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John Blanke Arrives in England

John Blanke, an African musician, arrives in England as one of the African attendants of Katherine of Aragon. Blanke would play the trumpet for the courts of both Henry VII and Henry VIII at least until 1511.


First African Slave Sent to the New World

Juan de Córdoba of Seville becomes the first merchant to send an African slave to the New World under the Spanish authorities.


African Slaves Start Replacing Other Slaves

Spanish and Portuguese bring African slaves to the Caribbean and Central America to replace Native Americans in the gold mines.


Africans Brought to the Court of King James IV of Scotland

A small group of Africans are brought to the court of King James IV of Scotland.


Sugar Cane is Grown in the New World

First record of sugar cane being grown in the New World, in Santo Domingo (modern Dominican Republic).


Diego Cólon Becomes Governor

Columbus’s son, Diego Cólon, becomes governor of the new Spanish empire in the Caribbean. He soon complains that Native American slaves do not work hard enough.


Ferdinand Authorizes Slave Shipment

King Ferdinand of Spain authorizes a shipment of 50 African slaves to be sent to Santo Domingo, which starts the systematic transportation of African slaves to the New World.


Sir Thomas More Argues Only Criminals Should be Enslaved

Sir Thomas More in his book Utopia argues that his ideal society would have slaves, but they would not be ‘non-combatant prisoners-of-war, slaves by birth, or purchases from foreign slave markets.’ Rather, they would be local convicts or ‘condemned criminals from other countries, who are acquired in large numbers, sometimes for a small payment, but usually for nothing.’ (Trans. Paul Turner, Penguin, 1965).


Number of Slaves Sent to New World Skyrockets

Charles V grants his Flemish courtier Lorenzo de Gorrevod permission to import 4000 African slaves into New Spain. From this point onwards thousands of slaves are sent to the New World each year.


Magellan Sets Out

The circumnavigation expedition of Ferdinand Magellan sets out from San Lucar de Barameda.


Native Americans Decimated by Disease

Disease decimates Native Americans, enslaved Africans imported as replacements.


Aztec Empire Overthrown

Hernan Cortés captures King Cuahutemotzin, Aztec empire is overthrown and Mexico comes under Spanish Rule.


Slave Rebellion in Hispaniola

A major slave rebellion breaks out on the island of Hispaniola.


Slaves Taken to Cuba

300 African slaves taken to Cuba to work in the gold mines.


Germans Get Involved in Slave Trade

Hieronymous Seiler and Heinrich Ehinger of Konstanz become the first Germans we know to have become involved in the slave trade.


Sugar Production and Slavery Rapidly Expand

Earliest records of sugar production in Jamaica, later a major sugar producing region of the British Empire. Sugar production is rapidly expanding throughout the Caribbean region at this time – with the mills almost exclusively worked by African slaves.


First Slave Arrives in Future United States

Esteban (or Estevanico) becomes the first African slave to step foot on what is now the United States of America. He was one of only four survivors of Pánfilo de Narváez’s failed expedition to Florida. He and the other three took eight years to walk to the Spanish colony in Mexico.


Juan de la Barrera Starts Sending Slaves Directly to the New World

Juan de la Barrera, a Seville merchant, begins transporting slaves directly from Africa to the New World (before this, slaves had normally passed through Europe first). His lead is quickly followed by other slave traders.


Francisco Pizaro Massacres the Incas

Francisco Pizaro massacres the Incas at Caxamalca (modern Caxamarca) and captures King Atahuallpa, an event that marks the Spanish conquest of Peru.


Hernando de Soto Lands in Florida

Hernando de Soto lands on the coast of Florida with about 1200 men in his expedition, around 50 were African slaves.


Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541

Under the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541, a colonial assembly was required to secure the King’s permission unto any colonial statutes and laws.


Jacques Francis Arrives in Portsmouth

Jacques Francis, an enslaved African salvage diver, arrives in Portsmouth as part of a team hired to salvage guns from the wreck of the Mary Rose.


Jacques Francis Testifies in Court

Jacques Francis becomes the first known African to give evidence in an English court of law when his Venetian master, Peter Paulo Corsi, is accused of theft by a consortium of Italian merchants based in Southampton.


Fernão de Oliveira Denounces the Slave Trade

The Portuguese sailor Fernão de Oliveira, in Arte de Guerra no mar (The Art of War at Sea), denounces the slave trade as an ‘evil trade’. The book anticipates many of the arguments made by abolitionists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

John Lok Hopes to Bring London into Slave Trade

A small group of Africans from Shama (modern Ghana) are brought to London by John Lok, a London merchant hoping to break into the African trade.


