Category Archives: Politics

The High School Hell’s Angels, Chapter 5

Last time, sad, sad, person that I am, I was sharing with you the electronic version of the Nottingham High School Register from the old Free School, which was then, of course, in Stoney Street in the Hockley area of Nottingham. Dating back to 1858, the Remarks Column in particular gave some very striking details of life in the school some 160 years ago:

January 1859 saw some fascinating details. Going down the column they read “ill. Out of town”, “middling”, “behaved well” and quite simply “dead”. That was poor William Henry Copley, of 2 Stafford-terrace off Shakespeare-street. He was the son of a Warehouseman and only 14 when he passed on. Stafford-terrace, I suspect, is now under the concrete and plate glass of Nottingham Trent University. A more spectacular death affected Benjamin Arthur Heald of High Pavement: “(at home) Died from the effects of over-bathing.” Well, you can have too much of a good thing. Or perhaps he was sharing the bathwater with the horse.

Quite a few boys were elected to a place at the Free School, but then “declined” to attend. Some “could not be found” as if alien abduction stretched back to 1858. Ironically, the boy labelled “cannot be found” lived on Forest-road within 100 yards of the school. Forest-road played host to one of the commonest means of transport of the day:

Some boys needed to buy a watch. “Did not come at the time appointed & was ordered to be crossed off.”

Not everything was easy. “Sent back twice, declined to try again July 1860”. Some abused the system, “Left without giving any notice”.

Some boys “behaved well” and others “Behaved badly, especially out of school hours”.  Truancy had been recently invented, “attended very irregularly”. Sometimes it was the parent’s fault “Behaved well and made good progress for the time, but was taken away too soon”. And what about poor Richard Thorpe, an orphan residing with his sister at 1, Northampton-terrace, off Portland-road?  “did very well, obliged to leave from ill health.”

Portland-road is close to Waverley-street and the General Cemetery. I was very surprised to find this grave was in the General Cemetery during my researches:

Indeed, the Remarks column of the Register often comes very close indeed to stating the obvious truth about a boy’s transgressions, namely that it was the parent who should have been punished, “Junior Prize 1860.  Suspended in consequence of the Father’s claiming the right of keeping him from school at pleasure” and “Suspended because his father took him away from school for a fortnight without leave.  Not allowed to return.”
The staff could be hard men. “Expelled for dishonesty at home” and he was then sent to Trinity National School which may be the ancestor of present day Trinity School.  And what about lucky Thomas Henry Naylor, the son of a Lace Designer from Hutchinson-street in the Meadows, a thoroughfare now long disappeared: “Suspended for being privy to another boy’s dishonesty. Allowed to return on sufferance.” Or else, it may have been “previously a private pupil.  Removed by his father at my request.”

Many of the Remarks are not very different to what they would be nowadays. The same cannot be said of Nottingham. Here is the exact area, and the orange arrow marks the approximate site of the old Free School:

In the middle of the 16th century, this is where Mr.Francis Pierrepont, or “Collonell the Right Honourable Francis Pierepont”, had a large residence built next to the school, and wanted certain windows of the school building “stopped up” so the naughty pupils could not watch the serving wenches being chased around the extensive gardens . Pierrepont’s mansion was the second largest in Nottingham, after Wollaton Hall. It had 47 rooms with fireplaces. No photograph of that survives. Here is the only one I have ever seen of the old Free School:

 

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Hells Angels, High School Chapter 4

Recently, I came across the electronic version of the Nottingham School Register which had been painstakingly transferred to an Excel Spreadsheet. They go back as far as the very first boy in what must have been a new School Register in 1858. Here is one of the few illustrations we have…

At midsummer 1858, therefore, Arthur Law Gratton joined the School, which was then, of course, in Stoney Street in the Hockley area. Arthur lived at 13 Northampton Terrace, Portland Road. Ironically, Portland Road is within a two minute walk of the School’s present site on Arboretum Street. I cannot find a Northampton Terrace, so presumably this has been renamed or demolished. In those days, it was very frequent practice to write Northampton Terrace as Northampton-terrace or Portland Road as Portland-road. This persisted until at least the 1920s, but I’m going to give it a go in this post. Hope I don’t miss any!

