The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, 1500-1865

Between 1500 and 1865, Europeans embarked twelve and a half million captive Africans on slave ships for transportation to the Americas, the largest forced trans-oceanic migration in human history. In this module, you will study the slave trade in the context of broader trends in Atlantic history. You will first see how slavery diminished in Europe during the late Middle Ages, just as Europeans began to systematically explore the Atlantic basin. You will then study the rapid expansion of the trade after Columbus’ voyages, as Europeans enslaved increasing numbers of Africans to work in the fields, mines, and ports of the Americas. Focusing on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, you will look closely at how the trade operated, and how Africans experienced their enslavement. You will also study north-west England’s connections to the slave trade by investigating how Liverpool and Lancaster merchants outfitted slave ships and profited by the trade, and the slave trade’ influence on industrialization in Lancashire. In the concluding section of the module, you will see how the slave trade was abolished in the early nineteenth century, and the persistence of a clandestine trade until the end of the American Civil War.