For more than 200 years Britain was the heart of a most lucrative transatlantic human trade which enslaved millions of Africans. In the 245 years between John Hawkins first voyage and the abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807, merchants in Britain despatched about 10,000 voyages to Africa for slaves, with merchants in other parts of the British Empire perhaps fitting out a further 1,150 voyages. Even with the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act by Parliament in 1807, slavery was not abolished in the British colonies until the Slavery Abolition Act (1833). At this point in time, according to the Slave Compensation Commission, the government body established to evaluate the claims of the slave owners, there were 46,000 slave owners in Britain. Between 1562 and 1807, British ships carried up to three million people into slavery in the Americas. Most bizarrely when slavery was abolished, it was not the slaves who were compensated but the approximately 3,000 British slave owners who received £20m (£1.6bn today) in compensation.
In 1662 the British established its headquarters on the Gold Coast (today Ghana) a few miles east of Elmina, giving competition to the Dutch who were already in the region. And just one hundred miles south from the mouth of the Senegal River is the island of Gorée where the French had built a fort and extended its colonial presence to the north bank of the Gambia River. Across the river: a British fort. This area became for many years to follow a conflict zone between the competing colonising powers of France and Great Britain. So when you look at a map of how African nations are geographically, it is often a sign of where one colonial power had influence over the local people and/or other colonising nations.
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