People & Events
Royal African Company established
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Long before the establishment of Jamestown, English captains had made occasional profits in the rising trans-Atlantic slave trade. Bur during the early years of the 17th century, the English generally viewed the trading of human lives with a certain degree of contempt. By 1640, however, with the growth of sugar plantations in the Caribbean and the corresponding need for labor, the views of the English had changed. They, too, would become regular participants in the trade.
In 1660, the English government chartered a company called the "Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa." At first the company was mismanaged, but in 1663 it was reorganized. A new objective clearly stated that the company would engage in the slave trade. To the great dissatisfaction of England's merchants, only the Company of Royal Adventurers could now engage in the trade.
The Company did not fare well, due mainly to the war with Holland, and in 1667, it collapsed. But out of its ashes emerged a new company: The Royal African Company. Founded in 1672, the Royal African Company was granted a similar monopoly in the slave trade. Between 1680 and 1686, the Company transported an average of 5,000 slaves a year. Between 1680 and 1688, it sponsored 249 voyages to Africa.
Still, rival English merchants were not amused. In 1698, Parliament yielded to their demands and opened the slave trade to all. With the end of the monopoly, the number of slaves transported on English ships would increase dramatically -- to an average of over 20,000 a year.
By the end of the 17th century, England led the world in the trafficking of slaves.
The Goree Warehouses, Liverpool
The Slave Chain
Virginia looks toward Africa for labor
David Blight on the formation of the Royal African Company
Barry Unsworth on desperation of European slave traders
Margaret Washington on the earliest Africans in Virginia
Part 1: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide
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