The Eighteenth Century

The Slave Trade and the Growth of the British Black Population

During the 18th century the slave trade dominated the British economy. It supplied fashionable society with sugar, chocolate, coffee and tea to consume, American cotton cloth to wear and tobacco to smoke.

In the middle of the 18th century there was an influx of Black people as naval captains, colonial governors, plantation-owners and merchants came back to live in Brighton & Hove, choosing to bring with them their house-slaves and servants, rather than employing English servants. Young slaves were in demand as household servants. They were popular with officers from the slave ships and with West Indian planters who wish to continue the privileged way of life that they had enjoyed in the colonies. Little Black pageboys in fancy clothes, were fashionable status symbol for many families.

The right to buy and sell human beings went largely unchallenged in Britain, until the late 18th century. Between 18 and 22 million African were transported in this way. As many as one million died in transit.

top of page

black history