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Ships Leaving Bristol to Trade in Slaves

- the following figures are not exact and are the subject of on-going research across the world -

Between 1698 to 1807 about 2,108 slaving ships were fitted out in Bristol

- an average of 20 a year.

On average each ship would hold 250 Africans.

The total number of Africans taken as slaves by Bristol fitted ships was approximately a half a million people.

This total is about one fifth of the slaves transported in British ships.

The total number of Africans taken by British ships was around 2,800,000 people.

Ships which left Bristol to trade in slaves did so officially from 1698.

1668-1708. 4 ships a year left Bristol to trade in slaves.

1708 - 1712. The number of ships had risen to 13 a year. This represented about 13% of Bristol clearances.*

At this time Bristol provided much of the impetus for the British trade in slaves.

By the early 1720s. The number of clearances rises to 25 a year.

1728 - 1732. The number rises to 48 a year. This was half the number of ships involved in the slave trade. Bristol had replaced London as the major slave trading port in Britain. This number of ships represented about 12% of Bristol's total clearances..

1738. Liverpool became the major slave trading port in Britain. A position it held until the trade was ended in 1807.

Bristol's slave trade began to decline and was especially interrupted by warfare between 1744-46 and 1755-58.

After 1748 the number of ships involved in the slave trade leaving Bristol declined and the city's share of the national trade reduced to 25% in the 1750s and, by the time of abolition, it represented 2% of Britain's slave trade. When abolition came, therefore there was little opposition from the Bristol merchant community.

*As ships fitted out for the slave trade spent longer at sea (up to 15 months) and were generally larger than most vessels leaving the port, the ships involved in the slave trade constitute a larger percentage of the overall clearances than these figures may suggest.

The slave trade also stimulated the demand for the shipment of goods to the West African coast. These included: Brass, Copper, Glassware and Gunpowder.

The ships were also used to re-export goods; cotton goods from India, Swedish bar-iron, Italian beads, German linen.

Slave Revolts, Rebellions, Revolutions, Rebels, Conspiracies & The Maroon Wars

"I would rather die upon yonder gallows than live in slavery!". Samuel "Daddy" Sharpe, 1832

18th cent. map of Jamaica showing 14 parishes.

Sojourner Truth

Shields Green under guard. He was captured during John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. He was executed by hanging.

Black Union Army soldiers march through Main Street, Richmond on April 3rd, 1865.


Before the Mayflower", by Lerone Bennett on:
Notes taken from, A Respectable Trade?, exhibition at Bristol Museum, March 1999.
Notes & Queries, The Guardian, British newspaper, March 18,1998.
The Penguin Atlas of Diasporas, Pub. Penguin, 1995.
Black Peoples in the Americas", Marika Sherwood, The Savannah Press, 1992
The Abolition of Slavery, Richard Hart, Community Education Trust, London, 1989.
Black Makers of History, Four Women, Utter, McLean,, ALBSU, The Afrika Education Organisation, 1987.
Crusade Against Slavery, friends, foes and reforms, 1820-1860, Louis Filler, Reference Publications Inc, Michigan,1986.
The Destruction of Brazilian Slavery, 1850 - 1888, Robert Conrad, University of California Press, 1972.