Sir John Hawkins

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Opening times: 
National Maritime Museum, First floor, The Atlantic gallery

Look into the eyes of the man who paved the way for the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Sir John Hawkins is shown here as a statesman, dressed as an official of the court, but he was also a businessman. His family was involved in the trade to Africa and in 1564 he actually seized Africans 'by the sword and partly by other means' becoming the first English slave trader.

He tried to interest Queen Elizabeth I in the slave trade and she was initially appalled by the idea, wondering what would happen to the slave's souls. However when he explained the huge profits that could be made it appears her morals went to one side and she lent a royal ship for Sir John to use on his future voyages. 

He made four voyages to Sierra Leone between 1564 and 1569, taking a total of 1200 Africans across the Atlantic to sell to the Spanish settlers in the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

Visit the Atlantic Gallery