Source 6 - Diagram of a slave ship

This diagram of the 'Brookes' slave ship is probably the most widely copied and powerful image used by the abolitionist campaigners. It depicts the 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 a very useful 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 in coffee houses and pubs. An image had rarely been used as a propaganda tool in this way before.

  • Why was this picture so successful in generating sympathy for the abolitionist cause?
  • What makes it such a powerful image?

Taken from: -
Author / Creator: unknown
Publisher: James Phillips, George Yard, Lombard Street, London
Date: 1787
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: 1881.d.8 (46)