When the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth in 1620, amongst the passengers were eight adult women, three who were at least six months into their pregnancies. These women were Susanna White, Mary Allerton and Elizabeth Hopkins. Maybe it was expected that they would arrive in their new homeland before the time to give birth came, though history for these women is limited as at this time they had little rights and there are limited records of their courage and experiences.
The journey was hampered by storms and the Mayflower was blown off course, making the voyage longer than expected. During the voyage Elizabeth Hopkins gave birth to a son who was named Oceanus, his exact date of birth is unknown. Having been born on the Atlantic Ocean he was named 'Oceanus’, Latin for ocean.
Oceanus arrive with his family, Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins in America, surviving the first winter, but died aged 2. His parents had married on February 19th 1617 or 18 at St Mary Matfelon Church in Whitechapel, London. They had their first child, a daughter Damaris, shortly after in 1618. They boarded the ship as part of a group of passengers known as the ‘Strangers’, which meant they were not part of the Separatist travellers but were aboard for different reasons. In the case of the Hopkins’ it was likely that they were aboard for their mercantile abilities as well as Stephen’s previous experience of travelling to the New World.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on the voyage of the Mayflower. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
October is Black History Month in the UK. We’ll be exploring the history of slavery in Britain, from the country’s first steps into the Atlantic slave trade, through its height in the 17th and 18th centuries, to its abolition in the 19th. In this, our fifth blog we look at resistance.
Becoming a slave was a horrendous fate for captured Africans. It was a cruel and harsh experience with slaves regarded as the property of their white owners and granted no rights. Up to a third of Africans captured as slaves died on the Middle Passage. Another third died on the plantations within a few months of arriving, because of new tropical diseases. Others died from sheer hard work.
It is little wonder therefore that some slaves took drastic measures to escape their plight, including suicide, murder, desertion and revolt. For white slave owners, the threat of revolt was a very real problem. Resistance by slaves was costly as it affected production. It was also potentially very dangerous - on the plantations slaves greatly outnumbered their white masters.
Resistance on the Middle Passage was generally very hard to achieve as the slaver ships were designed to prevent it. Options were very limited. Occasionally captives were able to commit suicide, for example by throwing themselves overboard, but larger scale action was rarely successful
Some slaves on the plantations fought for their freedom by using passive resistance (working slowly) or running away. The problem of runaways became so serious that most West Indian islands passed laws to deal with this and other forms of resistance. The punishment was usually a severe whipping, but could also include the loss of a limb and death.
However, some slaves resisted by planning rebellions. In doing so they risked reprisals of torture and death. Tacky’s Revolt, which erupted in Jamaica in July 1760 was the largest British slave rising in the 18th century.
Taking advantage of Britain’s involvement in the Seven Years’ War, the revolt was led by Fante king called Takyi (the Fante people are from what is now Ghana). He and his lieutenants planned to take over Jamaica from the British, and to create a separate black country. On April 7th 1760, Takiy and his followers began the revolt by easily taking over the Frontier and Trinity plantations and killing their masters. They stole arms and munitions from a nearby fort and were soon joined by the slaves of other plantations. They were however defeated by a local militia and Takiy himself shot and decapitated.
The militia were however unable to quash the unrest and other rebellions broke out across Jamaica, but in particular in the west of the island. Rebels numbering about 1,200 regrouped in the unsettled mountainous forests in western Jamaica. They attacked eight slave plantations in Westmoreland Parish and two in Hanover Parish, killing a number of whites. On May 29th a militia tried to storm the rebels' barricaded encampment but was soundly defeated and repelled. On June 2nd, however, bolstered by reinforcements, the colonial forces successfully stormed the barricade and drove the slave rebels out following a two-hour battle, killing and capturing scores of rebels.