Genoa Tries to Prevent Slave Trade

The Italian city of Genoa tries to prevent trading in slaves – not for any humanitarian reasons – but only in an attempt to reduce the numbers of Africans in the city.

Domingo de Soto Argues Slavery is Wrong

Domingo de Soto, in De justicia et de jure libri X (Ten Books on Justice and Law), argues that it is wrong to keep in slavery any person who was born free.


John Hawkins Obtains Slaves

John Hawkins of Plymouth becomes the first English sailor to have obtained African slaves – approximately 300 of them in Sierra Leone – for sale in the West Indies. Hawkins traded the slaves illegally with Spanish colonies, which contributed to increasing tensions between England and Spain.


Tratos y Contratos de Mercadere Published

Tomás de Mercado, a Sevillian Dominican, publishes Tratos y contratos de mercaderes (Practices and Contracts of Merchants), which attacks the way the slave trade is conducted.


Slavery Declared Illegal in France

The Parlement of Bordeaux sets all slaves – “blacks and moors” – in the town free, declaring slavery illegal in France.


Bartolemé Frías de Albornoz Casts Doubt on the Legality of the Slave Trade

Bartolemé Frías de Albornoz, a Spanish-Mexican lawyer, publishes Arte de los contratos (The Art of Contracts), which casts doubt on the legality of the slave trade.


Paulo Dias de Novães founds São Paulo de Luanda

Paulo Dias de Novães founds the Portuguese colony of São Paulo de Luanda on the African mainland (modern Angola). The colony soon became a major slave-trading port supplying the vast Brazilian market.


Queen of England Gives Letter of Patent

Elizabeth, Queen of England, gives a letter of patent to Sir Humfrey Gylberte to discover, find, search out, and view such remote, heathen and barbarous lands, countries and territories not actually possessed of any Christian prince or people.


United Provinces Becomes Slave-trading Nation

The United Provinces (modern Netherlands) soon becomes an important slave-trading nation and an aspiring colonial power.


Spain and Portugal Become United

Following the death of King Henry of Portugal, Spain and Portugal are united under Philip II of Spain. Spain thus becomes the most important colonial power – and the largest participant in the slave trade.


First Enslaved Africans Arrive in Florida

First enslaved Africans arrive in Florida.


Queen of England Signs Charter

Elizabeth, Queen of England, signs a charter allowing Charter to Sir Walter Raleigh to discover, search, find out, and view such remote, heathen and barbarous lands, countries, and territories, not actually possessed of any Christian Prince, nor inhabited by Christian People.


First English Colony in New World

The first English colony in the New World is established at Roanoke Island (modern North Carolina), organized by Sir Walter Raleigh and governed by Ralph Lane. It was not successful, and the colonists withdrew in June 1586.

Sir Francis Drake Sacks Santiago

Sir Francis Drake, an English admiral who circumnavigated the globe, sacks the slave-trading settlement of Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands.


Sir Francis Drake Sacks Santo Domingo

Sir Francis Drake sacks the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo (modern Dominican Republic). He goes on to sack Cartagena (modern Columbia) and St. Augustine (modern Florida). These acts of piracy are among the factors that precipitate war between England and Spain.


Second English Colony Founded

A second English colony is founded at Roanoke Island, again organized by Sir Walter Raleigh. When it is revisited by English ships in August 1590, it has vanished without trace.


Failure of the Spanish Armada

The failure of the Spanish Armada (an intended Spanish invasion of England, largely destroyed by bad weather) provides a boost for English maritime power and for English colonial ambitions.


Bernard Ericks Becomes First Dutch Slave Trader

Bernard Ericks becomes the first Dutch slave trader.


L'Espérance Becomes First French Ship Involved in Slave Trade

L’Espérance of La Rochelle becomes the first French ship positively identified as participating in the slave trade.


Reinal Agrees to Provide Spanish America with 4250 African Slaves Annually

Philip II of Spain grants Pedro Gomes Reinal, a Portuguese merchant, a near monopoly in the slave trade. Reinal agrees to provide Spanish America with 4250 African slaves annually, with a further 1000 slaves being provided by other merchants.


Queen Elizabeth I of England Sends Letter

Queen Elizabeth I of England sends a letter complaining about the number of blacks in the realm by which a group of slaves were rounded up and given to a German slave trader, Caspar van Senden, in ‘payment’ for duties he had performed.


Francis Bacon Writes On Plantations

Francis Bacon writes On Plantations which becomes an important early text of British colonial discourse.

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