Thomas Clarkson Tours the Slave Ports around Britain


This document is an account of evidence given by Thomas Clarkson, one of the leaders of the anti-slavery campaign. In it, he uses perhaps a rather unexpected argument - that seamen's lives are lost in the African trade - to object to the slave trade.

The document shows that Clarkson had carried out research in Liverpool and Bristol. It also provides evidence of the wide variety of goods and commodities involved in the trade. He believed that these could be obtained in a more humane manner - by paying Africans for the goods they produced in their own country.

Eric Williams, in his book Capitalism and Slavery, famously argued that Britain agreed to the abolition of the (British) slave trade out of self-interest. Historians have debated ever since whether this interpretation is correct.

BT 6/10, pp. 642-4(11 June 1788)

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