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Slavery and the British

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James Walvin reviews current ideas about the vast network of slavery that shaped British and world history for more than two centuries.

The enforced movement of more than eleven million Africans onto the Atlantic slave ships, and the scattering of over ten million survivors across the colonies of the Americas between the late sixteenth and early nineteenth centuries, transformed the face of the Americas. It also enhanced the material well-being both of European settlers and their homelands. The cost was paid, of course, by Africa: a haemorrhage of humanity from vast reaches of the continent, the exact consequences, even now, unknown. Though they were not its pioneers, by the mid-eighteenth century the British had come to dominate Atlantic slavery, a fact which in turn helped to shape much of Britain’s status and power.

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