Cotton and transatlantic slavery

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

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The Liverpool and Manchester Railway, 1830, Museum of Science & Industry

See this object at Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI)

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The Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened on 15 September 1830, with stations at Liverpool Road, Manchester and Edge Hill. It was the world's first inter-city passenger railway. As well as carrying people, the railway was important for carrying goods.

In December 1830, American cotton grown by enslaved Africans was part of the first consignment of goods transported by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The need to move large amounts of cotton was a major factor in the development of transport in the north west of England. Canals were the main form of transport in the early 1800s until the expansion of the railway network.

New technology and machinery in the 1700s and 1800s helped revolutionise the British cotton industry. As more and more raw cotton was processed in the mills in and around Manchester, more Africans were enslaved to work on the plantations in the southern states of America.

By 1860 over 88% of the cotton imported into Britain came from the labour of enslaved Africans in America. Slavery was only abolished in America in 1865, although it had ended in the 1830s in the British colonies in the Caribbean.

You can see the original Liverpool and Manchester Railway train tracks and passenger station at the Museum of Science and Industry, MOSI, in Castlefield, Manchester.