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Diagram of the 'Brookes' slave ship

c.1801

Diagram of a slave ship

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    This diagram of the 'Brookes' slave ship, which transported enslaved Africans to the Caribbean, is probably the most widely copied and powerful image used by those who campaigned to end the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Traders knew that many of the Africans would die on the voyage and would therefore pack as many people as possible on to their ships - in total there were 609 enslaved men, women and children on board this ship. The conditions would have been appalling. Each person occupied a tiny space in the hold. In this case they had to lie in spaces just 10 inches high and were often chained or shackled together in pairs, making movement even more difficult. The cramped conditions meant that there were high incidences of diseases such as smallpox, measles, scurvy and dysentery. Because of the long distances involved food and water was rationed and always in short supply or ran out completely.

     

    By April 1787, the diagram was widely known across the UK, appearing in newspapers, pamphlets, books and even posters in coffee houses and pubs. An image had rarely been used as a propaganda tool in this way before and it proved to be very effective in raising awareness about the evils of the slave trade.

     

    Shelfmark: 1881.d.8 (46)

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