Scots and the Slave Trade

slaveryAs Tom Devine has recently emphasised, the role of Scots in the slave trade has largely been ignored in traditional scholarship—a result too of the fact that prominent eighteenth-century Scots, including some of the leading thinkers of the Enlightenment, were opposed to it. For David Hume, slavery was ‘more cruel and oppressive than any civil subjection whatsoever’, while Adam Smith wrote about the destructive effects of slavery in his The Wealth of Nations. Another reason for the neglect of the Scots’ participation in the slave trade lies in the relative unimportance of Scottish ports in the trade: the circular slave trade was concentrated in the ports of Bristol, Liverpool and London—ports already well-established in the trade with Africa, and specializing in the slave trade. As a result, there was …