How did money from slavery help develop Greater Manchester?

Manchester cotton traders

by Washington Alcott

In March 1807 the British government abolished the trading of enslaved people from Africa. However, textiles from Manchester were deemed vital to the Liverpool slave trade, not only because they were cheaper but also superior in quality to those made in the rest of Europe.

Manchester’s goods were also purchased by Spanish traders in the West Indies and re-sold in Africa. This was done via Jamaica and was considered illegal by the Spanish government. It continued for some 20 years, and allowed Manchester merchants to continue to profit from the transatlantic slave trade after abolition. Several mercantile houses can still be seen on Whitworth Street, Manchester.

Another reason for Manchester's involvement in the continuing textile trade was that light woven goods were popular on the slaving coast of west Africa. Silk and cotton were the most popular of all materials and from the outset, the striped loincloths called annabasses were included in the cargo on slaving ships.

There were many prominent Manchester families who had direct links with the transatlantic slave trade. The Hibberts owned sugar plantations in Jamaica. Samuel Touchet (Member of Parliament for Shaftesbury, but who represented the interests of Manchester merchants) was a cotton/slave merchant, with an additional interest in insurance and a partnership in a West Indian business. He devised a highly entrepreneurial scheme to control the trade in African people in Senegal - which failed.

Others owned plantations or were investors in slave trafficking: these included the Ashworth, Wrigley, Armstrong, and Beresford families.