Arthur’s father was deceased and his mother was now a widow named Eleonora Gratton. Arthur was 15 years 5 months old and he left at Michaelmas of 1860.  Michaelmas is on September 29th. The register states in the Remarks column, “Behaved well. Drowned while bathing June 1861”. Ironically, the summer of 1861 had “above-average rainfall, but not excessively so” although in Ireland the “summer was dramatically wet.”

Henry Wheeldon came to the Free School on January 26th 1859.  He was 12 years old and his father said that he lived at Mr Peter Elliott’s (sic) at 29 Bromley-place. During the 1st half of 1860 (sic) he was dismissed for “not living in the town after repeated warnings as to the rule.” This is initialled by W.B. who was the Reverend W. Butler the Headmaster. Here is the Rev himself:

The Remarks Column is fascinating. We see that one pair of individuals were the victims of a paperwork foul up as they were “Entered by mistake twice”. Some boys were “elected” into the School but “declined” their place. Others moved house between being accepted and the first day of a new term, “left town before coming in”. As well as the clever boys who were educated for free, some less intelligent but more affluent boys paid to sit in with the classes. Thomas Hodson Sissling, the 14 year old son of Wright Calecraft Sissling, an Innkeeper on London-road “Remained six months as a private pupil”. Gordon Clarke, the son of John Clarke, a “General Dealer” in Rick-street (between Huntingdon-street and Glasshouse-street) remained for three months. Glasshouse-street was very beautiful even in late Victorian times. Don’t miss the cat and notice that it’s the day for the dustbin men to call:

More silliness next time…

 

 

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The High School Hell’s Angels, Chapter 3

One fascinating thing which I found recently were all those old books which have been transcribed onto DVDs. They are sold on ebay in their hundreds. Some are not necessarily what I would want to read “Masonic Library, 430 Freemasons Books”, “Ukulele & Banjo, 29 Rare Vintage Books” and “Taxidermy, Vintage books on DVD – Stuffing and Mounting Animals, Birds, Insects and Fish”
I was happy to buy though, “76 Books, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Mickleover, Headon, History Genealogy DVD”. It contains a lot about the history of Nottingham although the rest was not of much interest to me. That DVD, and another very similar one about Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, have provided me with a lot of information about the past. Above all, they have allowed me access to a number of different directories of Nottingham. So far I have, for example, the Pigot’s Directory for Nottingham for 1828 and 1841, the White’s Directory for 1832, 1864 and 1885, the MacDonald’s Directory for 1931, Slater’s for 1847, Wright’s for 1879 and Kelly’s for 1881, 1891, 1904 and 1928:

They are interesting in that they all tend to contain slightly different things, but basically they list all of the tradespeople in Nottingham, all of the business premises in the city, and the names of the occupants of all the different houses in all the streets of Nottingham.

So you might find a list of the city’s streets in alphabetical order, or all the people similarly listed, while other directories will provide the names of all the engineers, all the grocers. all the bicycle repairers and so on. It means that if you know Uncle George was a restaurant owner, you can often find out both where his business was and where he lived. And that may point you to the right place in a census. Very useful if you’re trying to trace your ancestors.
The directories also enable you to trace some of the changes in the use of individual buildings, buildings that you may walk past every day but don’t know the history of. One example would be the two premises on Derby Road, up near Canning Circus. One is called “Quality 4 Students” with the slogan “Top 365 Student Homes” :

Next door, painted all white, there is what is now the “Park Hair Salon”. Here’s a view from further back:

In 1928, the Park Hair Salon used to be the Headquarters of the Robin Hood Rifles, a local infantry regiment:

They used to have some wild, wild parties:

After that the building was derelict for a while and then it became “Butcher Brothers, House Furnishers”.

By 1928, both buildings had become the shop of AR Warren & Son, Grocers. I find all that fairly fascinating but more to the point perhaps, the directories also enabled me to uncover the humble beginnings of Alfred Highfield Warren, who was the “& Son” of “AR Warren & Son” mentioned above.  Alfred was an ex-pupil of Nottingham High School, and thanks to the High School, he was to move from being the son of a grocer to being the holder of an Open Exhibition at Worcester College, Oxford, a Nottingham City Scholarship to Oxford University of £50 per annum, and from the High School, a Sir Thomas White Senior Exhibition.

