Exactly five centuries ago, on 18th August 1518 (28th August, using the current Gregorian calendar) King Charles I of Spain issued a charter authorising the transportation of slaves direct from Africa to the Americas. Prior to that (since at least 1510), African slaves had usually been transported to Spain or Portugal and had then been “freighted-on” to the Caribbean or (occasionally) sold to European-based buyers.
Charles’s decision to create a direct, more economically viable Africa to America slave trade changed the nature and scale of this profitable human trafficking industry. Over the subsequent 350 years, around 11 million Africans were transported between the two continents. Almost a further 2 million died en route
This month’s quincentenary is of a tragic event that caused untold suffering and still today leaves a legacy of poverty, racism, inequality and elite wealth across four continents.
Funny how so few of the “great and the good” seem to care, isn’t it?