Britain's role in the slave trade

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Prime Minister Tony Blair has voiced his "deep sorrow" over Britain's role in the slave trade on Monday - a trade that helped Britain become one of the world's greatest powers in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Slavery had been illegal in Britain since 1102, but there were no laws to stop the use of slaves to toil in the fields and plantations of the growing empire.

Soon after the discovery of North America and the setting up of British colonies, the native population had been decimated by disease. The Crown began the wholesale transportation of African slaves to work in the colonies.

Slaves in the British colonies in the Caribbean worked on the sugar plantations which helped make the empire rich.

During the course of the 18th century the British perfected the Atlantic slave system. It is thought between 1700 and 1810 British merchants transported almost three million Africans across the Atlantic. More than 30,000 slave voyages took place.

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