On Mansfield Road, there is nowadays the “A & D Dental Practice Ltd” and the “City Chicken Cafe”. In front of the Dental Practice is a bus stop used by hundreds and hundreds of High School boys every day…

And here is the City Chicken Café, sworn enemies of Dixy Chicken just two doors away and probably not too much in love with the Istanbul Off Licence next door.

But in 1928, these two businesses, the “A & D Dental Practice Ltd” and the “City Chicken Cafe”, were the premises of LW King, a Draper who lived there with his family. That family included his son William King, a High School pupil, who became a pilot in the RAF in World War II. Alas, poor William was to die, with all his colleagues, in a catastrophic air crash in a Handley Page Hampden. Here is ‘Before’:

And here, far too often I’m afraid, is ‘After’

How many times have I walked or driven past those two businesses, but without realising they were previously the home of a young war hero? And how often do we do that in our everyday lives?

 

 

 

 

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The High School Hell’s Angels, Chapter 1

Most Nottingham High School pupils nowadays arrive by car, of course, or perhaps by bus, usually, either a special school bus or a Nottingham City bus.  We even have our own advertisements on one bus:

A few boys come by bicycle, a few come on the tram, a few walk and, I suppose, there must be some who arrive by train.
In years gone by, that was by no means the case. In the late 19th century, lots of boys lived on the other side of the Forest, or along Forest Road West, in the Alfreton Road area or even in the streets between the school and Shakespeare Street. They all walked in to school, which is indicated by the orange arrow. All the streets mentioned are on the map:

In the early 20th century, many boys lived in the Mapperley Park area and they arrived either by bicycle or on foot. And as Nottingham grew in the 1920s and 1930s, boys started to arrive in bigger numbers from expanding suburban areas such as West Bridgford. And in the 1940s and the 1950s, they began to arrive in greater numbers from more distant areas such as Arnold and Burton Joyce. They are both on the map, and the orange arrow points to the High School:

Before 1876, lots of boys are recorded as “Donation No x” which may refer to money which was given by a single well-wisher. The earliest, “Donation No 1 by Swann” (sic), was given to Haywood White Buller, who was born in July 1857, the son of a Hosier from 8 Addison Villas in Eastwood. The first ever actual scholar as far as I can see was a “Caup Scholar” (sic) although I don’t really understand what this was. He was Arthur John Cresswell, born in 1865, of 19 Harrington Street. His father was a Warehouseman.  Arthur entered the High School in May 1876, two months before General Custer came an unlucky second in his struggles with the Lakota:

Soon local councils were happy to provide help. Boys might be Derbyshire County Council Scholars, Nottinghamshire County Council Scholars or Nottingham City Scholars. The most famous was young David Herbert Lawrence whose father worked as a coalminer. Here he is in the Fifth Form:

DH Lawrence, though, was not the first miner’s son to come to the High School. That was Fred Cook, the son of Thomas Cook of 48 Watnall Road, Hucknall Torkard, the old name, I believe, for Hucknall. He entered the School on September 15th 1897 at the age of 13. And after him came David Herbert Lawrence, the School’s greatest author.  And then William Dunn in 1901, from New Brinsley in Eastwood. Then Willis Walker from Selston on the same day as William Dunn. John Thomas Moult in 1905 from 100 Derbyshire Lane, Hucknall Torkard. In July 1907 it was William Hutchinson from 7, Old Church Street in Old Lenton. In September 1907 it was William Ernest Thomas of 8 Glebe Street in Hucknall Torkard. A year later, the appropriately named Cyril Coleman from 34 York Street in Hucknall Torkard. Three more miners were to follow before the outbreak of the First World War:

There are no more coal miners in England now, of course. And during that period of 1897-1914 there were many High School fathers who had jobs which have become equally infrequent in our modern world. There were blacksmiths, bleachers, cheese factors, cork cutters, dairymen, filers, hosiery packers, farm labourers, framesmiths, hatters, goods guards on the trains and, most mysterious of all, “twisthands”. In actual fact, they were operators of lace machines. Here is the School in that period:

