People & Events
Liverpool and the slave trade
|Resource Bank Contents|
In the span of a hundred years, from 1700 to 1800, the town of Liverpool in northwest England was transformed from what was "not much more than a fishing village" into one of the busiest slave-trading ports on the Atlantic, with its ships accounting for over 40% of the European slave trade from Africa to the New World.
There was no single reason for Liverpool's dramatic growth. By 1700, ties with the American colonies had been firmly established -- the port was importing shiploads of sugar and tobacco in exchange for white indentured servants. Also, early in the 18th century, the areas surrounding Liverpool saw an extensive rise in the manufacturing of textiles, iron, and firearms and gunpowder -- tempting items for the black slave traders of Africa. Another reason for the growth was the availability of capital. Landowners and merchants hoping to increase their wealth began funneling their money into shipping ventures. And still another reason: the Royal African Company's monopoly on the slave trade had recently ended, opening the trade to all.
Liverpool's first slaving vessel, ironically named the Blessing, set sail in 1700. In 1730, 15 Liverpool slave ships headed toward Africa; in 1799, 134 ships made the voyage. Although some voyages reaped huge profits -- the ship "Lively" made a profit of 300% in 1737 -- the overall profit for the trade during the second half of the century ranged between eight and ten percent. Still, due in large measure to profits from the slave trade, Liverpool prospered.
Slave-trading voyages stopped in 1807 when England abolished its participation in the trade. Liverpool, however, would turn to industrial manufacturing and would continue to prosper for many years.
The Goree Warehouses, Liverpool
Interior of a Slave Ship
Plan of a ship for transporting slaves
Part 1: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide
Africans in America: Home | Resource Bank Index | Search | Shop
WGBH | PBS Online | ©