The Slave Trade & the Port



Number of Slave Voyages from Liverpool

Number of Slave Voyages from Liverpool

By the mid-18th century, Liverpool dominated the English slave trade, controlling up to 80% of the British slave market. Expansion of the docks was necessary to accommodate larger numbers of ships. The size of the docks allowed Liverpool to not only handle more ships, but also handle the largest ships. By 1905, Liverpool controlled 50% of all of England’s largest ships, and it transported a fifth of all British goods with regards to tonnage.


This map, which compares the sizes of every port in England today, shows how Liverpool has maintained its status as one of the busiest, largest ports in the United Kingdom.


Not only did the port’s vast size allow it to rival the likes of Bristol and London in terms of maritime power, but its location also gave it an edge over ports closer to the English channel. During wartime, the English channel was rife with privateers and enemy ships, but Liverpool was relatively out of harm’s way, because it is tucked away deeper within the British Isles. This made the port immensely popular with traders during wartime, and the level of safety found within this port allowed maritime insurance rates for Liverpudlian ships to be much cheaper than insurance for ships from other major ports.



Old Liverpool Docks


The port of Liverpool was highly compact in comparison to the port of London, making the transportation of goods much quicker and more efficient. In addition, the water surrounding the Liverpool docklands is also wider and deeper, making it a natural fit for England’s largest trade ships. Here is a map of the Liverpool Docklands. The London Docklands are also pointed out in order to put the size of the docks into context, since London’s port spans the length of the River Thames