PortCities London

London and the transatlantic slave trade

Final balance sheet

The role of Britain and London in perspective

Liverpool taken from the opposite side of the river
View full size imageLiverpool taken from the opposite side of the river. © NMM

Between 1662 and 1807 British and British colonial ships purchased an estimated 3,415,500 Africans. Of this number, 2,964,800 survived the 'middle passage' and were sold into slavery in the Americas. 

The transatlantic slave trade was the largest forced migration in human history and completely changed Africa, the Americas and Europe. Only Portugal/Brazil transported more Africans across the Atlantic than Britain.

The ports compared

Between 1699 and 1807, British and British colonial ports
The West Indiaman Britannia.
View full size imageThe West Indiaman Britannia. Trade with the West Indies steadily decreased after the abolition of slavery. © NMM 
mounted 12,103 slaving voyages:
  • 3,351 from London
  • 2,105 from Bristol
  • 5,199 from Liverpool.

Until the 1730s, London dominated the British trade in enslaved people. It continued to send ships to West Africa until the end of the trade in 1807. Because of the sheer size of London and the scale of the port’s activities, it is often forgotten that the capital was a major slaving centre.

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