This advertisement from a London newspaper in 1740 reveals the shocking attitudes to slaves in Georgian society. Two African children aged just 14 and eight are offered for sale as domestic servants, as if they are unwanted household items.
Plantations growing sugar, tobacco, coffee and cotton were labour intensive and relatively unsophisticated operations that boomed from the 17th century onwards owing to the growing demand for luxury goods in Europe. However, manpower in North and South America and the West Indies was scarce, with farm workers difficult to find and expensive to employ. Merchants turned instead to African slaves as a source of labour – they were cheap to buy and could be depended on for their productivity. Millions of Africans were shipped from Africa to America, a route known as the middle passage, to work in brutal conditions on the plantations, with raw materials and processed goods shipped back to Europe in ever increasing quantities.