The rebel slaves continued fighting for the rest of the year in western Jamaica, forcing the governor, Sir Henry Moore, 1st Baronet, to continue imposing martial law in Westmoreland and surrounding areas. By late 1761, Governor Moore declared that the main western revolt was over. However, some remaining rebels then scattered in small bands, and operating from the forested interior of the Cockpit Country, they conducted a campaign of guerrilla warfare for the rest of the decade, staging raids on plantations within their reach.
It took months and even years for order to be restored. Over 60 white people had lost their lives, as well as a similar number of free people of colour, in addition to 400 or so black slaves. Two ringleaders of the western rebels were burned alive, and two others who were hung in iron cages at the Kingston Parade, until they starved to death. As a consequence of the rebellion, the colonial Assembly passed a number of draconian laws to regulate the slaves. In addition, they banned the West African religious practices of obeah.
A slave revolt in 1791 in Saint Domingue was however much more successful. Here slaves led by Toussaint Louverture managed to overthrow their French oppressors and in 1804 founded the First Empire of Haiti.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum and Dan Harris as part of a series of models for Black History Month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On this day in 1016 the Battle of Assandun was fought between the Danish army of Cnut the Great and an English force led by Edmund Ironside. The result was a decisive win for the Danes and bought about the conclusion of the Danish reconquest of England.
Following the death of his father in 1014 Cnut had been declared King of England by the people of the Danlaw. The English nobility however recalled exiled Æthelred the Unready from Normandy and the restored king swiftly led an army against Cnut, who was forced to flee to the safety of Denmark where his brother Harald was king. There, supported Harald, Cnut succeeded in assembling an army of around 10,000 men and a fleet of some 200 longships with which to launch an invasion in 1015.
Cnut forced Wessex to submit in late 1015 and in early 1016 his army was able to cross the Thames, moving northwards across eastern Mercia. Æthelred died in April 1016 and so his son Edmund Ironside was elevated to king.Cnut and the Danes undertook an unsuccessful siege of London where Edmund was located. Edmund was however able to escape and raise an army. Battles were fought at Penselwood in Somerset and Sherston in Wiltshire and Edmund was able to make some gains against the Danes but at terrible cost to his own army.
The next time the Danes and English would meet was the Battle of Assandun. Its location is unknown, however likely candidates include Ashdon near Saffron Walden in north Essex and Ashingdon near Rochford in southeast Essex. Little is known of the battle itself, for example how many men were involved or an estimate of how many died, however it appears that Edmund had sought battle having pursued Cnut’s men as they retreated back to their ships laden with Mercian plunder.
According the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle the key moment in the battle was the betrayal of Edmund by, Eadric Streona, the Ealderman of Mercia, who left the battle allowing the Scandinavians to break through the English lines and win a decisive victory. Apparently Eadric had form for this sort of thing, having previously defected to Cnut when he landed in England but reverting back the English following Canute's defeat at the Battle of Otford.
From this point the English suffered terribly and lost many of their leaders. Edmund was himself badly wounded while Eadnoth the Younger, Bishop of Dorchester, was killed while in the act of saying mass on behalf of Edmund Ironside's men.
It was a crushing defeat and so on an island near Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, Cnut and Edmund met to negotiate terms of peace. It was agreed that all of England north of the Thames was to be the domain of the Danish prince, while all to the south was kept by the English king, along with London. Accession to the reign of the entire realm was set to pass to Cnut upon Edmund's death, who then conveniently died a few weeks later, perhaps of the wounds sustained at Assandun, on November 30th. Consequently, Cnut was left as king of all of England.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
October is Black History Month in the UK. We’ll be exploring the history of slavery in Britain, from the country’s first steps into the Atlantic slave trade, through its height in the 17th and 18th centuries, to its abolition in the 19th. In this, our fourth blog we look at life on the plantations
Having undergone the horror of the ‘Middle Passage’ and perhaps having been interned in a ‘seasoning camps’ the life of the Africans sold into slavery continued to be harsh. Sometimes plantation owners bought them very cheaply with the intention of working them to death. In the Caribbean, most were put to work on sugar plantations. The major secondary crop was coffee, though coffee plantations tended to be smaller than sugar estates and, because of their highland locations, were more isolated.
