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ABOLITION & EMANCIPATION

Part 3: Slavery Collections from the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries Liverpool became Britain’s busiest Atlantic port and the focus of the slave trade. It is not surprising then, that many of the records held at MMM are vital to our understanding of the political, commercial and social dimensions of the slave trade.

Parts 2 & 3 of our 'Abolition & Emancipation' series provide generous coverage of these records and are an important source for Slavery Studies, Maritime History, African Studies and World History.

Part 3 continues the sequence of volumes of The Liverpool Register of Merchant Ships, covering the period 1824-1855.

These volumes cover all ships registered in Liverpool, including slaving vessels, and give names and occupations of owners, names of masters, and a description of the vessel (length, breadth, decks, masts, size of hold and tonnage, plus type). They also record vessels which have been taken as prizes. These records are described by Gordon Read, Curator of Archives at the Merseyside Maritime Museum, as "perhaps the single most important collection held by the Museum" (Guide to the Records of Merseyside Maritime Museum, 1995).

By the 1730s about 15 ships a year were leaving Liverpool for Africa and this grew to about 50 a year in the 1750s rising to just over a 100 in each of the early years of the 1770s. Numbers declined during the American War of Independence (1775-1783) but rose to a new peak of 120-130 ships a year in the two decades preceding the abolition of the trade by Britain in 1807. It was not until 1833 that the institution of slavery was abolished in British possessions overseas. Many nations carried on trading slaves well into the second half of the 19th century. Ships leaving Liverpool continued to be involved indirectly with the slave trade, in privateering, related trades and as monitoring vessels.

The registers are packed with data for the historian. They should be equally helpful either for scholars trying to track down details about particular vessels, voyages, captains or masters or for those researchers attempting more detailed lines of enquiry.



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