Glasgow and Slavery

Glasgow, the West of Scotland and the Caribbean

5. Glasgow and the Caribbean

Britain's three leading Atlantic-facing 'Port Cities': Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow, all became very large and successful thanks to transatlantic trade. Bristol and Liverpool have come to terms with deep involvement in the shipment, ownership and enslavement of African people. Much less is known about Glasgow and African slavery - why? One of the most celebrated Victorian history books says that not one Glasgow merchant owned a slave and the city was 'Clean Handed' with slavery. Is this credible for a 'Merchant City'?

Home: 'Merchants'

Abroad: 'Planters'

Glasgow relied on colonial trade for its early development, which needed connections, plantations and labour. Despite the later importance of tobacco to Glasgow, which peaked in the 1770s, the Clyde was trading sugar with the Caribbean from the 1640s. Caribbean sugar was the 'Jewel in the crown' of the early empire, long before North America came to the fore.

In Glasgow and Scotland, has it been easier to promote the involvement of 'enlightened' Scots in the abolition movement, at the end of the slavery era? Until we know more about how deeply Glasgow merchants were involved DURING the city's development over the two centuries leading up to abolition, does too much emphasis of abolition seem to be a cover-up?