Dresser and Andrew Hahn eds., Slavery and the British Country House (2013) Paul Edwards and David Dabydeen, eds., Black Writers in Britain 1760-1890 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991)

C. Eickelmann and D. Small, Pero: the Life of a Slave in Eighteenth-Century Bristol, (Bristol: Redcliffe Press and Bristol Museums and Art Gallery, 2004)

Peter Fryer, Black People in the British Empire (London, 1988)

Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (1984), (London, 2010)

Jagdish S. Gundara and Ian Duffield, Essays on the History of Blacks in Britain: From Roman Times to the Mid-twentieth Century (Avesbury: Avesbury Press, 1992)

J.J. Hecht, 'Continental and Colonial Servants in 18th Century England', Smith College Studies in History, Vol. 60 (1954), 33-49

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Black England (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1995)

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Black London: Life Before Emancipation (1995), Douglas A. Lorimer, ‘Black slaves and English liberty: A re‐examination of racial slavery in England’, Immigrants & Minorities, 3:2 (1984), 121-150

Catherine Molineux, ‘Hogarth’s fashionable slaves: moral corruption in eighteenth-century London,’ English Literary History 72, 2 (2005), 495-520

Norma Myers, Reconstructing the Black Past: Blacks in Britain, 1780-1830 (1996)

Norma Myers, ‘The black presence through criminal records, 1780–1830’, Immigrants & Minorities, 7:3 (1988), 292-307

David Olusoga, Black and British: An untold story (United Kingdom: Macmillan, 2016)

David Paisley, ‘Black English in Britain in the Eighteenth Century,’ Electronic British Library Journal (2015) Nicholas Phillipson and Rosalind Mitchison, eds., Scotland in the Age of Improvement: Essays in Scottish History in the Eighteenth Century (1970) (Edinburgh: Edinburgh U. P., 1997)

Folarin O. Shyllon, Black People in Britain 1555-1833 (London: Oxford University Press, 1977)

Folarin O. Shyllon, Black Slaves in Britain (1974)

James Walvin, Black and white: The negro and English society, 1555-1945 (London: Allen Lane, 1973)

James Walvin, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery (London: HarperCollins, 1992)

James Walvin, The Black Presence: A Documentary History of the Negro in England (1971)

Roxann Wheeler, The Complexion of Race: Categories of Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Culture (2000)

Iain Whyte, Scotland and the Abolition of Black Slavery, 1756-1838 (2006)

Helena Woodward, African-British Writings in the Eighteenth Century (1999)

Rozina Visram, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Rozina Visram, Ayahs, Lascars, and Princes: Indians in Britain, 1700-1947 (London: Pluto Press, 1986)


Antonio T. Bly, ‘A Prince among Pretending Free Men: Runaway Slaves in Colonial New England Revisited,’ Massachusetts Historical Review, 14 (2012), 87-118

Tom Costa, ‘What Can We Learn From A Digital Database Of Runaway Slave Advertisements?’ International Social Science Review, 76, 1/2 (2001), 36-43

Mary J. Gallant, ‘Slave Runaways in Colonial Virginia: Accounts and Status Passage as Collective Process,’ Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 15, No. 4 (1992), 389-412

Robert Hay, ‘”And Ten Dollars Extra, for Every Hundred Lashes Any Person Will Give Him, to the Amount of Three Hundred": A Note on Andrew Jackson's Runaway Slave Ad of 1804 and on the Historian's Use of Evidence,’ Tennessee Historical Quarterly, 36, 4 (1977), 468-478

Gad Heuman, ed., Out of the House of Bondage: Runaways, Resistance and Marronage in Africa and the New World (1986)

Graham R. Hodges and Edward B. Alan, “Pretends to Be Free”: Runaway Slave Advertisements from Colonial and Revolutionary New York and New Jersey (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1994)

Michael P. Johnson, ‘Runaway Slaves and the Slave Communities in South Carolina, 1799 to 1830.’ William and Mary Quarterly, 3d. ser., 38 (1981), 418-41

Marvin L. Michael Kay and Lorin Lee Cary, ‘Slave Runaways in Colonial North Carolina, 1748-1775,’ The North Carolina Historical Review, 63, 1 (1986), 1-39

Daniel E. Meaders, ‘South Carolina Fugitives as Viewed Through Local Colonial Newspapers with Emphasis on Runaway Notices, 1732-1801,’ Journal of Negro History, LX (1975)

Philip Morgan, ‘Colonial South Carolina Runaways: Their Significance for Slave Culture,’ Slavery and Abolition 6, 3 (1985), 57-78

Stephen Mullen, Nelson Mundell and Simon P. Newman, ‘Black Runaways in Eighteenth-Century Britain’ (forthcoming)

Gerald W. Mullin, Flight and Rebellion: Slave Resistance in Eighteenth-Century Virginia (1972)

Simon P. Newman, ‘Escaping Enslavement in Eighteenth Century Scotland.’ Forthcoming in Negotiating Status and Scope of Action: Interrelations between Slavery and Other Forms of Dependency in Early Modern Europe, ed. Rebekka von Mallinckrodt (forthcoming)

__________, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: escaped slaves in late-18th and early-19th century Jamaica’ (forthcoming in The William and Mary Quarterly)

__________, ‘Rethinking Runaways in the British Atlantic World: Britain, the Caribbean, West Africa and North America.’ Slavery & Abolition, 38, 1 (2017), 49-75

Robert M. Owens, ‘Law and Disorder North of the Ohio: Runaways and the Patriarchy of Print Culture, 1793-1815,’ Indiana Magazine of History, 103, 3 (2007), 265-289

Richard Price, ed., Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas (1979)

Jonathan Prude, “‘To Look Upon the Lower Sort’: Runaway Ads and the Appearance of Unfree Laborers in America, 1750-1800,’ The Journal of American History, 78 no.1 (1991)

Cassandra Pybus, ‘From Epic Journeys of Freedom Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and Their Global Quest for Liberty,’ Callaloo, 29, 1 (2006), 114-130

Karin Sennefelt, ‘A Discerning Eye,’ Cultural and Social History, 12:2, 179-195 (2015)

Billy G. Smith and Richard Wojtowicz, Blacks Who Stole Themselves: Advertisements for Runaways in the Pennsylvania Gazette, 1728-1790 (1989)

Mitsuhiro Wada, ‘Running from Bondage: An Analysis of the Newspaper Advertisements of Runaway Slaves in Colonial Maryland and Georgia,’ JSL, 2, (2006), 11-21

David Waldstreicher, ‘Reading the Runaways: Self-Fashioning, Print Culture, and Confidence in Slavery in the Eighteenth-Century Mid-Atlantic,’ The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 56, 2, African and American Atlantic Worlds (1999), 243-272

David Waldstreicher, Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery and the American Revolution (2004)

Lathan A. Windley, A Profile of Runaway Slaves in Virginia and South Carolina from 1730 through 1787 (1995)


Africa’s Sons Under Arms

Legacies of British Slave-Ownership

Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database

The Geography of Slavery in Virginia: Runaway Slaves

Freedom on the Move

North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements

Runaway New England

Runaway Slave Advertisements, Baltimore County, Maryland

Beacons of Freedom: Slave Refugees in North American 1800-1860

Marronage in Saint-Domingue (Haiti)

Slavery Adverts 250

Black Presence: Asian and Black History in Britain, 1500-1850

The Black Presence in Britain

The Black Presence in Bristol

International Slavery Museum

'George Germain Foney', Liverpool General Advertiser, or the Commercial Register,
5th May 1780
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