Skip to main content

Somerset case

Somerset case. In 1771 the American master of James Somerset, a negro slave, attempted to send him out of England to be sold. Abolitionists pleaded habeas corpus on his behalf. Blackstone, in his Oxford lectures, had already denied that English law recognized slavery. In a famous judgment on 22 June 1772, which he made with some reluctance, Mansfield declared that slavery was odious and unknown to common law. Somerset was given his freedom. Though the implications of the judgment have been much discussed, it seems clear that slavery was not recognized in England subsequently.

J. A. Cannon

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Somerset case." The Oxford Companion to British History. . 17 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Somerset case." The Oxford Companion to British History. . (January 17, 2019).

"Somerset case." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved January 17, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.