CLIO 7 (1) - page 25

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close links in 18th century Britain
between, on one hand, making
money from slavery and, on the
other, Britain’s emergence as a
strong capitalist power. According
toWilliam’s book, ‘slave-generated
profits could have covered a third of
Britain's overall investment needs.
Around the same time, ‘slave-based
planting and commercial profits
came to £3.8 million (or about £450
million in contemporary terms)’.
Therefore, it can be argued that
British capitalism was a cause
rather than consequence of slave
plantation development and if it
were not for the strong positive cor-
relation between plantation growth
and industrial prosperity in Britain,
slavery would never have been
able to be sustained as vicious and
methodically as it was. The enor-
mous economical gains from the
slave trade allowed those involved
to overlook the savagery of its
exploitation. It was from this need
for justification that racist ideals
emerged.
In order to understand its
brutality and the slave captains
involved, it is important to consider
individual cases. For example, The
Zong Massacre.
The Zong:
The British slave ship, the
Zong, departed the coast of Africa
in September 1781 with 470 slaves.
Due to the value of slaves at the
time, many captains including Luke
Collingwood of the Zong took on
far more slaves than their ships
could accommodate in order to
maximise profits, ‘storing’ them as
goods: below deck and with barely
enough room to move. Later, in
March 1783, the freed African slave
Olaudah Equiano would call upon
anti-slavery campaigner Granville
Sharp with news of an event that,
even in the context of the transat-
lantic slave trade, was unimagina-
ble.
Only a few months into its
voyage, the ship succumbed to bad
weather and navigational mistakes,
leaving it without drinkable wa-
ter. As the enslaved Africans were
insured as property not people,
the desperate Collingwood made
the decision to drown 133 of his
surviving slaves overboard in order
to cash in on his insurance, as it
covered loss of jettisoned cargo but
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