The Slaving History of the British Empire
By Nwa-Amadi Omeife Jideofo
Slavery is an everlasting stain on the history of the British Empire and this story is one which has long antecedents. The earliest recorded account of life in the British Isles came from Roman sources. Rome conquered the British Isle and ruled it between 43 and 453 AD. The Romans enslaved virtually the entire population of Brittany (England) and the other Islands that fell within their grasp. They exploited their slaves in plantations, mines and used them for trade speculations.
The Anglo-Saxons who came after the Romans, in 5th century (AD) also enslaved or killed off the Celtic people they found living on the Island before their arrival. The French dynasty based in Normandy which conquered England in 1066 then enslaved and subjugated the descendants of the Anglo-Saxons.
Between the 11th and the 13th century in the wake of the consolidation of the feudal system, slavery in the British Isles morphed in form but remained in substance as “serfdom” (an old French/English term for slaves or servitude..serfitude”). Serfdom survived in England in until the dawn of the Industrial revolution between the 17th and the 18th century.
One can say that the great wealth of the British Empire was made from its close connection with slave trading especially the trans Atlantic slave trade during which Africans were completely betrayed, dehumanized and degraded by Britain and many western European countries like Holland, Germany, France, Spain Portugal, Belgium, and Italy. Certainly the earliest and the richest British oversea possessions, the West Indies and Virginia depended on whole scale exploitation of slaves.
The British were not the first Europeans in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Portuguese had established themselves as traders a century earlier. Although late in entering the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Britain soon became the most efficient and prosperous slave trading country ever seen in the History of the world. The subjects of this predacious tendency were exclusively Africans. Some of the most prominent men in British history were some of the most vicious set of sub-human slave traders. Degenerates like Francis Drake and John Hawkins remain paradigms of the types that built the British Empire.
John Hawkins was the first established English slave trader. He was a dare-devil pirate and slave raider in the mould of the old European Vikings. He was supported morally and financially by Queen Elizabeth the first.
Between 1562 and 1567 Queen Elizabeth the first commissioned many ships to advance “the Royal” slave raiding and trading enterprise. Given the later colonial emphasis on its Christianizing mission in Africa, it is very interesting to note that the name of the first royally commissioned English slave raiding ship that took Africans into bondage in West Indies was “the Jesus of Lubeck”. It provides one a unique window into the deranged minds of the initiators and perpetrators of the Atlantic slave trade. Another early ship commissioned by this same woman for Pirate Hawkins expeditions was named the Minion.
John Hawkins made so much profit for the British Royal family from raiding and enslaving hapless coastal West Africans that he was knighted and given a permanent place of honour in British history. His great comrade and blood relative was Francis Drake, another blood thirsty dare-devil piratical murderer who remains pre-eminent in the annals of the builders of the British Empire.
Hawkins was a tried and tested kidnapper, slave raider, thief and a murderer. This treacherous man and his sponsors had his fleet outfitted with the most advanced cannons and military gadgets of its days reminiscent of the modern British navy. Actually, the foundations of the modern British Navy were laid by the Hawkins and Drake. Gathering unto himself the most reptilian low life characters in Britain, he devastated the entire west coast of Africa for so many years.
The pattern was consistent. Hawkins sailed for the west coast of Africa. Mooring his ship on the coast his men (Naval Commandoes) would steal ashore to make reconnaissance, report back to ship on population locations and then lay ambush.
Hawkins would then have his ship bombard (Naval blockade and bombardment..a tactics still used by the Royal Navy and its protÃ©gÃ©s) unsuspecting coastal African villagers usually at night times. Taking advantage of the ensuing panic and confusion the men whom Hawkins had lying in wait would then attack the villages, blasting their guns, killing and maiming at random. At the end of this carnage, the living and the uninjured would be chained and marched off to the ships. The wounded and the maimed would be left for death.
By the morning, those Africans would be spirited away by those menacing ships, in cramped inhumane conditions, into a life of serfitude…servitude…slavery, in the West Indies and New England (USA). Once across the Atlantic Hawkins would sell his captives, or rather those who survived the voyage, to the Spanish. The slave trade was better business than plantations.
Hawkins and Queen Elizabeth I captured and sold many scores of thousands of coastal Africans and killed God knows how many. The Judgment of the Ultimate Judge shall walk with both of them for all eternity.
By 1565, Britain had made so much money from slave trading that eventually it began nursing aspirations to greatness. Prior to this time, Spain was the pre-eminent European power as it was making money off its stolen land in West Indies through the exploitation of the intelligence and labour of its African captives.
In the wake of its success in slave raiding and trading, England which then was more of a provincial unsophisticated backwater ghetto suddenly began casting covetous eyes on the Spanish loot. The relatively more sophisticated Spanish (who had inherited the wealth and civilization of African-Moors rulers of Spain) decided to cap the ambitions of the dangerous English upstarts before things would get out of hand. This lead to a series of petty bickering, naval skirmishes, religious politicking and finally all out war between the two nations which culminated with the Spanish sending out a fleet to invade and conquer England. This fleet which got lost or defeated at sea (depending on which side you are reading) is historically known as the Spanish armada.
For Hawkins, the trade ended in 1567 at the height of the war when his fleet, which included a ship commanded by Francis Drake, took shelter from a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. The Spanish were also there waiting out the same hurricane. In the chaos and fight that followed, many of his men were killed. The Queen’s Jesus of Lubeck was lost. Hawkins escaped in one ship and Drake in another. He’d lost 325 men on that voyage but he still showed a financial profit from that voyage.
That skirmish between the Spanish and English ships was partly a turning point in the naval confrontation between the two nations; it continued for two decades and was only partially settled by the 1588 English Channel battle with the Spanish Armada. However, slavery continued after Hawkins until the 19th century when worldwide outrage began to curb this stain on human history.
Nwa-Amadi Omeife Jideofo
September 13, 2006