This article considers British agitation against East India Company rule in India via an examination of the Aborigines Protection Society and the British India Society. Founded by humanitarians and moral reformers in the 1830s, these organisations placed India within a wide transnational context, which stretched from Britain’s settler and plantation colonies to Liberia and the United States. However, in the wake of slave emancipation, British campaigners struggled to reconcile their universal understanding of humanity with their equally strong confidence in the benefits of ‘British civilisation’. Their nebulous and changeable programmes for reform failed to convince Britain’s politicians and public that the challenges of free trade could be met by the exclusive use of free labour, or that all imperial subjects possessed equal rights. A fuller appreciation of these campaigns reveals the contradictions and occlusions inherent in mid-nineteenth century humanitarianism, and underscores the importance of a more geographically integrated approach to the history of opposition to Britain’s empire.