The slave trade of Great Britain, and those of other European countries, transformed the indigenous African and surpassed the Muslim trades. Britain's became the largest national trade. About 75,000 Africans were carried in British ships in the 17th cent.; in 1701–1800 the numbers were about 2.5 million out of the 6.13 million slaves exported, reflecting the expanding demand from the British plantations, especially the sugar colonies, as well as exports to Spanish America.
The English trade after 1600 was first conducted by monopolistic chartered companies, of which the Guinea Company (1618) lasted until the 1650s. The Royal Adventurers into Africa (1660, 1663) was succeeded by the Royal Africa Company (1672–1752). However, private traders were always active, even before the company's quasi‐monopoly was ended in 1698.
The trade was critical to the production of major colonial commodities, especially sugar, tobacco, and rice. Its importance for certain British ports is well known. Liverpool's dominance is clear and Liverpudlians were in the forefront of opposition to reform. Figures for 1750–76 suggest 1,868 ships sailed from there to Africa, 588 from Bristol, and about 260 from London. However, arguments that it provided important investment capital, contributing to the British industrial revolution, are now discounted. See anti‐slavery.