This diagram of the 'Brookes' slave ship is probably the most widely copied and powerful image used by 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 taverns. An image had rarely been used as a propaganda tool in this way before.
In the late 18th century, demand 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 the Americas. 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 enslaved Africans perished in the unimaginable conditions on the 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
- Print / Image
- Thomas Clarkson
- Usage terms
- Public Domain
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Matthew White
- The middle classes
With increasing variety in clothes, food and household items, shopping became an important cultural activity in the 18th century. Dr Matthew White describes buying and selling during the period, and explains the connection between many luxury goods and slave plantations in South America and the Caribbean.
- 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.
- Article by:
- Abdul Mohamud, Robin Whitburn
- Politics and religion, Travel, colonialism and slavery
With a focus on the 17th and 18th centuries, Abdul Mohamud and Robin Whitburn trace the history of Britain’s large-scale involvement in the enslavement of Africans and the transatlantic slave trade. Alongside this, Mohamud and Whitburn consider examples of resistance by enslaved people and communities, the work of abolitionists and the legacy of slavery.
Related collection items
Oroonoko overview Oroonoko is a short novel, styling itself ‘a true history’, set in the English colony ...
Ignatius Sancho used the medium of letters to record his thoughts on many of the major political, economic and ...