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Sugar & Slavery: The Making of an Empire

Sunday, August 4, 2013

At the turn of the 18th century, the intense demand for sugar in Britain, meant that those in the West Indian colonies charged with supplying this collective sweet-tooth could no longer keep up. As such, what had until then been a comparative trickle of Africans being taken from their homes in the West of the continent and forced into a life of slavery, became a deluge.


This writer holds the view that no account of slavery’s cruelty can be accurate without first acknowledging that it was black Africans who sold other black Africans into a life of slavery. Africa was back then, and still is today in parts, a land scarred by bitter internecine conflicts, where the strong continue to prey on the weak with often deadly consequences. Despite the many success stories, it remains a continent still short of achieving its full potential.


It was against this backdrop then, that more than six million men and women were rounded up in slave ports dotted along the West African coast and shipped to the West Indies. Britain’s apologists are quick to point out that other European powers were also involved in the abject trade at this time, and bleat on about the British’s role in championing the worldwide cause for slavery’s abolition.


It must be highlighted nevertheless, that no other country profited as much from transatlantic slavery as did Great Britain; with ships flying the Crown’s flag being responsible for more than a third of all the slaves transported across the Atlantic on what was to become known as the Middle Passage.