And as the years went by, the catchment area of the school began to resemble that of today. In other words, boys, and girls, from all over the county and the nearer parts of neighbouring counties. I worked at the High School for almost 40 years and the longest journeys to school I remember were in 1976 or 1977 when I helped Mr Padwick on the French Exchange to Rodez, and we were taking the French boys to see the splendours of the Blue John Mines near Castleton in north Derbyshire. One of the English boys’ mothers said that they would bring little Jean-Pierre to meet us as they lived more or less next door to the mine:


In the middle 1980s I had a boy in my tutor set who lived on the far side of Lincoln where his Dad owned a pig farm. He got up at 5.00 am and his mother took him by car to meet the school bus setting off from Newark to the High School.

And DH Lawrence used to complain about the travelling.

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A Barbarous Kingdom, Populated by Savages

This tale of barbarity is almost beyond belief for the date when it took place, June 21st 1786, and the location, the so-called civilised country of England. The details come from a source that I have used quite frequently before, namely “The Date Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood” and one other website:

The savagery of the punishment meted out on this poor young woman would be difficult to believe were it not so well authenticated. I have translated some of ye more difficult fentencef into ye moderne Englifhe:

“The victim of it was a young woman of Nottingham extraction, her mother having been a native of the town. Her name was Phoebe Harris. She was small in stature, rather stout and of good figure, with a pale complexion, and pleasing features. Her age was 30, and she lived with her husband in London. She was caught while in the act of counterfeiting coins, to which she had been introduced by her husband, who, it appeared, was an old practitioner. For this offence she was tried at the Old Bailey, and sentenced to death.
She was conducted on a subsequent day by two constables to the open space in front of Newgate, in the presence of about 20,000 spectators, where a stake had been securely fixed in the ground, about eleven feet high, and with a curved projection of iron at the top, to which was fixed a rope. The prisoner was placed on a stool, with her back to the stake, and the rope was positioned around her neck. After the priest of the gaol had prayed with her for a short time, the stool was pulled from underneath, leaving her suspended by the neck, with her feet about a foot from the ground.”

According to V. A. C. Gatrell’s book “The Hanging Tree”, Phoebe then choked noisily to death over several minutes:

“After hanging there for half an hour, the executioner put an iron chain around her upper body and fastened it to the stake with nails.”

The Date Book takes up the tale with tasteful enthusiasm:

“Two cart loads of wooden faggots were then placed round her and set on fire:

The rope speedily snapped, and the body slipped, but was sustained by an iron chain passed round her waist and the stake. In the course of three hours the corpse was entirely consumed.

The unfortunate sufferer, Phoebe, was struck with so much horror at the idea of her body being burnt, that in the night previous to her execution she was quite frantic. When she was led to the stake, she appeared languid and terrified, and trembled excessively. The awful apparatus of death evidently struck her mind with consternation, and totally incapacitated her for her last prayer.
Until midday, while the victim was still burning, the spectators were loud in their angry denouncements of the officers of the law, but as soon as the latter had left, the people in the crowd amused themselves by kicking about her ashes.

An application had been made to the Sheriffs by the respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood, praying that the execution might take place at Tyburn, or at some small distance from them, but without avail.

The consequences were serious : several ladies were taken very unwell, and many were severely affected by the offensive smell of the burning corpse.”

The consequences were a damn sight more serious for Phoebe. The locals, NIMBYs one and all, had actually organised and sent in a petition to prevent Phoebe being executed so near to their homes. They considered such savage practices should not be carried out in areas frequented by respectable folk. Genuine world class savagery should take place in a working class area where it would be better appreciated.

Even so, 20,000 spectators isn’t a bad turn out for a respectable area. I bet somebody wished that they could have charged entrance money.

The offence of counterfeiting:

“for which Phoebe Harris suffered, was classed as High Treason. Blackstone accounts for the punishment of women for this crime being different from that of men, by stating that the natural modesty of the sex forbids the exposure and public cutting up of their bodies, and therefore they are burnt. The punishment of men for high treason was beheading, cutting the body into four parts, and burning the heart.”

