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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Bristol

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Immigration and Emigration
Legacies of the Slave Trade

Gainers and losers

Indies and Americas bust, Corn Exchange
This bust on the Corn exchange has a headress of tobacco leaves.
© Dean Smart
The Transatlantic Slave Trade had a rapid and devastating impact on Africa. Unlike slavery in some traditional African societies, where slaves were often prisoners of war who might be held for some years and then released, or those born into slavery who were treated reasonably well, the “new” depopulation had a significant impact.

Tribes fought with tribes to acquire people to sell into slavery; this encouraged inter-tribal warfare and rivalry, bred a climate of distrust and fear, and removed some of the fittest and most able members of the community. The old, the very young, the infirm and the unfit were left or killed, and only those who might survive a walk of perhaps hundreds of miles to the coast, and still be attractive to buyers, were taken.

Today historians acknowledge that the Transatlantic slave trade slowed and changed the development of the African economy, as well as providing much of the venture capital for the industrial revolutions of Britain, Europe and the American colonies. Heated discussions continue about whether the Western and American governments should issue a public apology for the slave trade, and offer to pay reparations to the African and Caribbean nations for what some consider to be the equivalent of a war crime.

The Old Bank
The Slave Trade brought wealth to many Bristolians.
© Dean Smart
The trade resulted in the forced removal of millions of captured Africans from Western and Central Africa to the West coast and from there to European colonies in North and South America and the West Indies. Although only a very few Africans ended up in Bristol while the trade was active, mostly as personal servants, or workers on board ships, this mass movement of people had a huge effect on the city of Bristol – its trade, its people, its development, and most of all its wealth.

Words: Dean Smart

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