The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 42, Issue 1

Article 5
Changing Metropolitan Attitudes to the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Alan Gregor Cobley


This paper discusses the widespread support in England for the development of transatlantic slavery during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It demonstrates the inherent respectability of the trade so far as the English elite were concerned, who saw it as merely the latest and most effective of various forms of unfree labour that had been in use in Europe for centuries. The paper then considers the reasons for a shift in attitudes in England towards the trade during the eighteenth century. Finally, it discusses the origins and significance of the idea of personal freedom for the debate on abolition.