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Modern Voices
Barry Unsworth on what drew Europeans to be slave traders
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Q: What drew Europeans to be a slave trader?
Barry Unsworth

A: ...A slave, a male slave in good condition in this period I'm talking about (which is about 1760-1770), would fetch something like 50 pounds in the Kingston market. It was a lot of money. A man in those days could live quite well for 50 pounds, for a year. He wouldn't go short of very much if he had 50 pounds. So it was a lot of money. So it was very important to get as many [slaves] as possible.

I think there were various schools of thought, as far as I understand it. There were skippers who were more humane. And they thought it better to ship fewer slaves under more humane circumstances, relatively speaking. They were still slavers, but they shipped fewer slaves and therefore more survived. But there was another school of thought, a more brutal kind, which thought that if you crowded the ship, some would die, but you'd still do better and have more in the end.
Barry Unsworth
"The Sacred Hunger"

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