During his visit to Jamaica, David Cameron was asked to provide an apology on behalf of the British for their role in the slave trade. If you have a view on this obviously emotive subject, you might get some or all these facts useful in deepening your understanding. I found they made a difference to mine. None of these or some other facts in any way justify or mitigate the evil of slavery, past or present.
- Slavery wasn’t introduced to Africa by Europeans. It was there before the first explorers and traders moved there.
- The first Europeans to participate in the slave trade were the Portuguese in the Fifteenth Century.
- The British sent white British prisoners to work as slaves on the plantations in the Caribbean. They were the winners following the Battle of Worcester in the Civil War, The Batle of Sedgemoor in Monmouth’s Rebellion against James II and Jacobites in the 1715 Rebellion.
- Slavery was held to be illegal in Britain because it violated the principles of Magna Carta etc. but was considered acceptable in British Overseas Possessions.
- White British and other Europeans were taken as slaves from Noth Africa during the late Middle Ages until the Eighteenth Century.
- Other European nations did so at different dates throughout the Nineteenth Century. Many Asian and Middle Eastern countries postponed its abolition until the Twentieth Century. In Saudi Arabia’s case it was 1974.
- Compensation was paid to British slave owners as the Government, and most other people, felt it could not deprive people of the”property” without doing this.
- In the British Empire that the Government needed to use force to suppress slavery, as the abolition was not popular with native slave-traders in many areas.
- In Jamaica there are some black and mixed-race men and women that are descended from free people. There was a brief period when the island had been abandoned by the Spanish before the British arrived. Their kids were never slaves.
- Slavery still exists in many places. In Britain it is the domain of people-traffickers. In the Middle East it is considered to go on illegally in many countries but is openly practiced in areas controlled by ISIS. The victims are members of minorities.
Personally, I wish the campaigners would concentrate on freeing current slaves rather than keeping old wounds alive, given the complexity of the narrative and the difficulty in apportioning blame or credit.
After studying Economics and Accountancy at Bristol University, John worked in accountancy, audit and insurance in several forms of local authority. He is currently self-employed as JHM Risk Management Services, offering risk management and liability claims-handling services to companies and other businesses, to enable owners and managers to save time and stress as well as money. John is part of the accountancy body CIPFA, is a Registered Risk Practitioner with ALARM, and is a Specialist Member of the Institute of Risk Managers.