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                      Why were Slaves needed



Pre 17th Century 

Why were slaves needed

Why African slaves

The Transatlantic Trade

The Outward Passage

The Middle Passage

The Slave Auctions

Plantation Life

The Return Passage

Bristol v Liverpool

Royal African Co.

Merchant Venturers

Edward Colston

John Pinney

The End of Slavery

Bristol Today



After the discovery of the 'New World',  land was distributed and the new landowners founded plantations to exploit the 'riches' which included sugar, tobacco, cotton, rum and other profitable commodities. Many bristolians became owners of  plantations in the West Indies and were to become wealthy as a result of their involvement in trade with the New World. However, in order to produce goods at a profitable rate, cheap labour was required to work the plantations.

At first, the native Carib Indians were used as slaves, but overwork, disease , ill-treatment and in some cases mass suicides, led to their extinction. Attempts were then made to obtain labour from Ireland and England. English servants could gain free passage by agreeing to be bound to an employer for a set number of years. Between 1654-1685 10,000 indentured white servants sailed from Bristol for the West Indies, but most were unsuited for work in the tropics and died off like flies. When numbers opting for this scheme dropped off, more sinister methods were employed. Kidnapping of children and young people became common, and political prisoners and religious dissidents were transported to Caribbean plantations. Bristol became  notorious for the transportation of its criminals to hard labour in sugar and tobacco plantations owned by the elite merchants of the city.

The shortage of labour led to a petition to Parliament from the city in 1694, demanding an end to the monopoly of the Royal Africa Company. This was followed by an active campaign organised by the Society of Merchant Venturers. By 1698 Parliament finally agreed to break up the monopoly.  Trade to the West Indies was opened up to anyone who paid 10% on all traded goods in and out, except  gold, silver and black Africans (0%).

It was soon determined by the landowners  that African slaves were the most suitable workers. However, the hard life of a slave meant nearly one-third of all slaves dying within three years, creating a constant demand to replace them.

So began the most notorious period in the histories of  Bristol and Liverpool - The Transatlantic Slave Trade

But how did this function and why were African slaves preferred ?

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