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I’ve  been areadin’ of “The Slave Trade” which is eight hundred pages of intense detail about the Atlantic slave trade.  The interest is overbalanced by the soporific effect, plus it’s hard to figure out what the totals were,  which I’m concerned to know.  The author doesn’t look like he’s gonna do the addition and my ball park figure whilst reading  (I’m now abt 700pages in)  is approx 12 million over the three and a half centuries.      I heard someone elsewhere declare it was 60 million and I’ve picked up that there are a lot of estimates, the number seems to increase with the politics of the speaker.

Something I hadn’t realised was the extent the industrial revolution and the wealth accumulated through it was due to cheap availability of cotton and sugar from plantations in the Americas .  There’d have been no wealth for the European empires if they’d had to pay the going rate for labour in the western colonies. 

The Trade also caused us to trade in W.Africa and along with that we got a load of gold from Guinea , the eponymous coin was struck on account of that.


To balance the wade through the slave trade, I’ve started reading Geoffrey of Monmouth  (free d/ld available).   Yeah, it’s all classics round here guv.  Geoffrey is great, the early English kings, starting with Brute.  (Who ??)   Turns out we’re really all Trojans.   Back in the day, after the Trojan wars,  the surviving Trojans  e.g. they were out in the fields or stuck in some joint when Troy got sacked, were well under the heel of the local Greeks.  Coupla generations later Brute turns up, mobilises them and by dark subterfuges they overcome the Greek King, who offers them a third of his kingdom or counting houses full of cash and his daughter’s hand to Brute,  if they’ll just stop killing everyone.

Brute and his boys talk it over and there are two opinions.  One is to settle in the territory and the other is that if they settle,  the Greeks will bear a grudge and a few generations hence will wipe them all out so better take the bride and cash and split but to where ??   Brute consults an oracle which tells him to put everybody into boats and sail to the end of the known world, Gaul , and then head off to where the sun sets.  There they will find a new land.         This is Brute’s kind of travel itinerary so it’s what they do.

Along the way, their modus operandi is to stop occasionally to take on provisions, exterminating the local population, sacking the land and razing every structure.  These guys are not good for tourism.  After a final spell of havoc in France they turn left and sail to the promised island which was then called Albion and inhabited only by a few giants.  (They land at Totnes !!)    Having got their eye in on the way, they make v.short work of the giants and rename the island “Britain” after Brute, who we still celebrate in this way today.

It’s mercilessly bloody.  Somewhat short on scruple and from the “are you looking at me??” school of diplomacy.   As Geoffrey was writing at the beginning of the 12th century, I presume it’s written in the spirit of the age.  JFW.


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