An A to Z list of key terms

The Glossary lists key historical and contemporary terms related to the transatlantic slave trade. These words are used across the website and particularly in the Themes and Use of language.

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literally to bring to an end; in this context the campaign to end the slave trade and slavery

Abolitionist person who supported the movement to end the transatlantic slave trade and slavery

Absentee owner a plantation or estate owner who did not live on and manage the property directly

Affirmative action a policy to increase representation from people in groups believed to have suffered discrimination

African-Caribbean a person from the Caribbean of African descent

Afrika an alternative spelling of Africa, reflecting how it is spelt in many African languages; it is also used to indicate an Afro-centric viewpoint

Afro-centric a philosophical and theoretical perspective from an African point of view; it challenges Africa?s philosophical, economical and cultural marginalization by the West

Akan Akan people are members of an ethnic group from areas of Ghana and the Ivory Coast, in West Africa, who share a common culture and language

Americas the two continents of north and south America and the surrounding islands

Anti-slavery used to describe a person, an action, or an idea that is against slavery

Apprentice a person who learns a craft or trade by working for a specialist or master for an agreed period, usually at low wages

Apprenticeship the period during which a person is bound (under contract) as an apprentice

Asante Asante people are members of an ethnic group from areas of Ghana, in West Africa, who share a common culture and language

Assimilation a process of making or becoming similar to others; to integrate into the majority

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Benin the Kingdom of Benin was a widespread empire across Nigeria and present day Benin that flourished from the 14th to the 19th century before it was captured and plundered by the British in 1897

Black often used in Britain to describe people of African and Caribbean (and sometimes Asian) origin

Black British used during the 1980s to stress the political unity between African, Caribbean, and South Asian people in Britain. Now mainly used to refer to British descendants of first generation Caribbean migrants, or more broadly to all people of African or Caribbean descent living in Britain

Branded marked permanently with a hot iron as identifiable property; traditionally used on cattle and livestock as well as on some enslaved people to denote ownership

British Empire a system of dependencies, mostly colonies, throughout the world that were under the sovereignty and administration of the British Crown and government over a period of about three hundred years

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Caboceers African traders appointed to deal with European traders

Capoeira Brazilian fight dance developed by enslaved Africans in Brazil

Carib indigenous people who inhabited the Caribbean islands and parts of the neighbouring mainland

Caribbean the islands off the east coast of North, Central and South America that were called the West Indies by Columbus

Carnival initially a festival preceding the Catholic season of Lent (a period of fasting from Ash Wednesday to Easter weekend); now refers to general annual festivities, usually with a procession and extravagant costumes, and often symbolically remembering an event in the past

Chartism a populist reform movement of the 1830s-40s, which set out a manifesto called ?The People?s Charter? aimed at increasing the rights of the working classes

Chattel slavery a form of slavery, introduced by Europeans, in which the enslaved person is treated as a piece of property belonging to his or her owner and has no rights; this status is for life and their children automatically have the same status; chattel derives from the word for cattle

Civilizations communities with advanced systems of social development

Coffle used to describe a group of animals and prisoners or enslaved people chained together in a line commonly used by slavers in the 18th century

Colonial relating to or characteristic of a colony or colonies

Colonization a process of one country taking over another in order to exploit it

Colony a territory partially or completely controlled by another country (often called the mother country or motherland) and settled by those people

Commemorate to preserve in memory by a celebration or ceremony

Commodity an article of trade, especially a raw material or product

Commons, The short for the House of Commons, the elected chamber of the UK Parliament

Compensation recompense, intended to make amends, often with a payment

Concubinage a women and man living together without being husband and wife

Conquer to overcome, defeat or subjugate opposition

Controversial open to dispute or argument

Corporal punishment punishment by the infliction of physical pain, especially flogging

Creole a person of mixed European and black descent; a language with different European and African influences; Creole culture formed by Africans in the Americas combining beliefs of different ethnic groups and adding in European and Christian ideas: Creole culture has evolved over time and is still important throughout the African Diaspora

Culture an identity based on religious or spiritual beliefs, language, and family values; cultures are inherent their applications can be neither inferior nor superior to each other and are continually evolving for individuals and communities

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Diaspora the spreading out of any group of people, forcibly or voluntarily, away from their homeland across a large area or indeed the world (it was originally used to describe the Jewish dispersal); also refers to the expatriate population as a distinct group

Discriminate to treat unfairly favourably or unfavourably, especially on the basis of race or gender

Domestic slave an enslaved person who works in a household rather than in the fields

Dual descent rhythmically complex form of dance music

Dysentery bacterial infection of the intestine resulting in severe diarrhoea

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Eastern slave trade a trade in enslaved people, mainly from Africa, to the Middle East, North Africa and India; also known as the Oriental slave trade

Edo Edo people are members of an ethnic group from areas of Nigeria, in West Africa who share a common culture and language

Efik Efik people are members of an ethnic group from areas of Nigeria, in West Africa who share a common culture and language

Emancipation being set free, or granted rights equal to others who already enjoy them (including allowing non-Anglicans to sit in Parliament and have other civic rights); the freeing of enslaved people from slavery

Enfranchisement granting the right to vote

Enlightenment, The name given to European 18th century period/movement characterized by literal rationalism in scientific and philosophical thought

Enslaved African/Enslaved Person a servant devoid of freedom and personal rights, one who is the property of another whether by capture, purchase or birth

Enslavement to make a slave of a person; being held in captivity, servitude

Estate traditionally a large area of land, used for agriculture, centred on a large house, owned by one person or family

Evangelical of, or according to, the Christian gospel; often conservative Protestant Christianity

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Fante Fante people are members of an ethnic group from areas of Ghana, in West Africa who share a common culture and language

Flux now obselete term for dysentery; inflammation and looseness of the bowels

Frankpledge a Norman system, devised in the 11th century to keep law and order, all those over 12 taking shared responsibility for behaviour; operating units are in multiples of 10, ten households being a ?tithing?

