Africa and the transatlantic slave trade

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Do you know what these objects are, and what the connection was between them?

Click on the images below to find out more

Manilla, 1700s, The Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester

See this object at The Manchester Museum, University of Manchester

This item may not always be on display, please check with the venue before visiting

Manillas were traditional African horseshoe shaped bracelets made of metals such as iron, bronze, copper and very rarely gold. Decorative manillas were worn to show wealth and status in Africa.

Europeans used them as a form of currency in west Africa to buy and enslave African people. They manufactured them in Britain, especially around Bristol and Birmingham, based on African designs. Different styles and metals had different values. One source stated that in 1505 one manilla was worth a big elephant tooth and eight to ten manillas would buy an African person to enslave.

The trade was described as triangular: ships sailed full of ‘exchange’ goods such as manillas, metals, clothing, guns and alcohol from Britain to Africa. Enslaved Africans were transported across the Atlantic to the Americas. The raw materials enslaved Africans grew on plantations such as sugar, tobacco and cotton were brought back to Britain where they were processed.

Historians estimate that at least 12 million Africans were removed by force during the transatlantic slave trade. Many millions died when they were captured and transported.  Europeans dominated the trade in enslaved Africans using the power of guns. They justified enslaving Africans claiming that they were ‘uncivilised’.

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An interactive video drama on slavery and abolition

This Accursed Thing

African Slave Trader