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Slave ships were large cargo ships specially converted for the purpose of transporting slaves, especially newly purchased African slaves.

The most important routes of the slave ships led from the northern and middle coasts of Africa to South America and the south coast of what is today the Caribbeanmarker and the United States of Americamarker. The captains and sailors of the boats were allowed to do whatever they wanted with the slaves. This included rape, murder, and torture because the slaves were considered their property. As many as 20 million Africans were transported by ship. The transportation of slaves from Africa to America was known as the Middle Passage. The African slave trade was outlawed in 1807, by a law passed jointly in the United States of Americamarker and the United Kingdommarker, the applicable UK Act was the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and outlawed slavery throughout the British Empire. The US law took effect on January 1, 1808. After that date all US and English slave ships leaving Africa were legally pirate vessels subject to capture by the American and British navies. In 1815, at the Council of Vienna, Spainmarker, Portugalmarker, Francemarker and The Netherlandsmarker also agreed to abolish their slave trade. During this time, the slave ships became smaller and more cramped in exchange for improved performance in their new role as smuggling craft and blockade runners.

Atlantic slave trade

Only a few decades after the discovery of America by Europeans, demand for cheap labor to work plantations made slave-trading a profitable business. The peak time of slave ships to the Atlantic passage was between the 17th and 18th century when large plantations developed in the English colonies of North America.

In order to achieve profit, the owners of the ships divided their hulls into holds with little headroom, so they could transport as many slaves as possible. Unhygienic conditions, dehydration, dysentery and scurvy led to a high mortality rate, on average 15% and up to a third of captives. Only the most resilient survived the transport. Often the ships transported hundreds of slaves, who were chained tightly to plank beds. For example, the slave ship "Henrietta Marie" carried about 200 slaves on the long Middle Passage. They were confined to cargo holds with each slave chained with little room tomove..

Brookes slave ship plan


List of slave ships



Note: While La Amistad is often called a slave ship, it was in fact a general purpose cargo ship, which occasionally carried slaves. See the article about the ship, and the resulting court case, for more information.

See also



Turner's The Slave Ship


Notes

  1. Mancke, Elizabeth and Shammas, Carole. The Creation of the British Atlantic World. 2005, page 30-1
  2. http://www.melfisher.org/exhibitions/henriettamarie/middlepassage.htm History: The Middle Passage
  3. Slave Ship Trouvadore Website
  4. Harper's Weekly, June 2, 1860, p344. Online at The Slave Heritage Resource Center accessed 3 July 2006.


External links




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