1800-1859 | Executions | Guyana | Slavery

‘Heads (of blacks) fixed on poles in various parts’ of Demerara

18 December 1823 Following a mostly non-violent slave insurrection in the British colony of Demerara (now Guyana) in August 1823, in which the plantation owners had been locked into their homes, Governor Major General John Murray imposed a savage crackdown. His troops shot dead at least a hundred rebel slaves in the fields, though some…

1500-1799 | Slavery

British slave ship throws its ‘cargo’ overboard and claims on its insurers

29 November 1781 On 29 November 1781, Captain Luke Collingwood, commanding the British slave ship Zong, on route for Jamaica, ordered his crew to murder one third of his ‘cargo’ of African slaves by throwing them overboard.  Two months earlier, he had gambled on cramming 470 slaves into the dark humid hull of the 110 ton square…

1800-1859 | Flogging | Guyana | Slavery

Priest – slaves surviving on raw plantains – perpetually flogged

17 November 1821 In 1817, the London Missionary Society sent John Smith to Demerara (now part of Guyana),  with instructions to preach the word of God at a small chapel at Le Resouvenir. The posting was situated in an area where hundreds of slaves were employed on the surrounding coffee, cotton and sugar plantations. In one…

1800-1859 | Slavery | Trinidad and Tobago

Newspaper dismisses dangers of treadmill, blaming idle, sulky slaves

12 October 1823 On 12 October 1823, the English newspaper John Bull, disparaged the concern expressed in a letter from the British colony of Trinidad over a slave called Moses, who had broken his leg while being punished on a treadmill. The treadmill or tread-wheel was a giant paddle wheel cylinder of twenty four steps, which…

1500-1799 | Slavery

The First Liverpool slave ship sets sail

3 October 1699 On 3 October 1699, the first slave ship set sail from Liverpool. The Liverpool Merchant, under the command of Captain William Webster, sailed down the Mersey headed for the coast of West Africa where she picked up her captive human cargo. In September the following year, Webster sold the 220 Africans who had…

1800-1859 | Slavery

Abolition Act – Biggest pay-out in British history for slave owners

1 August 1833 On 1 August 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act finally passed the House of Lords, authorising a handout of some £20 million to the slave owners. The sum would be equivalent to either £17 billion or £100 billion in 2017 terms, depending on whether it is measured by changes in wages or GDP. …

1500-1799 | Executions | Gibbeting | Jamaica | Slavery

Report from Jamaica – Gibbeted slaves survive four to eight days

18 June 1760 A letter, dated the 18 June 1760, from the British Caribbean territory of Jamaica and subsequently published in newspapers across England, Scotland and Ireland, described, with a grudging respect, the resilience of slaves who ‘are gibbeted alive in terrorem (and)  commonly live from four to eight days, which under the intense heat…

1500-1799 | Jamaica | Slavery | Torture

Slave overseer’s diary notes on a summer of depraved torture

26 May 1756 On 26 May 1756 in Jamaica, plantation overseer Thomas Thistlewood, who was unusual in keeping meticulous notes on the punishments he meted out to the slaves under his care, noted in his diary the depraved punishment given to a hungry slave, Derby, who was seen eating sugar cane.  Thistlewood ordered that he…

1500-1799 | Slavery

Lord Mansfield – throwing slaves overboard cannot be murder

22 May 1783 On this day in 1783, Lord Mansfied, the Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, issued his verdict on the case of  132 men, women and children thrown overboard from a British owned slave ship, the Zong, on 29 November 1871.  It was one of many brutal crimes committed against the millions of slaves who…

1500-1799 | Slavery

Bristol celebrates the defeat of Britain’s first anti-slavery bill

19 April 1791 Today in 1791, the House of Commons, many of its members having investments in the slaving business and the West Indies plantations, overwhelmingly rejected a bill proposed by William Wilberforce, to outlaw the slave trade. The margin of the defeat was substantial at 163 to 88, almost two to one.1 Within hours,…