Jun 16, 2011, 2:27 PM
This is a fantastic book detailing how one of the industrial giants of the UK, the city of Liverpool, was built largely due to the sweat of the slaves from Africa. For many centuries from 1400 to 1807, the major slave-trading port in Britain was Liverpool. By the start of the 1800s, and almost seven years before Britain abolished the obnoxious trade in human beings, Liverpool was in control of 90 per cent of Britain’s share of the trade. According to the authors, both authorities on the slave trade, Liverpool was so much involved in the trade that most of the rich and powerful men in the city during the 17thand 18th centuries were slave traders. They had ships which would sail to Africa, buy slaves and then take them to the New World where they were sold for hefty prices to sugar and tobacco plantations.
According to this good book in 1710, there were only 2 ships from Liverpool engaged in carrying slaves from Africa to the Americas; by 1771, this had increased to 107 and to 1,099 by 1795, p.13. This exponential increase in the number of ships from the city trading in slaves spelt much disaster for Africa who was losing its brightest and best to the slavers; but brought much money and happiness to the Liverpool merchants. Such was the irony of this sad trade: it brought misery to most Africans and smiles to the Europeans who bought and sold Africans.
This is why in chapter 5 the authors recapitulate how the Liverpool clique of merchants and politicians who were reaping huge profits from the trade, were so keen to defend it, even using some compromised religious leaders to give the trade in human beings from Africa, a religious subterfuge, p.57, 58. Yet, there were other more humane and liberal minded members of the city who opposed this nasty trade in Africans and fought against it in the newspapers and in parliament, p.85. These were the abolitionists whose effort finally bore fruit in 1807 when the Commons voted to abolish the trade in Africans. This also marked the fall of Liverpool as a rich city. Soon the wealthy merchants were in debts and suicidal because they could no longer harvest the ripe fruit from Africa.
Liverpool’s leading role in the trade was for many years a great source of embarrassment for later historians and leaders of the city. They tried to avoid the topic or to downplay it when it was possible. This is why this book is a sort-of revisionist history; finally, a new breed of historians is coming out with the full facts about the unholy role of the city in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
This book is a serious study on this sad episode in world history which saw at least 15 million Africans captured and sold in the New World to toil in the plantations. It is highly recommended for students of history and the general reader.
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