The Davenport papers

Letters and documents of the Davenport papers

The Davenport papers give a fascinating insight into the workings of the slave trade. They consist of 12 volumes and 13 bundles of correspondence dating from the 1750s and are part of the Maritime Archives and Library's collections.

The collection takes its name from the Liverpool family business to which the correspondence is addressed. It includes letters from slave traders who sent the details of their negotiations with African tribes back to Liverpool. There are also documents recording the gender and age of slaves, issued at Liverpool counting houses.

The papers illustrate how the slaves were seen as commodities, rather than people. They reveal that sailors often died during the transatlantic journeys. Their deaths were recorded in a special column of the ships' papers. Members of one African tribe actually joined the slave ships' crews as free men - replacing those that had died.

Merchant's letter of instruction to Captain Earle