The effects on British ports

How extensive was the slave trade?

The table below shows the figures for slave trade through the main British ports in 1771.

PortNumber of shipsEnslaved people

Glasgow also carried half of Europe's tobacco trade at this time, an industry which depended upon slave labour to grow the tobacco in Britain's colonies in the Americas.

How did the slave trade affect British ports?

The slave trade brought a great deal of wealth to the British ports that were involved. Two hundred years ago the average working person earned £35 a year. A single slave in good condition could be sold in the Caribbean for £25.

Many other cities also grew rich on the profits of industries which depended on slave-produced materials such as cotton, sugar and tobacco.

Ports such as Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow sent out many slave ships each year, bringing great prosperity to their owners:

  • 1792 was the busiest slave trading year for Britain, when 204 ships left to carry enslaved people from Africa to the Americas - this amounted on average, to four ships a week.
  • From 1791 - 1807, British ships carried 52 per cent of all enslaved people taken from Africa.
  • From 1791 - 1800, British ships delivered 398,719 enslaved people to the Americas.

The video below examines Scotland and the slave trade.