How did money from slavery help develop Greater Manchester?

Manchester and cotton cloth

by Washington Alcott

Back in the 1700s and 1800s, Manchester's prosperous textile industry was thriving on the back of slavery. But it was the city's outrage at this trade in human cargo which also sparked the campaign for abolition.

Manchester's direct and indirect connections to the transatlantic slave trade can be linked to the city’s thriving cotton industry, which was built on slave-grown cotton from the West Indies. This cotton was subsequently woven into textiles, a major export item for Liverpool slave traders.

Manchester’s cotton mills produced 'coarse checks' (cloth or fabric with a pattern of crossed lines) and silk handkerchiefs. The industry reportedly earned Manchester up to £200,000 per annum, equivalent to £28m today. It was mostly cloth that was traded for captured Africans.

As the demand for cotton cloth increased worldwide, traders responded by importing slave-grown cotton from America. This helped the city to treble its cotton trade in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. At the same time, the transatlantic slave trade was booming.