On plantations gangs of slaves, consisting of men, women, children and the elderly worked from dawn until dusk under the orders of a white overseer. Work would begin at dawn, the slaves only stopped for rest and food at breakfast and lunchtime, after which they worked until nightfall.
Work was allocated according to factors such as sex, healthiness and strength, with the majority of men worked as craftsmen or worked in the semi-industrial mills. Meanwhile, women were mainly limited to working in the fields or as domestics. On many plantations women, who made up the majority of the field workers, were forced to work throughout pregnancy and their babies were raised in nurseries whilst they worked all daylight hours in the fields. In Jamaica for example, the majority of women between the ages of 19 and 54 were working in the fields. Girls worked on estates from the early age of four. Occupations for girls between the ages of 12 and 19 varied from field work and stock work, to domestic duties. Mature women often worked as midwives, nurses or housekeepers.
After returning to their living quarters, they would often still have chores to do before going to bed. During harvest time, slaves worked in shifts of up to 18 hours a day. Housing on the plantations was poor; slaves lived in small cottages with thatched roofs. The cottages often had earthen floors and were furnished with only a bed, table and bench.
White masters had complete control over the lives of their slaves and treated them like mere property. As slaves had no rights, plantation owners were free to act as dictators. Slaves who disobeyed or resisted even in small ways were violently punished - in Antigua it was not a crime to kill a slave until 1723.
The punishments handed out to slaves varied in severity. Captured runaways could be hanged or maimed. Slaves were often flogged with a whip for any wrongdoing – the number of lashes that they received depended upon the seriousness of their ‘crime’.
Despite these horrendous conditions, enslaved Africans tried hard to find ways to keep their humanity and dignity. They created families and communities that enabled them to share stories, music and religions within a culture of resistance to their dehumanisation. In our next blog we will look at some of the ways the resisted and the consequences of such actions.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models for Black History Month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Recently we have taken a look at some of the crew members who were responsible for managing the sailing of the Mayflower from England to America. In the timeline of the voyage, which would have been going on 400 years ago today, the Mayflower would have still been a long way from her destination with the journey taking much longer than planned, due to storms she was encountering. During one storm an indentured servant named John Howland was blown overboard. However, with what must have been incredible luck, he managed to grab hold of a rope that was trailing in the water, giving the crew the chance to haul him back on board and to safety.
Howland came from Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire and was the son of Margaret and Henry Howland His brothers Henry and Arthur Howland, who were Quakers, emigrated later from England to Marshfield, Massachusetts. When John boarded the Mayflower in Plymouth he was a servant of John Carvers sand held to the faith of the Separatist Pilgrims.
His determination to survive meant that he was able to complete the voyage with the rest of the ships crew and passengers and he was one of 41 men to have signed the Mayflower Compact in November. After John Carvers death in 1621 he became a freeman and three years later married fellow Mayflower passenger Elizabeth Tilley. They had ten children who all survived into adulthood.
He would become a key player in the fledgling colony. In 1626 he played a part in assuming the colony's debt to its investors which enabled the colony to pursue its own goals. In 1633, 1634 and 1635 he was elected assistant to the Governor, and in April 1634 was appointed head of Plymouth's trading post in Kennebec.
He outlived many of the other Mayflower Pilgrims into his 80’s. Among his millions of descendants are today are notable figures such as Humphrey Bogart, Anthony Perkins, former US Presidents George Bush and George W Bush, and the Baldwin brothers, Alec, Stephen, Billy and Danny.
The writer P.J. Lynch took inspiration for his illustrated book 'The Boy Who Fell From The Mayflower (Or John Howland’s Good Fortune)'.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on the voyage of the Mayflower. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
October is Black History Month in the UK. We’ll be exploring the history of slavery in Britain, from the country’s first steps into the Atlantic slave trade, through its height in the 17th and 18th centuries, to its abolition in the 19th. In this, our third blog we look at the selling of slaves once they reached the Americas.
