Posts Tagged ‘The Golden Trade: Or a Discovery of the River Gambia and Golden Trade of the Aethiopians’

When British Sailors Refused to Buy Slaves from Africans

December 13, 2021

British involvement in the transatlantic slave trade roughly dates from 1619 or so, when Spanish traders turned up at one of the very first English colonies in Virginia offering Black slaves. Slavery in England had died out by the 12th century to be replaced by serfdom, which became the condition of the majority of the English peasantry. This was itself in decay during the 16th century and had ended by the middle of the 17th. As a result, some of the early British explorers were very definitely not interested in purchasing slaves when they were offered them by African merchants. One of these was Richard Jobson, who described how he refused to buy a consignment of slaves in his book The Golden Trade: Or, a Discovery of the River Gambia and the Golden Trade of the Aethiopians, published in 1623 in London.

Jobson was offered them by Buckor Sano, a Gambian merchant, and describes how he refused them, furthermore telling Sano that the English didn’t practice slavery. He wrote

Hee showed unto me, certaine young blacke women, who were standing by themselves, and had white strings crossed their bodies, which hee told me were slave, brought for me to buy. I made answer, We were a people, who did not deale in any such commodities, neither did we buy or sell one another, or any that had our own shapes. He seemed to marvel much.

I made a note of this passage when I was doing voluntary work in the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol. Unfortunately, It wasn’t long before England enthusiastically joined the transatlantic slave trade with its horrific consequences. But this passage does show how complicated the emergence of the vile trade actually was, and how responsibility for it cannot be solely placed with White Europeans.

Unfortunately, this does seem to be the attitude of many contemporary racial activists. It’s why we need very careful, objective teaching about the slave trade rather than oversimplified narratives intended to push a racial agenda.