Bitter Sweet History - aspects of the British Slave Trade

Slavery today

A slave today is a man, woman or child who is forced to work and is controlled by another person.

There are over 12 million slaves around the world (International Labour Organisation) but there may be as many as 27 million. Most slaves are in bonded labour mainly in Asia or Latin America. This results from a family debt which can’t be repaid. In the past slaves were transported across the Atlantic. Today over 2.5 million slaves are trafficked in West Africa, across Europe and between Mexico and the US. There could be up to 8 million children in slavery. Slaves today are worth less in real terms than they were 200 years ago.


Stories from Britain

Somalatha arrived in Britain when she was 29 with a family for whom she had been working in Jordan. Her job was to be a maid. She had to work 16 to 18 hours a day, for which she was paid £200 a month. In the first two years, she was not given one day off. She was not allowed to eat with the family and had to wait for leftovers. If there were none, she was advised to eat onions and potatoes. If any food was missing, she was automatically blamed for it, or even punished. Her employer deliberately let her visa expire.


A group of Polish workers working in a chicken-packing factory near Exeter was discovered living in a house with no furniture. They were sleeping on bare mattresses and using an electric cooker with its wires stripped bare and pushed straight into the socket. Their gangmasters had threatened them with eviction and loss of two weeks' wages if they dared to tell anyone about their conditions.


The British government has been forced to act by events, passing a law against trafficking for forced labour after 23 Chinese workers lost their lives as they harvested cockles against a rising tide in Morecambe Bay in 2004. At the beginning of 2007 it ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, 2005. 


Why are some clothes we buy so cheap?

Cheap clothes in Britain come from many countries, in particular; China, Turkey, Romania, Bangladesh and Tunisia.

Workers in sweatshops in Bangladesh are paid very little and work long hours. The clothes they make are currently being sold in UK stores and supermarkets. In 2013 a Bangladesh clothes factory collapsed killing over 800 people.


For more information visit the Fashion Victims report at the War on Want website (see link below)


What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade guarantees the producer in a developing country:

· A fair and guaranteed price

· Safer working conditions

· Improved local services

· A better and more sustainable local environment


It has never been easier to buy Fair Trade products.

There are now over 2,000 Fair Trade certified products in the UK including tea, coffee, sugar, fruit, chocolate, cotton, wine and footballs.  You can find out more at the Fair Trade website - link below.

Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are switching to selling only Fair Trade bananas while Marks & Spencer plan to sell 20 million Fair Trade cotton garments, including t-shirts, socks, underwear and baby clothes in their stores. 


Stop the Traffik!

This is a campaign working to combat the fastest growing global crime, people trafficking - the buying and selling of people around the world today.


Stop the Traffik is a global coalition of over 800 organisations in more than 50 countries working together in areas of advocacy, education and fundraising.  To find out more, visit the Stop the Traffik website (see link below).

Document icon Learning article provided by: York Castle Museum | 
This content is licensed under Creative Commons BY NC SA

Accessibility Statement | Terms of Use | Site Map

Copyright © My Learning 2018. All Rights Reserved

Website by: Grapple