Having crossed the Atlantic via the ‘Middle Passage’ in atrocious and inhumane conditions, the ‘cargo’ of captives would be sold at auction as slaves. Different factors affected the price they would fetch, the most important being how healthy they appeared to be. Other factors included the island they’d landed on, how many other slave ships were in that particular port at the same time and the method in which the slaves were sold.
The slave traders used many methods in an attempt to make their slaves look healthier. For example, their skin was rubbed with oil to make them appear healthy. Flogging scars on the backs of slaves were who had resisted were filled with tar to hide the signs of an ‘undisciplined’ slave. Older slaves often had their heads shaved to hide signs of grey hairs and make them appear younger.
The two main methods of selling the slaves were by Auction or Scramble. At an auction an auctioneer sold the slaves individually or in lots (as a group), with the slaves being sold to the highest bidder. At a Scramble the slaves were kept together in an enclosure and buyers paid the captain a fixed sum beforehand. Once all the buyers had paid, the enclosure gate was thrown open and the buyers rushed in together and grabbed the slaves they wanted. This was often a terrifying experience for the slaves.
Slaves left that were not sold in this way were called ‘refuse’. They were sold cheaply to anyone who would take them, often leading to their quick death.
Slaves who resisted or fought back were sent to ‘seasoning camps’. Some historians suggest that the death rate in the 'seasoning camps' was up to 50% with malaria and dysentery being the leading causes of death. Around 5 million Africans died in Seasoning Camps, reducing the number of survivors to about 10 million.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models for Black History Month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Over the last few weeks we've been looking at some of the events which lay behind The Mayflower leaving England for America on September 6th 1620. We've been bringing you a series of short biographies on some of the ship's crew members. We’ve already done blogs on Captain Christopher Jones and Master’s Mate and pilot John Clarke, both of who we know a reasonable amount about and in this blog we wrap things up with short biographies of some of the other members who we have information on.
October is Black History Month in the UK. We’ll be exploring the history of slavery in Britain, from the country’s first steps into the Atlantic slave trade, through its height in the 17th and 18th centuries, to its abolition in the 19th. In this, our second blog we look at the journey made by the slaves and the slaving vessels, known as the “Middle Passage”.
The 'Triangular Trade' was the sailing route taken by British slave traders and got its name for being a journey of three stages. The first was from Britain to West Africa, the ships carrying goods such as guns, cloth and beet, which would be used in the exchange of captives.
Having acquired slaves, the ships would embark on the second leg of their journey – “Middle Passage”. It was on this leg that the Africans were packed together below deck and taken to the Americas to become slaves. The duration of the voyage varied widely, from one to six months depending on weather conditions. The journey became more efficient over the centuries; while an average transatlantic journey of the early 16th century lasted several months, by the 19th century the crossing often required fewer than six weeks.
Conditions were atrociously cramped, with a typical slave ships containing several hundred slaves with about 30 crew members. The male captives were normally chained together in pairs to save space; right leg to the next man's left leg — while the women and children may have had somewhat more room. The chains or hand and leg cuffs were known as bilboes, which were among the many tools of the slave trade, and which were always in short supply. Bilboes were mainly used on men, and they consisted of two iron shackles locked on a post and were usually fastened around the ankles of two men.
At best, captives were fed beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil. They were fed one meal a day with water, if at all. Sometimes captives were allowed to move around during the day, but many ships kept the shackles on throughout the arduous journey.
Slaves below the decks lived for months in conditions of squalor and indescribable horror. Disease spread and ill health was one of the biggest killers. Mortality rates were high, and death made these conditions below the decks even worse. Even though the corpses were thrown overboard, many crew members avoided going into the hold. The slaves who had already been ill ridden were not always found immediately. Many of the living slaves could have been shackled to someone that was dead for hours and sometimes days.
