Records show that black men and women have lived in Britain in small numbers since at least the 12th century, but it was the empire that caused their numbers to swell exponentially in the 17th and 18th centuries.
As the British empire expanded, African and Afro-Caribbean slaves were ferried across the seas to work on plantations in the Caribbean or the Americas, where they had to do back-breaking labour all their lives under the scalding sun.
“Not for nothing did a coin – the guinea – derive its etymology from the West African region of that name”
Others, in much smaller numbers, were ferried into the ports of London, Liverpool and Bristol – on the same ships that brought imperial products such as tea, sugar, cotton, coffee, rum, fruit, wine, tobacco and oil to enrich the national economy.
Not for nothing did a coin – the guinea – derive its etymology from the West African region of that name, the area from which hundreds of thousands of indigenous people were seized against their will. For traders of 17th- and 18th-century Britain, the African was literally a unit of currency.