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Wednesday, October 8, 2003 12:14
Slavery in Southampton
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Chains - the symbol of slavery
tiny The South Coast's martime past is usually associated with naval adventurers and great liners, there is a side to our past not previously found in the school textbooks - Southampton's links with the infamous slave trade.
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tiny The city has not previously had a reputation as a centre of slavery - compared with ports like Bristol and Liverpool which had their prosperity built on trading black slaves from Africa.

Exhibit of a slave ship

However students from the University of Southampton's Archaeology Department have trawled through the archives looking for details of the city's involvement in slavery.

Their work was originally put on show at the Tudor House Museum as a special exhibition called 'Bought and Sold - Southampton's Links with the Slave Trade' in 2001.

Although the students found no evidence of actual slaves passing through the port of Southampton, many of the sailors and ships based here went on to transport slaves from Africa to sugar plantations in the Caribbean or cotton fields in the USA.

Rev Thomas Atkins
They have also found that some prominent slave owners did come from Southampton - Thomas Combes and John Morant owned plantations as far afield as Sumatra in present-day Indonesia, and the West Indies. They also treated their slaves with varying degrees of kindness and contempt - some giving them land, others using brutal punishments.

The exhibition, which is on show at BBC Broadcasting House, tracks the slaves progress. Packed 'one to a ton', life on board the slave ships was far from pleasant, most would have died on the long voyages.

A barrel of slave-produced coffee
Most of the material was found in local archives, although some potential donors still did not want to publicly reveal their ancestors role in such a discredited trade.

The slave trade also added to the city's landscape - All Saints Church was the last resting place for several slave owners - presumably they would have donated some of the profits of their slave trade to the church.

"He who is not an enemy to slavery, is a slave himself."
Rev Thomas Atkins from Southampton, 1830
There were some redeeming features when it came to the city's slave connections however - some Southampton men were leading figures in the campaign to get the slave trade ended. Joseph Clark, Edward Palk and Rev Thomas Atkins were all involved in the campaign to bring slavery to an end in the 19th Century.

 
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