Here is the ‘quartering’ bit of that terrible trio of punishments:

And executions are always an excuse for a barbecue:

Only two more women would be killed in public in this grotesque way, and the dates may well be significant. One was Margaret Sullivan on June 25th 1788 and the other was Christian Murphy on March 18th 1789.

On July 14th 1789, the French people finally grew tired of a legal system presided over by a spoilt brat of a king and driven by an arrogant and self-serving nobility. It is not without significance that they attacked the Bastille prison as their first target. Neither is it without significance that the revolutionaries were keen to use a more humane method of execution, namely the Guillotine. Here is a charming painting of the Terror in full swing, with some lovely details if you look carefully, especially the little doggie. I couldn’t find Wally but I think I might have found his head :

I believe the judges back in London may well have noticed the developments in France, because when Sophia Girton was convicted of counterfeiting in April 1790, her execution by being strangled and burnt in public was postponed, as Parliament decided that hanging would be a better way to execute women.

Sophia was not hanged though. She was exiled to Australia where she made a new life for herself, admittedly in the most appalling of conditions:

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The kings of slavery, and the queens (2)

Last time I promised you a quiz. Well, it’s not the kind of quiz they would broadcast on television, but let’s give it a go.
In 1710, if you ever saw an African slave who belonged to the Royal African Company, how could you tell?

Easy…he would have the letters ‘RAC’ burned into his chest with a branding iron like the ones they use in cowboy films with cattle. I couldn’t find a photograph of that, but I did manage to find one with some branding irons on. These are actual branding irons for slaves, not cattle:

Here is the second question which is a little bit more difficult.
If you ever saw an African slave with the letters ‘DY’ branded on his chest, what did it mean?

If you’ve been paying attention, though, it’s not that difficult. It meant ‘Duke of York’. It meant he was owned by the Duke of York, who later succeeded to the throne and became King James II.

An extra special bonus question. When the Duke of York became King James II, what did he have the slaves’ chests branded with?  Was it ‘J2’?

No, it wasn’t, he continued with ‘DY’. And I couldn’t trace it, but I would presume that his eventual successor, Queen Anne didn’t have ‘QA’ on her slaves but stuck to ‘RAC’.  And the money rolled in:

And more to come. Lots more:

It’s just that branding people on the chest with a red hot piece of metal reminds me rather uncomfortably of one other way of marking your racial inferiors:

Forty years later, the British were awarded the monopoly on selling slaves to the Spanish for the next three decades. This monopoly was sold on to the famous “South Sea Company”. They dealt in turn almost exclusively with the Royal African Company. Here is their coat of arms. Look at the happy slaves, all set for a spot of weekend hunting, don’t you know?

Only a year after the Spanish deal was set up, Queen Anne owned 22½% of the shares in the Royal African Company. That means she owned more than a fifth of the British slave trade, the largest slave trade in the world at the time. She was quite possibly the biggest slave dealer on the planet.
When she died, King George I became king. He wasn’t happy owning a fifth of the British slave trade.

It wasn’t enough, so he increased his shareholding and made himself Governor of the whole sorry business. A business which transported around 64,000 slaves to the Americas in 15 or so years. George III carried on with the family business, accused by a slightly hypocritical Thomas Jefferson of waging “cruel war against human nature itself”.
There was some opposition to the Royal African Company though. Across the country, small businesses spoke out against the Company’s activities in the slave trade and especially, against their monopoly. In their campaign, they used the motto, “We want the freedom to traffic slaves too”. Smaller businesses, smaller boats, but there’s still money to be made:

But let’s not kick our lovely royal family too much. Instead. let’s look at the case of Christopher Codrington.  Christopher Codrington was the owner of a slave plantation in Barbados in the early 1700s. He died, presumably without children, in 1710. Being a pious man, who did he bequeath it to?

Correctamundo! The Church of England. I bet they shrieked in disgust. Threw their hands in the air and shouted “Free the Slaves! Free the Slaves!” Well, not exactly. They kept the slave plantation. They kept the slaves, and indeed, they kept the money. And there was lots of it:

It was used to finance the Society for the Propagation of the Christian Religion in Foreign Parts.

