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Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.

In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the new world, Spain enacted the first European law abolishing colonial slavery in the 16th century, although it was not to last. In the 17th century[citation needed] when Quaker and evangelical religious groups condemned it as un-Christian and the 18th century, when rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment criticized it for violating the rights of man. Though anti-slavery sentiments were widespread by the late 18th century, they had little immediate effect on the centers of slavery: the West Indies, South America, and the Southern United States. The Somersett's case in 1772 that emancipated slaves in England, helped launch the movement to abolish slavery. Pennsylvania passed An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in 1780. Britain banned the importation of African slaves in its colonies in 1807, and the United States followed in 1808. Britain abolished slavery throughout the British Empire with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, the French colonies abolished it 15 years later, while slavery in the United States was abolished in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Abolitionism in the West was preceded by the New Laws of the Indies in 1542, in which Emperor Charles V declared free all Native American slaves, abolishing slavery of these races, and declaring them citizens of the Empire with full rights. The move was inspired by writings of the Spanish monk Bartolome de las Casas and the School of Salamanca. Spanish settlers replaced the Native American slaves with enslaved laborers brought from Africa and thus did not abolish slavery altogether.

In Eastern Europe, abolitionism has played out in movements to end the enslavement of the Roma in Wallachia and Moldavia and to emancipate the serfs in Russia.

In East Asia, abolitionism was evidenced in, for instance, the writings of Yu Hyongwon, a 17th-century Korean Confucian scholar who wrote extensively against slave-holding in 17th-century Korea.

Today, child and adult slavery and forced labour are illegal in most countries, as well as being against international law.

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