An estimated 15% of the Africans died at sea, with mortality rates considerably higher in Africa itself in the process of capturing and transporting indigenous people to the ships. The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage voyage is estimated at up to two million; a broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests up to four million African deaths.
The treatment of the captives was horrific because the captured African men and women were considered less than human; they were "cargo", or "goods", and treated as such. Women with children were not as desirable for they took up too much space and toddlers were not wanted because of everyday maintenance.
Pregnant women on the ships who delivered their babies aboard risked the chance of their children being killed in order for the mothers to be sold. The worst punishments were for rebelling; in one instance a captain punished a failed rebellion by killing one involved slave immediately, and forcing two other slaves to eat his heart and liver.
As a way to counteract disease and suicide attempts, the crew would force the slaves onto the deck of the ship for exercise, usually resulting in beatings because the slaves would be unwilling to dance for them or interact. These beatings would often be severe and could result in the slave dying or becoming more susceptible to diseases.
Slaves resisted in many ways. The two most common types of resistance were refusal to eat and suicide. Suicide was a frequent occurrence, often by refusal of food or medicine or jumping overboard, as well as by a variety of other opportunistic means. Sometimes mutinies broke out, though the ships were designed and operated to prevent this. Resistance among the slaves usually ended in failure and participants in the rebellion were punished severely. About one out of ten ships experienced some sort of rebellion.
Estimates are that about 12 million to 12.8 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic over a span of 400 years.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models for Black History Month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
October is Black History Month in the UK. We’ll be exploring the history of slavery in Britain, from the country’s first steps into the Atlantic slave trade, through its height in the 17th and 18th centuries, to its abolition in the 19th. We begin with the start of the Atlantic slave trade and the first point on the ‘triangle’, where slaves were captured and exchanged for goods.
The first Englishman to definitely have traded in Africans was John Hawkins, who made three voyages to Sierra Leone between 1562 and 1567, transporting a total of 1,200 inhabitants to Hispaniola and St Domingue (Dominican Republic and Haiti). Initially, English interests in Africa lay with produce rather than slaves, however with the introduction and growth of plantation slavery in America slaves became more valuable and the trade began to grow.
The trade grew rapidly in the 17th century, with Portugal and Britain becoming the two most ‘successful’ slave-trading countries, accounting for about 70% of all Africans transported to the Americas. Britain was the most dominant between 1640 and 1807 when the British slave trade was abolished.
From 1660, the British Crown passed various acts and granted charters to enable companies to settle, administer and exploit British interests on the West Coast of Africa and to supply slaves to the American colonies. In 1672 The Royal African Company was formed in order to regulate the English slave trade, operating with a legal monopoly over the 2,500 miles of African coast from the Sahara to the Cape of Good Hope. The company was financed by royal, aristocratic and commercial capital. The monopolies of British companies were however unpopular with other traders and planters, who complained about restricted rights, limited supplies and high prices. Opposition from planters, traders and manufacturers was so strong that in 1698 the monopoly was removed.
In addition to the African companies, other companies set up under Royal charters were involved in the slave trade. For example, the East India Company was involved in the East African slave trade but also collected slaves from the West Coast of Africa for its settlements in South and East Africa and in India and Asia.
The trade would reach its height during the 18th century, particularly following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which concluded the War of the Spanish Succession and awarded Britain the 'Asiento' or sole right to import an unlimited number of enslaved people to the Spanish Caribbean colonies for 30 years.
For the British slave traders during this time, trading African slaves was a three-legged journey called the 'triangular trade'. Firstly, West African slaves were exchanged for trade goods such as brandy and guns, they were then taken via the ‘Middle Passage’ across the Atlantic for sale in the West Indies and North America, and finally, a cargo of rum and sugar taken from the colonies, was taken back to England to sell.
