Transatlantic slavery was a brutal system which forcibly shipped over twelve million Africans to the Americas and lasted over 300 years. It allowed African men, women and children to be stolen from their homeland, bought and sold as property and used to produce sugar, coffee, cotton and other goods for huge profit in the European and North American markets. This print was made to highlight the inhumane conditions under which enslaved Africans were transported across the Atlantic Ocean, forced to make the long voyage from West Africa to the Americas, tightly packed into the hold of ships and held in chains.
The headwrap originated in sub-Saharan Africa. For centuries, it has been worn by women in different African countries and regions, in different forms, to reflect both communal and personal identities – which clan or tribe they belonged to, whether they were married, widowed, young or old, for example. This cotton kerchief, or headwrap, belonged to Nancy Burns (1800 – 1849). Born in Albany, New York, the daughter of slaves, she would eventually find work as a house servant and was painted in a portrait wearing the item in the 1840s. It represents a long history of cultural identity associated with women of African origin – particularly African-American women – that is still very much alive today.
This is a painting of an Australian kangaroo by the artist George Stubbs. This was the first time people in Britain had seen such a creature.
Kevin Dalton Johnson’s Captured Africans is a memorial to enslaved Africans transported on ships originating out of Lancaster as part of the Transatlantic slave trade. It stands on St George’s Quay in Lancaster and was unveiled in 2005.
June 13, 2018 - Richard Moss
The British Library follows the journeys of the man who opened up the world during the Age of Revolution in James Cook: The Voyages Captain James Cook’s name has always been synonymous with exploration and adventure, but even in the 1770s when the American Revolutionary War was underway, such was his fame that none other […]
Thomas Paine was a radical political philosopher and advocate of human rights. He was one of the most influential writers and activists of his time who heavily influenced the American and French revolutions.
Olaudah Equiano was an African-born writer who documented his experiences of capture and enslavement, worked and travelled all over the British Atlantic world, and later became involved in the movement to abolish slavery. He was among the first and most effective black political activists within Britain’s African community. The recollections and arguments of people of African origin made a profound contribution to arguments for the abolition of the slave trade, adding urgency and authenticity to the work of fellow white campaigners.
In the late 1700s Captain James Cook (1729 – 1779) led three now legendary voyages to explore the Pacific Ocean in ships named Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure and Discovery. To people living in Britain at the time, the Pacific was as mysterious and unreachable as outer space is to ordinary people today. With his crew Cook voyaged further south than any European before him and brought back new knowledge to Britain of the seas, lands, peoples, plants and animals they encountered. The three voyages transformed knowledge and understanding among Europeans about the wider world and its people.
In 1834, six farm workers were arrested and transported to Australia as a result of banding together to improve the miserable wages of farm labourers. The maltreatment of the ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’, as they became known, helped pave the way for the creation of trade unions and the protection of employees’ rights.
Between the 1500s and early 1800s, millions of Africans were kidnapped, sold and transported to the Americas to work as slaves in unimaginably cruel conditions on hugely profitable plantations. These plantations were largely owned by Europeans and Euro-Americans. Britain grew rich on the profits from this transatlantic slave trade, reinvesting the profits in other economic sectors. Only in the late eighteenth century did public opinion slowly begin to turn against the trade in Africans, and campaigners for abolition used every way they could to bring the issue to people’s attention in Europe.