Our new season is now open: Spring 1677 !
During the 17th century the English began to acquire territory in the New World. The English colonies expanded rapidly. Settlers from the British Isles sailed across the Atlantic to seek a new life. The most famous were the Pilgrim Fathers, who left from Leiden in the Mayflower, arriving in New England in 1620.
Tobacco plantations were established in Virginia, and Sugar was grown on English islands in the Caribbean, such as Barbados. The development of a plantation system and the growth of the Atlantic economy brought further demands for African labour. This increased the scale of the trade in enslaved people.
In its most basic form, the transatlantic trade in enslaved people was a commercial triangle connecting Europe, West Africa and the Americas. Ships left British ports such as London carrying trade goods for West Africa. These might include Cotton cloth, guns, gunpowder and ammunition, ironware, Alcohol, trinkets, etc.
The ship’s captain then spent many weeks off the African coast trading goods for Africans captured by African slave traders. The process of negotiating the exchange of goods for Africans was very time-consuming. But once the ship was full with many hundreds of Africans and restocked with water and supplies, the captain set sail across the Atlantic.
Royal African Company
In 1660, the English government chartered a company called the "Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa." At first the company was mismanaged, but in 1663 it was reorganized. A new objective clearly stated that the company would engage in the slave trade. To the great dissatisfaction of England's merchants, only the Company of Royal Adventurers could now engage in the trade.
The Company did not fare well, due mainly to the war with Holland (their biggest rival in the slave and other trade and in the 17th century with a far superior navy than the English, making it the Dutch that ruled the waves), and in 1667, it collapsed. But out of its ashes emerged a new company: The Royal African Company. Founded in 1672, the Royal African Company was granted a similar monopoly in the slave trade.