To its shame, a significant proportion of London’s wealth in post-Medieval and later times derived from the slave trade. In 1562, John Hawkins took three ships from London or Plymouth (sources differ) to Sierra Leone, where he seized 300 Africans, “by the sword”. Then, in the “Middle Passage”, he transported them across the Atlantic to the Spanish West Indies, where he sold them, as slaves, as commodities, in order to purchase sugar, ginger and other goods. And finally, he returned to London and sold his cargo to City merchants for a fortune, completing the repugnant triangle. Hawkins’s venture was backed by the Mayor of London, Thomas Lodge. It was also supported by the Queen, Elizabeth I, although apparently only after she had been – falsely – assured that the enslavement was unforced. She actually described forced enslavement as “detestable”, as something that would “call down the vengeance of Heaven upon the undertakers”.
There is a fine exhibit on “London, Sugar & Slavery” in the Museum of London Docklands on West India Quay.