Post-Slave Economy

Liverpool’s economic power did not dwindle after the slave trade came to a halt; the city’s expansion into other transatlantic markets during the slave trade era provided the city with an avenue for continued economic growth. After the disappearance of the slave market in England, Liverpool merchants placed more emphasis on the importation of raw materials and foodstuffs; by 1906, the three largest import markets were cotton, meat and grains. From 1835 to 1905, the city’s foreign trade increased every 5-year interval except on two occasions, one of those periods of decline resulting from the blockade of the Confederacy’s ports during the American Civil War (which goes to further prove just how linked Liverpool’s economy was to transatlantic trade). From 1850 to 1905, the number of ships registered in Liverpool for the purpose of trade increased by 400, and the tonnage of goods being exported or imported increased five-fold from three-million tons to over fifteen-million tons. The table below shows the top imports and exports of Liverpool in 1906, which highlights Liverpool’s successful diversification into other commodity markets after the slave trade.

Imports Value in Millions Exports Value in Millions
£ £
Raw Cotton 42.56 Cotton Manufactures 46.24
Dead Meat 17.15 Iron and Steel Manufacturers. 13.98
Corn and Cereals 14.65
India-rubber 8.42 Woollen Manufactures 8.87
Wool 5.74 Machinery 8.68
Live Animals 4.84 Linen Manufactures 3.88
Copper 4.23 Cotton Yarn 3.61
Timber 3.78 Chemicals 3.43
Tobacco 3.18 Carriages (chiefly railway) 2.86
Sugar 3.16 China and Earthenware 1.54
Hardware 1.02

Not only did Liverpool’s connections to transatlantic markets give the city the means for sustaining its economic growth even after the abolition of slavery in England, but the expansion of its port as a result of the slave trade also provided Liverpool with the infrastructure needed to successfully transition into a more technologically advanced era of trade.

Steam Ship


Liverpool was one of the only ports in England capable of handling the largest ships. Steamships were much larger than the average wooden ship, so docks needed to be larger in order to handle the ever-increasing sizes of ships. Luckily for Liverpool, the city vastly expanded its docks throughout the 18th century in order to keep up with the growing slave trade. This meant that Liverpool was the ideal port for more modern ships, such as the one to the left, which gave the city the ability to maintain its economic growth even after the abolition of the slave trade.


The construction of the Liverpool and Manchester railway in 1830 also further connected the port with the industrial hinterlands. Manufactured goods from the surrounding towns had a way to deliver their goods for exportation, and imports could now be shipped around England more efficiently. This was one of the first modern railways, and its construction made the transition from a slave port to a port focused on commodities and manufactured goods much easier. This video shows the development and evolution of the railway.


Map of Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829


This map shows just how important the railway was to connecting Liverpool with the surrounding towns, making an economy based on exports and manufactured goods viable.