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24 September 2014

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Abolition of Transatlantic Slave Trade

Two models of men
Maritime Museum slavery exhibition

Liverpool's role in the slave trade

Liverpool played a central role in the transatlantic slave trade with much of the city’s 18th century wealth built on the profits from the transportation of slaves.

International Slavery Museum

Liverpool's newest museum the International Slavery Museum will open on 23 August 2007.

The museum's displays will address the legacy of transatlantic slavery and issues such as freedom, identity, human rights, reparations, racial discrimination and cultural change.

The museum will also look at the lasting impact of slavery and the slave trade on Africa, South America, the USA, the Caribbean and Western Europe.

Liverpool was late in entering the slave trade but quickly surpassed London and Bristol to become Europe’s number one slave port by the 1740’s.

It’s thought that over 40,000 African slaves were transported by Liverpool vessels. By 1792 Liverpool was firmly established as the leading slave port, with 131 sailings in that year compared with 42 from Bristol and 22 from London.

Liverpool’s prosperity was bound up in the triangular trade. In Liverpool ships were loaded with cottons and woollens, guns, iron, alcohol and tobacco. The ships sailed to Africa where they traded the goods for slaves, ivory and gold.

The middle passage of the journey then took them to America or the West Indies where the slaves would be sold for money, colonial produce or bills of exchange.

Slave trade profits

Although Liverpool was essential to the slave trade, the slave trade was not essential to Liverpool. Even at its height less than 10% of outbound shipping was heading for Africa.

"I verily believe that the far greater part of wars, in Africa, would cease, if the Europeans would cease to tempt them, by offering goods for sale."
John Newton, Former slave ship captain

The final legal slavery voyage from Liverpool was made by Captain Hugh Crow, a Liverpudlian who sailed the Kitty’s Amelia.

There were five main ways that Liverpool made money from slavery,

1. The building and repair of slave ships
2. Slave trading
3. Slave produced goods – cotton, sugar etc
4. Production of exportable goods – pottery etc
5. Insuring and financing the above operations and industries.

Contrary to popular belief few slaving voyages made a huge profit. An average voyage would produce a profit of 8%.

Sometimes though large profits could be made, in 1780 Mathew Street trader William Davenport sent his ship Hawke to Africa at a cost of £5,000. The voyage made a profit of £10,000.

Liverpool merchants were vocal in their opposition to abolition, 64 anti-abolition petitions were submitted from Liverpool.

Despite many folklore stories slaves rarely set foot in Liverpool. The Goree Piazzas on the dock road are often referred to as a location where slaves were chained up. The Piazzas were in fact built 11 years after courts ruled that every slave was free as soon as their feet touched English soil.

last updated: 23/03/07
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Abolition - 1807

Abolition - 1807

History: Abolition 1807 »

Religion: Ethics of Slavery »

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