Parliament and the Escalation of the British Slave Trade, 1690-1714

Pettigrew, William A (2007) Parliament and the Escalation of the British Slave Trade, 1690-1714. Parliamentary History, 26 (S1). pp. 12-26. ISSN 0264-2824

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There was as pronounced a parliamentary dimension to the escalation of England's slave trade as there was to its abolition. Between 1690 and 1714, and absorbing about the same parliamentary time as discussions of its abolition, parliament persistently debated how the slave trade should be managed. Would a joint-stock monopoly company, the foundering Royal African Company, better promote the export of English goods to Africa and satisfy the colonies' demand for slave labour than an open trade in which any British subject was free to trade in slaves? By 1714 the British slave trade had become highly deregulated, and its capacity dramatically increased, and the origins of slave trading voyages altered. There are remarkable similarities between the parliamentary debates about the escalation of the slave trade and those concerning its abolition. Both discussions sought to mobilize and respond to public opinion. Both proceeded against the backdrop of war that often delayed proceedings and encouraged, in respective cases, policy-makers to consider the imperial implications of their proposals. There are also similarities between the movement that expanded Britain's slave trade, 'the separate traders', and the group who achieved its abolition. Both movements had a distinctive transatlantic aspect, and both appealed to ideas of free trade. Although the escalation of Britain's slave trade resulted from a legislative vacuum while abolition required a statute, parliamentary consideration contributed equally to both outcomes...

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Journal Article
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Parliamentary History
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15 Oct 2018 08:18
Last Modified:
20 Sep 2023 01:16