The slaves were acquired from two main sources; British traders or local tribal chiefs. The first source was the smaller of the two with British traders who operated in Africa ambushing and capturing African’s in their home settlements. The second more significant source was undertaken through British ‘Factors’ who lived full-time in Africa and bought slaves from local tribal chiefs. The chiefs would raid a rival village and sell their captured enemies as slaves. With the demand for slaves increasing, Western African powers were lured into the lucrative trade with nations such as the Oyo Empire (Yoruba), Kong Empire, Imamate of Futa Jallon, Imamate of Futa Toro, Kingdom of Koya, Kingdom of Khasso, Kingdom of Kaabu, Fante Confederacy, Ashanti Confederacy, and the kingdom of Dahomey participating. These powers relied on military power and would undertake raiding parties into the interior of West Africa and capture indigenous people.
Once captured the slaves were chained together in lines called coffles and marched to the coast being held in prisons called “factories”. From this point they would then be traded for cloth, brandy, copper, guns, ammunition and the like before being loaded onto ships to be transported across the Atlantic.
There was however resistance to the slave trade, with some African rulers refusing to participate and even occasionally attacking British slave ships and setting the slaves free.
In our next blog we will look at “Middle Passage” - where the slaves were shipped across the Atlantic.
These scenes was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models for Black History Month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Over the last few weeks we've been looking at some of the events which lay behind The Mayflower leaving England for America on September 6th 1620. Over the next couple of weeks we are bringing you a series of short biographies on some of the ship's crew members, beginning last week with Captain, Cristopher Jones. This week we will introduce you to the Mayflower's Master’s Mate and pilot, John Clarke.
John Clarke was the Mayflower’s Master’s Mate / pilot, an important role that saw him responsible for overseeing ship operations, and navigation when the captain was not on duty. He was also responsible for steering ships in and out of berths, through hazardous conditions, and boat traffic.
Clarke remained around Jamestown for around forty days, making himself useful by piloting ships in the area carrying various stores. It was while engaged in this work however that he encountered a Spanish vessel and following a brief confrontation was taken prisoner and transported to Havana in Cuba. He would be held in Havana for around two years, then being transferred to Spain where he was in custody for five years. In 1616, he was finally freed in a prisoner exchange with England. In 1618 he was once more back on the other side of the Atlantic, piloting a ship called the Falcon, which was based in Jamestown. He returned to England in 1620 and was shortly after hired as the pilot of the Mayflower.
The Mayflower reached North America in November 1620 and while the crew of the Mayflower had hoped to return to England straight away, sickness meant they had to stay moored off the coast until sufficient crew were fit again. In December, the passengers of the Mayflower were shuttling in and around the shoreline of Duxbury and Plymouth, using a small shallop as transportation. On one occasion a storm came up quickly and threatened the small boat, with Clarke serving as captain. The crew spotted a small island off the coast of Duxbury and rowed for it. Back on solid ground, the Pilgrims and crew paused to give thanks for their deliverance from the storm. For his part in saving those on board, the Pilgrims named the island Clark’s Island.
Soon Clarke decided to settle in America and headed south to Virginia where he would attempt to make a home in Jamestown. Jamestown was a vastly different society to the ones the Pilgrims were trying to create in New England and relations were approaching breaking point with the local Native American tribes. Matters came to a head in 1622 when Chief Opchanacanough and his Powhatan Confederacy attempted to eliminate the English colony once and for all. On the morning of March 22nd, they attacked outlying plantations and communities up and down the James River in what became known as the Indian Massacre of 1622. More than 300 settlers were killed in the attack, about a third of the colony's English-speaking population. Jamestown was spared only through a timely warning by a Virginia Indian employee. There was not enough time to spread the word to the outposts. Of the 6,000 or so people who came to the settlement between 1608 and 1624, only 3,400 survived. Clarke was among the dead.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum and Simon Pickard as part of a series of models on the voyage of the Mayflower. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
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On LEGO, History and other things by Brick to the Past