Parliament and Forced Colonial Labour in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, 1659

The History of Parliament

In today’s blog Dr Stephen Roberts concludes his three-part blog series discussing parliamentary reactions to the 17th century transatlantic slave trade. Here Dr Roberts considers the case of a group of political prisoners who had been transported as indentured servants in 1655.

As noted in the first blog, the transportation of slaves from West Africa grew proportionally with the development of the Caribbean as an important component of the English colonial economy; and as noted in the second, there was a lively political discourse in 1640s and 50s England centred on liberties and slavery, even if much of it was rhetorical. Only on occasion did the compartmentalized worlds of English liberties and overseas slavery collide in Parliament, much to the discomfort of MPs.

Richard Cromwell, 2nd Lord Protector, Gerard Soest via Wikimedia Commons

One such episode came in March 1659. Unhelpfully to the Cromwellian government, the chairman…

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