Diagram of the ‘Brookes’ slave ship



This diagram of the 'Brookes' slave ship is probably the most widely copied and powerful image used by the those campaigning to abolish slavery in the late 18th century. Created in 1787, the image depicts a slave ship loaded to its full capacity - 454 people crammed into the hold. The 'Brookes' sailed the passage from Liverpool via the Gold Coast in Africa to Jamaica in the West Indies.

The diagram was an extremely effective piece of propaganda. Thomas Clarkson commented in his History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade (1808) that the 'print seemed to make an instantaneous impression of horror upon all who saw it, and was therefore instrumental, in consequence of the wide circulation given it, in serving the cause of the injured Africans'. By April 1787, the diagram was widely known across the UK appearing in newspapers, pamphlets, books and even posters pasted on the walls of coffee houses and pubs. An image had rarely been used as a propaganda tool in this way before.

In the late 18th century, demands for luxury goods among rich and poor alike grew rapidly. Popular commodities such as tea and coffee, sugar, tobacco and cotton clothing all originated in the plantations of South America and the Caribbean. This booming demand in turn acted as a stimulus to the transatlantic slave trade. Though the exact human toll will never be known, perhaps 2,500,000 African slaves perished in the unimaginable conditions on the slave ships that crossed between Africa and the American colonies between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Full title
The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament.
1808 , London
Engraving / Illustration / Image
Thomas Clarkson
Held by
British Library
Usage terms
Public Domain

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