"Liverpool's slave trade was the centre of a global commerce and an important factor in British economic growth." To what extent would you agree with this opinion?

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Part B -“Liverpool’s slave trade was the centre of a global commerce and an important factor in British economic growth.” To what extent would you agree with this opinion?

   This essay will attempt to answer the question by approaching it in three stages. Firstly it will assess the importance of Britain’s slave trade in the context of global commerce, especially during the 18th century. Secondly it will attempt to show the degree of significance - and the reason - for Liverpool’s involvement as a British port, and thirdly, to find out whether or not this had a bearing on Britain’s economy in general. In other words, the essay will attempt to ascertain whether Britain’s slave trade “was the centre of a global commerce”, and whether Liverpool was, in turn, the central city for that particular trade.


   From around 1600, Britain had colonised or conquered a network of territories all over the world including parts of the Americas – According to Professor Kenneth Morgan, “By 1797-8, North America and the West Indies received 57 per cent of British exports, and supplied 32 per cent of imports”. The 18th century saw Britain rise to an undisputed dominant position among her rival European powers. Trade with these overseas colonies was a driving force behind the Industrial Revolution, especially throughout the 19th Century, in providing sources of raw materials and markets for finished goods. The slave trade played a huge part: “By the end of the 18th century, Britain had become the largest and most accomplished slaving nation in the world”. If it can be shown that the city of Liverpool was central to this trade, and Britain’s economy benefited from it, then the above statement will carry some validity.


   The 18th Century saw Liverpool’s rise to the position of what was sometimes referred to as “Britain’s second city”, and dominance over the British slave trade. The figures bear this out – in 1730, London and Bristol held the monopoly on the Atlantic trade, with only 15 slave ships leaving Liverpool in that year; in 1771 this figure had risen to 107, compared with 58 ships from London. Between 1750 and 1780, Liverpool merchants financed around 75% of British slave voyages. A contemporary visitor’s account put it like this: “Liverpool being the port for shipping of the manufacturies of Manchester, Warrington and other manufacturing towns in the neighbourhood, being concerned largely in the West Indian trade, in the Greenland fisheries and more largely in the infamous African trade than any other place in England occasion a great forest of shipping to be continually in port” At this time (by the 3rd quarter of the 18th Century), no less than a third of this “forest” would have been slave ships.

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   This heightened activity was due in part to Liverpool’s geographical location – she was situated close to Britain’s main manufacturing areas in the North and Northwest. The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, William Forwood, claimed in 1881 “[Liverpool’s] prosperity is entirely dependant on [it’s] close proximity to the great manufacturing centres of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire”. But was this the entire reason for Liverpool’s growing involvement in the slave trade a century before? Daniel Mannix and Malcolm Cowley argue that not only “larger and faster ships” were built on Merseyside, but also “the notorious parsimony of Lancashire merchants” was the ...

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