The history of the transatlantic slave trade

For more than 2,000 years people in many different parts of the world have forced their fellow humans into slavery. Between about 1500 and 1900, Europeans forcibly uprooted millions of people from throughout West Africa and West Central Africa and shipped them across the Atlantic in conditions of great cruelty. To refer to the Africans who were enslaved only as 'slaves' strips them of their identity. They were, for instance, farmers, merchants, priests, soldiers, goldsmiths and musicians. They were husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. They could be Yoruba, Igbo, Akan or Kongolese.

European slavers dispersed them across the Americas to lead lives of degradation and brutality, without thought for their personal lives. Millions died in the process. As a result, people of African descent are spread throughout the Americas and Western Europe. This is called the African Diaspora.

Slavery and the slave trade

Follow these links to find out more about slavery and the slave trade:

Further information

Follow the links below for more information about the International Slavery Museum and its collections, as well as suggestions for further reading and research.

Books about slavery and its legacy

Books about the transatlantic slave trade and its legacy are available from the online bookshop .

Slavery Remembrance Day

Find out more about the annual Slavery Remembrance Day events hosted by National Museums Liverpool.

Enslaved Africans: our truth

Follow four Africans as they are taken and sold into slavery in our interactive feature Enslaved Africans: our truth.