Learning Journeys

How Slavery Developed

From the 11th century ships from Bristol had been involved in transporting children to sell as slaves in Ireland. For most of the Middle Ages (from c.1000 to 1453) Bristol was the second richest and busiest city after London and at the end of the 1500s it remained a great regional port. Ships from Bristol traded mainly with Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. They brought back wine, olive oil and fish. They also visited the north African coast, the Azores islands, Canary Islands and Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean off North Africa, Hamburg, Venice, Holland, and the Baltic area in north east Europe.

From the 1440s the Portuguese had traded in slaves from Africa and after 1600 merchants from Holland and London joined. Initially the Royal African Company, comprising merchants from London, had sole rights to trade in slaves. Bristol merchants may have been trading in slaves (illegally) from Africa as early as 1670. Bristol’s merchants were certainly campaigning during the 1690s to be allowed to trade with Africa.

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