European traders

map showing the location of the European ports

The main European nations involved in slaving were Portugal, Spain, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. Britain began large-scale slaving through private trading companies in the 1640s. The London-based Royal African Company was the most important and from 1672 had a monopoly of the British trade. Other merchants who wanted to enter this lucrative trade opposed the monopoly and it was ended in 1698.

The number of voyages to Africa made between 1695 and 1807 from each of the main European ports that were involved in the slave trade were:

  • Liverpool: 5,300
  • London: 3,100
  • Bristol: 2,200
  • Other European ports: 450 (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bordeaux, Cadiz, Lisbon and Nantes)

In the early 1700s most of Britain's slave merchants were from London and Bristol. However, Liverpool merchants were increasingly involved and from about 1740 were outstripping their rivals. Although London, Bristol and other ports continued to send ships to Africa, Liverpool dominated the trade until its abolition in 1807. Indeed Liverpool was the European port most involved in slaving during the 18th century.

Find out more about the 'Ports of the Transatlantic Slave Trade' in this transcript of the paper given by Anthony Tibbles at the TextPorts Conference, Liverpool Hope University College, April 2000.