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Maritime Image of the Day: The Brookes Slave Ship Drawing

PortandTerminal.com, January 26, 2020

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – This diagram of the ‘Brookes’ slave ship is probably the most widely copied and powerful image used by those campaigning to abolish slavery in the late 18th century. Created in 1787, the image depicts a slave ship loaded to its full capacity – 454 people crammed into the hold. The overcrowding and sheer lack of space shocked everybody who saw it. In reality, this ship diagram was not a true reflection of the space given to the enslaved Africans. It is known that in 1783 the vessel carried more than 600 enslaved Africans from Africa to the Americas.

In the late 18th century, the demand for luxury goods among rich and poor alike grew rapidly. Popular commodities such as tea and coffee, sugar, tobacco and cotton clothing all originated in the plantations of the Americas. This booming demand, in turn, acted as a stimulus to the transatlantic slave trade. Though the exact human toll will never be known, perhaps 2,500,000 enslaved Africans perished in the unimaginable conditions on the ships that crossed between Africa and the American colonies between the 16th and 18th centuries.

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