London, Metropolis of the Slave Trade

London, Metropolis of the Slave Trade

London, Metropolis of the Slave Trade

London, Metropolis of the Slave Trade

Synopsis

Rawley draws on material from the year 1700 to the American Civil War as he explores the role of London in the trade. He covers its activity as a port of departure for ships bound for Africa; its continuing large volume after the trade extended to Bristol and Liverpool; and the controversy between London's parliamentary representatives, who defended the trade, and the abolitionist movement that was quartered there. Sweeping in scope and thorough in its analysis, this collection of essays from a seasoned scholar will be welcomed by historians concerned with slavery and the slave trade, as well as by students just beginning their exploration of this subject.

Excerpt

By David Eltis

The only substantial work on the London slave trade about the time that James Rawley began to explore the topic in the 1970s was Kenneth Davies's book on the Royal African Company. the rac, as is well known, dominated the traffic from London in the late seventeenth century, just as the port of London dominated the slave trade from England, but thereafter, as Professor Rawley points out, scholars had assumed that patterns existed in the London slave trade that bore little relation to the reality that quickly emerged from his own work. the sheer size of London—it was the largest port in Europe long before it became involved in the slave trade— may have been one reason for popular and scholarly misconceptions. the slave trade was just one very small part of a vast number of overseas mercantile activities that were rooted in the capital. Bristol and Liverpool and several other ports on the continent rose to preeminence as the slave trade expanded, and for many researchers such a correlation seems to provide a dramatic and easy cause-and-effect story—though even this view fails to take into account what else was going on in these ports. By contrast, no one could argue that London's rise to preeminence was based on the slave trade. Not only was the slave trade a tiny fraction of all long- distance trade moving in and out of the Thames estuary in the eighteenth century, but the traffic to Africa had the largest non-slave- trade (or, in other words, produce) component of any port in the world that traded with Africa in the early modern period. Moreover, the major slaving ports of northwestern Europe, such as Nantes and Liverpool, got into the trade much later than did London, and the documentary evidence was therefore somewhat better than for . . .

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