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Liverpool Slavery & Trade

Home > History > Liverpool Slavery & Trade

On 3 October 1699, the very same year that Liverpool had been granted status as an independent parish, Liverpool's first 'recorded' slave ship, named "Liverpool Merchant", set sail for Africa, arriving in Barbados with a 'cargo' of 220 Africans, returning to Liverpool on 18 September 1700. The following month a second recorded ship, "The Blessing", set sail for the Gold Coast.

The first wet dock in Britain was built in Liverpool and completed in 1715. It was the first commercial enclosed wet dock in the world and was constructed for a capacity of 100 ships. By the close of the 18th century 40% of the world's, and 80% of Britain's Atlantic slave activity was accounted for by slave ships that voyaged from the docks at Liverpool. Liverpool's black community dates from the building of the first dock in 1715 and grew rapidly, reaching a population of 10,000 within five years.

Vast profits from the slave trade transformed Liverpool into one of Britain's foremost important cities. Liverpool became a financial centre, rivalled by Bristol, another slaving port, and beaten only by London. In the peak year of 1799, ships sailing from Liverpool carried over 45,000 slaves from Africa.

Many factors led to the demise of slavery including revolts, piracy, social unrest, and the repercussions of corruption such as slave insurance fraud, e.g. the Zong ship case, 1781. Slavery in British colonies was finally abolished in 1834, though some apprenticeships ran until 1838. However, many merchants managed to ignore the laws and continued to deal in underground slave trafficking, also underhandedly engaging in financial investments for slaving activities in the Americas.

At theĀ International Slavery Museum you'll find out about the millions of people, both in the past and today, who have been taken into slavery.