About This Site

This website was created as a further development of a major exhibition examining Bristol’s role in the transatlantic slave trade was held at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery in 1999 and is being maintained for archival purposes. A Respectable Trade? Bristol & Transatlantic Slavery proved to be of one of the most visited exhibits in the history of the museum as it provided the first chance to find out about the slave trade through a major exhibition. This website aims to provide access for more people to see the material available.

Material from the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Bristol Record Office, Bristol Central Library, the University of Bristol Library and the Society of Merchant Venturers, which was collected together for the exhibition, was photographed for this site. Additional research was carried out at the former British Empire & Commonwealth Museum, John Wesley’s chapel and the John Judkyn Memorial Museum in order to add new items to the site.

Development of the website has enabled a continuation of the relationship between Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and the University of the West of England’s Faculty of Humanities. The facts on this site are a direct result of this collaboration. Credit is given to Madge Dresser, Principal Lecturer in History at UWE and Sue Giles, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery’s Curator of Ethnography & Foreign Archaeology. For links to other material on the subject of the slave trade, please click on the Learning & Resources option to your left.

The intention of this website is to give you an insight into a trade that brought wealth to a few, misery for many and had a lasting impact on Bristol. In the context of Bristol’s long history as a trading port, the transatlantic slave trade lasted a relatively short time, but it was of crucial economic importance. It supported a wider network of trade that relied on the labour of enslaved Africans. The slave trade itself was different to Bristol’s other trades because humans were being bought and sold.

PortCities Bristol, was a New Opportunities Fund digitisation project and was one of a consortium of partner projects around the British Isles, led by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London – brought together under the title of PortCities UK. The consortium also included Hartlepool Maritime Resource, Liverpool Libraries and Information Services (the Mersey-Gateway Project), and Southampton City Council (the Plimsoll Project).

New Opportunities Fund’s £50 million UK-wide digitisation programme was designed to bring the learning material and resources contained in galleries, libraries, museums and universities directly into homes and communities. The Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has awarded grants to 150 organisations across the UK, large and small, who are converting a huge variety of material into digital format. The range of material being digitised includes archaeology, maritime, architecture, fine art, social and oral history.