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Oates Collection (Slavery), Special Collections, Hartley Library: Home


For general enquiries contact:

Jenny Ruthven

email: or tel. 023 80593335

Search Room Bookings:

email or tel. 023 80592721


Special Collections, Hartley Library, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ

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Printed Collections

Microform Collections

  • Anti-Slavery Collection 18th-19th centuries: from the Library of the Society of Friends: Microfilm 40021403-

Archive Collections

  • MS 62 Palmerston Papers

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Access to some collections is restricted to members of the University.

Oates Collection (Slavery)

The pamphlets on slavery include publications on both sides of the abolition debate, with examples from the eighteenth century including Thomas Clarkson An Essay on the Comparative Efficiency of Regulation or Abolition as Applied to the Slave-Trade (1789) and The Slave-Trade Indispensable in Answer to the Speech of William Wilberforce ... 13 May 1789 (1790).

The period of 1820-1830s is especially well represented, with pamphlets on the question of abolition versus voluntary manumission and on the positions adopted both by the British Government and the Jamaican House of Assembly. There are also publications of regional groups, including an album compiled by the Female Society for Birmingham ...  for the Relief of British Negro Slaves which contains its own reports and various tracts on slavery including extracts from the Royal Jamaica Gazette

Accounts of travels and voyages to the West Indies are also included, as are descriptions of the lives of the British colonists.

Extent: Over 220 books and pamphlets on the West Indies and the abolition of slavery, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Location and Access


The Oates Collection (Slavery) is part of Special Collections on level 4 of the Hartley Library and items are fetched for use in the Archives, Manuscripts and Rare Books Search Room.


The Search Room is open Tuesday-Thursday 1000-1600. All visits are by prior appointment and all visitors will be required to book their visit and to order their material at least 1 working day in advance. 

Bookings are made by emailing providing details of name, University ID number (members of the University of Southampton only), permanent residential address and contact details, date of visit and list of items to be consulted.

If you do not have a University I.D. Card, you will need to show photographic I.D. and a form of I.D. which includes your permanent residential address when you enter the Hartley Library and also when you arrive at the Search Room.

Catalogues / Library Resources Search

  • WebCat includes records for all Oates Collection books.
  • DelphiS enables you to search across WebCat and the Library's electronic databases and is especially useful for subject searches. You will need a University login to access full-text resources.

See Oates Collection (Slavery) for a complete list of titles. Selected pamphlets are also available online at Internet Archive.

Collection History

Robert Washington Oates (1874-1958) was born in London and educated in Belgium and Germany. He served in the First World War as a private soldier, at the same time amassing a considerable fortune through his financial interest in a firm of industrial chemists. After the war he became an antique dealer, gaining an international reputation in the antiquarian book-trade.

In 1954 Oates was instrumental in securing Gilbert White's home, The Wakes, as a permanent memorial to the naturalist and author. There he also established the Oates Memorial Museum and Library, which commemorated two members of his own family, his cousin, Captain Lawrence Oates (1880-1912), a member of the Scott's Antarctic Expedition and his uncle, Frank Oates (1840-1875) who was one of the first Europeans to see the Victoria Falls. At that time, the Library was reported to amount to 40,000 books.

Two collections of books from the Oates Memorial Library were acquired by the University in 1970.

From: Album of the Female Society of Birmingham ... for the Relief of British Negro Slaves

Engraving os slave, with poem.

Rare Books HT 1163

Reprographics Service

Bound volumes cannot be photocopied but you can request photographic or microfilm copies, subject to the age and condition of the item.

See Reprographics Service for a list of the types of copy available and charges.


  • Oates Collection (Gilbert White's House) papers relating to the Oates family