by Dr Natalie Zacek, English and American Studies, University of Manchester
Manchester had since the seventeenth century been a centre for radical movements, and many of its people in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries devoted themselves to the abolition of slavery. Although it was never a slaving port, Manchester was tightly linked to the African slave trade because, beginning in the seventeenth century, the “coarse check” cloth and the silk handkerchiefs its mills produced were one of the principal goods which English traders exchanged for captives on the West African coast. Moreover, as the global demand for cotton clothing boomed in the eighteenth century, traders brought ever more slave-grown cotton in to be processed in the Manchester mills.
Visiting abolitionist activists found Manchester a fertile ground in which to spread their message and raise funds for their cause; important visitors included Thomas Clarkson, the founder of the British…
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