Now for the scary quiz question. If you worked for the said organisation, and you owned lots of slaves who might run away, clearly you needed to brand them on the chest, so they could be reclaimed after they had been recaptured. What did you use? Surely not the whole name? Of course not. What about “SPCRFP”? No, not at all. The Christian slave owners just branded “Society” across their slaves’ chests. Actually, SPCRFP would have been one letter shorter.

Actually, they probably used these as well:

The Christian slaves were, actually, slaves who didn’t last too long. Despite their obvious value to the company SPCRFP, by 1740, the death rate among the slaves newly purchased by the Church was up to 40%. Four out of every ten were dead within three years of purchase.
And it wasn’t just the SPCRFP who were trying to cash in. Other members of the church fancied a bit of the cash. All you had to do was get your Bible, cross out the bit about “Ye cannot serve God and mammon”, buy a few shares in your local slavery business and away you go.

This is Woodville K Marshall who is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of the West Indies:

He stated clearly and unequivocally:

“”It was not so much the SPG that the Church should be apologising for, as the activities of the individual parsons who kept plantations and slaves for sheer profit.”

Except that nobody apologises nowadays for slavery, because they risk being sued. Despite all their wealth, wealth dripping from them as they walk along, the descendants of the slavers will never say sorry. And let me make the point again, the same point I made in a previous post:

“The tragedy, of course, is that those individuals today have little, if anything, in common with their slave owning ancestors from so many years ago. On the other hand, they have inherited their wealth. What have they done to make amends for their slave owning ancestors? Built a school in the Windward Islands? Built a hospital in Barbados? Sponsored cataract operations in Jamaica?”


This Accident and Emergency Unit in Jamaica was built by the Scotia Bank Foundation, Canada’s third largest bank.  But why not by the individual rich men and women who are the present day descendants of those slave traders?

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The kings of slavery, and the queens (1)

I have written quite a bit about slavery and its evils, but after that shock of finding out that my cherished heroes of stage and screen were the wealthy descendants of wealthy people who owned slaves, I had one more shock in store:


I found out that the Kings and Queens of England were involved in the slave trade. I knew that even now the modern royals have their dubious dark corners. What kind of man, for example, deludes a little girl into giving Hitler salutes?

How did the witnesses of the illegal killing of a rare Hen Harrier feel when no charges were brought?

I knew how unbelievably rich Cornwall could make you, even if it is one of the poorest counties in the country. I knew that if anybody in the county died without a will and no heir could be found, everything went to Prince Charles:

I knew from the Daily Mirror how one royal “required his chef to cook his eggs for three minutes; the chef usually boiled several batches to ensure they fit his precise preferences.” :

But slavery? Apparently, it began with Queen Elizabeth the First. She gave her royal support to Sir John Hawkins, the sea captain, who was one of the first to men to make a profit from transporting Africans to the Americas.
Then there were the Royal Adventurers into Africa, a company set up in 1662 to trade slaves. It involved the brother of King Charles II, namely the Duke of York, and the sister of King Charles II, Princess Henrietta, and the Queen Mother, Henrietta Maria, and Queen Catherine of Braganza and the Duke of Albermarle, Lord Arlington, Lord Ashley, Lord Berkeley, the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Craven, Lord Crofts, and Lord Sandwich and Baron Tom Cobley and all. In total, there were four royals, four barons, two dukes, five earls, seven knights and a marquess. And Samuel Pepys. And the so-called “philosopher of liberty” and “Father of Liberalism”, John Locke. By 1665 they were making £200,000 per year from slaves between them. (£6.5 billion today). The slaves didn’t make anything at all:

The Royal Adventurers into Africa were given a monopoly on the slave trade for a thousand years but ceased trading in 1672. That same year, King Charles II gave a monopoly on dealing in slaves to the Royal African Company. The Royal African Company (the name might have some significance here) was owned by his brother, His Royal Highness, James, Duke of York. Also involved were Sir George Carteret, Sir John Colleton, Lord Craven,  Lord Shaftesbury, 15 Lord Mayors of London, 25 Sheriffs of London and the so-called “philosopher of liberty” and “Father of Liberalism” and “lover of hard cash”, John Locke, whose ancestor had been a slave trader.
By 1680, they were transporting around 6,000 slaves a year to new homes in the West Indies and the same annual number to North America….

And next time, an exciting quiz…

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