10 things about British slavery
The story of British slavery is one of the greatest untold stories in UK history. It's a subject people don't talk about, with most Brits knowing more about slavery in the Deep South of the US. BBC Two's The Slavery Business is shedding some light on the truth behind Britain's slavery empire. Here are 10 things the series uncovers.
1. The British were the first big slave-trading nation to abandon the trade. They did this in 1807 when there were still huge profits to be made, and they did it for mainly moral reasons. It took a revolution of the slaves to destroy France's system and a terrible civil war in the US decided the fate of the slaves of the Southern States. In Britain alone slavery was ended by millions of people, black and white, free and enslaved, who decided it could no longer be tolerated.
2. From the ending of the slave trade to the beginning of the 20th Century, the Royal Navy patrolled off the coast of Africa searching for slave trading ships, boarding them and freeing the slaves. The fleet was known as the West Africa Squadrons.
3. Slaves in the British Caribbean didn't produce cotton as they did in the US. Sugar was the crop of islands like Jamaica and Barbados and the slaves who produced it were the world's first industrial workers.
4. The campaign to end slavery was dominated by women. With no vote, the anti-slavery crusade was one of the ways that women were able to get involved in politics.
5. Thousands of black slaves were brought to Britain by slave ships. In the 18th Century it was the height of fashion for rich ladies to have a black child servant.
6. Slave-produced sugar transformed our national cuisine. Much of what we today think of as the most traditional British food, is in fact only a couple of centuries old. Biscuits, cakes, sweets, toffee, rum and the resulting British sweet tooth - all products of that revolution in the kitchen brought about by sugar. Slave sugar was the missing ingredient that transformed tea from a strange novelty from India into an enduring national obsession.
7. Slavery was the world's first global industry but before globalism and corporations it was actually run by a few hundred families. Today many of the great aristocratic families of Britain have a hidden past in the slave trade.
8. Slavery in the British empire came to an end after a rebellion led by the Jamaican slave Sam Sharpe. Sharpe's original plan was to use non-violent passive resistance to end slavery. He was the Martin Luther King of the 19th Century.
9. The abolitionists were pioneers who helped invent the methods of political campaigning that we have today. They collected mass petitions, organised hundreds of local societies , created a campaign logo and even organised consumer boycotts.
10. Not all black people in the Caribbean were slaves. Not only were there free black people, there were also an army of escaped slaves called the Maroons who fought against the British Army for years.
The first part of The Slavery Business is broadcast on BBC Two, 3 August at 2100BST.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/08/03 11:32:40 GMT
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