This charter, issued by King Charles II (1630–1685) in 1663, represents the moment at which the transatlantic slave trade officially began, with royal approval, in the English (later British) Empire. This led to the rapid expansion of British involvement in the slave trade and enslavement of Africans. It is estimated that between 1663 and the end of the 17th century Britain had enslaved and transported over 332,000 Africans across the Atlantic where the majority were forced to work on plantations producing sugar, tobacco and other crops for European consumers. Of this figure, it is estimated that approximately 254,000 Africans disembarked from British ships.
The charter granted the Company of Royal Adventurers of England a monopoly in the transportation of people from the west coast of Africa to the English colonies in the Americas. It explicitly sanctioned ‘the buying and selling, bartering and exchanging of, for, and with any negro slaves, goods, wares and merchandizes whatsoever to be vended or found’ in western Africa (ff. 8v–9r).
 ‘Estimates’, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database <http://www.slavevoyages.org/assessment/estimates> [accessed June 2018].
- Full title:
- Royal African Company of Merchant Adventurers: Royal charter granted to, by Charles II.: 1663.: Copy.African Company, Royal: Charter granted to the Royal English Merchant Adventurers Company trading to Africa: 1663.: Copy.
- 1663, London
- Manuscript / Charter
- Charles Stuart
- Usage terms
Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.
- Held by
- British Library
- Sloane MS 205
- Article by:
- S I Martin
- Politics and religion, Travel, colonialism and slavery, Language and ideas
By 1780, there were at least 20,000 black people living in Britain. S I Martin describes how four writers, taken from Africa as children and sold into slavery, grew up to write works that challenged British ideas about race, called for African brotherhood and demanded the abolition of the slave trade.
- Article by:
- Jim Watt
- Travel, colonialism and slavery, Politics and religion
In the 17th century, London was at the centre of global trade, with goods and individuals arriving in the capital from all over the world. Jim Watt looks at how travel, trade and empire shaped the works of Daniel Defoe, Alexander Pope, Josiah Wedgwood, Oliver Goldsmith and Ignatius Sancho.
- Article by:
- Janet Todd
- Travel, colonialism and slavery, Rise of the novel, Politics and religion
As a young woman, Aphra Behn was a spy for Charles II's government in Antwerp and probably in South America. Two decades later, she used these experiences to write Oroonoko, the story of a prince kidnapped from West Africa, enslaved and taken to a British colony in South America. Janet Todd explains how this extraordinary novella was shaped by the historical and political contexts and beliefs of Behn's time.