Liverpool and the Slave Trade

Liverpool was a major slaving port and its ships and merchants dominated the transatlantic slave trade in the second half of the 18th century.

The town and its inhabitants derived great civic and personal wealth from the trade which laid the foundations for the port’s future growth.


The growth of the trade was slow but solid. By the 1730s about 15 ships a year were leaving for Africa and this grew to about 50 a year in the 1750s, rising to just over a 100 in each of the early years of the 1770s. Numbers declined during the American War of Independence (1775-83), but rose to a new peak of 120-130 ships annually in the two decades preceding the abolition of the trade in 1807. Probably three-quarters of all European slaving ships at this period left from Liverpool. Overall, Liverpool ships transported half of the 3 million Africans carried across the Atlantic by British slavers.

The precise reasons for Liverpool’s dominance of the trade are still debated by historians. Some suggest that Liverpool merchants were being pushed out of the other Atlantic trades, such as sugar and tobacco. Others claim that the town’s merchants were more enterprising. A significant factor was the port’s position with ready access via a network of rivers and canals to the goods traded in Africa – textiles from Lancashire and Yorkshire, copper and brass from Staffordshire and Cheshire and guns from Birmingham.

Although Liverpool merchants engaged in many other trades and commodities, involvement in the slave trade pervaded the whole port. Nearly all the principal merchants and citizens of Liverpool, including many of the mayors, were involved. Thomas Golightly (1732-1821), who was first elected to the Town Council in 1770 and became Mayor in 1772-3, is just one example. Several of the town’s MPs invested in the trade and spoke strongly in its favour in Parliament. James Penny, a slave trader, was presented with a magnificent silver epergne in 1792 for speaking in favour of the slave trade to a parliamentary committee.

It would be wrong to attribute all of Liverpool’s success to the slave trade, but it was undoubtedly the backbone of the town’s prosperity. Historian, David Richardson suggests that slaving and related trades may have occupied a third and possibly a half of Liverpool’s shipping activity in the period 1750 to 1807. The wealth acquired by the town was substantial and the stimulus it gave to trading and industrial development throughout the north-west of England and the Midlands was of crucial importance.

The last British slaver, the Kitty’s Amelia, left Liverpool under Captain Hugh Crow in July 1807. However, even after abolition Liverpool continued to develop the trading connections which had been established by the slave trade, both in Africa and the Americas.


Great city but how utterly appalling. How far will men go, even today, in their brutality. And most of them would have claimed to be followers of Jesus Christ.
You can warp the teaching of humanity to meet any need or desire. I don’t suppose they even thought about that. Greed will justify anything!

when did Wilberforce start his crusade against slavery – was it 1785 or 1787
when was the first act of parliament against slavery 1807 or 1808, the second one 1833 or 1834– when did belgium, holland , portugal stop 1907
how many english peasants werte transported out of country – bearing in mind first transportation act passed in 1587- they estimate 187,000 for stealing a carrot or straw
how many english died down coalmines 1780 – 1833 – they reckon 1,000 year = 53,000
how many died in factory accidents 1780-1833 – 78,000
how many child chimney sweeps suffocated to death in soot falls – 38,000
how many english died at somme July 1916 – 1 day 61,000
how many died on burma railway
how many were blasted to hell i n crappy churchill tanks
how many blew up in lancaster bombers BEEN A BREEZE FOR BRITS AINT IT

Peasants and working people were oppressed and exploited in all societies but cannot be excuse not remembering chattel slavery. Also acknowledge the inequality due to imperial colonialism in which indigenous people became second class citizens, were exploited, lost their land and all too often were exterminated. I think its a pity that Liverpool Slavery Museum doesn’t refer to the Dutch slave trade from the East Indies to South Africa and to South America.

Man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, seem so often driven by a desire for wealth or power and in many cases both. I doubt if there are many countries or states that can claim immunity from some degree of guilt in this regard – but recompense and proper compensation should be considered by those who profited from another;s misery. The Slave Compensation legislation, passed by our Parliament in 1837, paid out millions to wealthy British Slave owners and slave traders and we tax payers only finished repaying that debt in 2015. Many wealthy families in this country owe what they have to the slave trade. They should be e exposed and held to account, as nobody forced them to do that!

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