Freedom the state of being at liberty, unrestricted, not restrained

Freeman/woman someone who is not an enslaved person

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Gang labour workers who toiled in the fields collectively all doing the same task at the same time

Genocide the planned or ordered killing of a racial or cultural group

Gold Coast the name given to an area of the West African coast by early European traders who traded for gold

Guerrilla warfare fighting by independently acting groups for a broadly political cause

Guinea an area at the West African coast, sometimes referred to as the Guinea Coast; a gold coin issued in 1663 taking its name from there; worth 21 old shillings (?1.05 in decimal currency)

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Hausa Hausa people are members of an ethnic group from areas of Nigeria and Niger, in West Africa, who share a common culture and language

Hierarchy system of grades or status ranked above the other

Holocaust from the Greek word meaning 'burnt offering' it is primarily used to refer to the Nazi German extermination of Jewish (and other) people in central Europe during World War II

Homeward Passage the third stage in the transatlantic slave trade with ships carrying items grown or made in the Caribbean or the Americas, such as sugar or tobacco, to Europe to sell (see also Triangular trade)

Homogenous uniform, all of the same kind

Human rights standards or expectations held to be common to all

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Igbo Igbo (or Ibo) people are members of an ethnic group from areas of Nigeria, in West Africa, who share a common culture and language

Immigrant a person who comes into a country to settle

Indenture a form of contracted servitude or apprenticeship for a fixed period of time, often seven years in return for free passage to a colony, with the promise of land or money at the end

Indentured servant /labourer a person who has sold their labour for a set period of time

Independence the state of self government

Indigenous original inhabitants

Industrial Revolution rapid development of initially, British industry using machines in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It caused mass migrations from the countryside into the cities

Inhumanity the state of being brutal, cruel, barbarous, without feeling, indifferent to the suffering of others

Insurrection rebellion, uprising, open resistance to authority

Ivory hard white substance of elephant and other animals? tusks

Ivory Coast a country on the coast of West Africa, officially called Cote d'Ivoire; European traders gave the area the name after the large amounts of ivory found there

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Jim Crow laws legislation in many American states from 1880s-1960s which enforced segregation between black and whites and outlawed mixed race marriages; the term ?Jim Crow? may also refer to a black character played by a white actor in a minstrel show

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Ku Klux Klan white racist organization founder by former confederate soldiers in Tennessee in 1866, initially to prevent freed enslaved people voting and exercising other civil rights; members wore white robes to hide their identity and used terror and intimidation against blacks

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Legacy something handed down by a predecessor

Log books written record book of the navigation and other occurences on board a ship, kept on a daily basis

Lords, The short for the House of Lords, the second chamber of the UK Parliament, originally made up of hereditary members or peers, some Anglican bishops, and senior judges (as the Lords is the court of final appeal in the UK). Today, the peer element is appointed, including some hereditary peers and other ?life peers?

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Maafa derived from a Kiswahili word meaning ?disaster?, or ?terrible occurrence?. It is used to refer to the enslavement of African people by Europeans. The definition also refers to the subsequent loss of indigenous African cultures, languages and religions

Manillas brass bracelet-shaped objects mainly made in Europe and used as money on the West Coast of Africa to trade for enslaved people

Manumission legal process (and related documents) by which enslaved Africans could buy their freedom or be freed by their owner

Maroons enslaved Africans who escaped into the Jamaican wilderness to form their own separate communities, from the Spanish word cimarr?n meaning wild or untamed

Martial law military government, which suspends ordinary law

Mason-Dixon line named after two surveyors, it was originally the boundary between the English North American colonies of Maryland and Pennsylvania; it came to mark the division between the Southern slave states and the Northern free states in the early 19th century

Merchant trader of goods, buying for one price and selling them on for an increased price

Methodists Christian group, founded by John Wesley and his brother when they broke away from the Church of England and built the first Methodist chapel in Bristol in 1739

Middle Passage the second stage in the transatlantic slave trade, on which ships carried enslaved Africans from Africa to either the Caribbean islands or the Americas (see also Triangular trade)

Migrate to move from one place and settle in another, especially abroad

Missionary person sent to educate others about a religious faith

Monopoly exclusive ownership or control in the trade in particular goods or service

Motherland native country; or the colonizing country

Mucus slimy substance secreted from parts of the body

Mulatto mixed race or people of dual descent, most often of an enslaved black female and a white man; mulatto comes from the Spanish term for young mule; mulattos were often more privileged than the enslaved from Africa but still treated as second-class citizens; the term was commonly used in the 18th century but is now considered derogatory

Multicultural a mixture of several cultural groups

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Negress term used to describe a woman of African descent throughout the 18th to 20th centuries; the word is considered derogatory and unacceptable today

Negro term used to describe a man of African descent throughout the 18th to 20th centuries; the word is considered derogatory and unacceptable today

New World term given by Europeans to North and South America and the Caribbean Islands, in contrast to the 'Old World' of Europe, Asia and Africa; when they landed in the Americas Europeans considered them to be new lands, downplaying the status of the indigenous inhabitants

Nomads people who do not live in a single place but move, often seasonally, over a wide range for pasture to graze animals

Nonconformist an English term for dissenting Christians other than the Anglicans or Roman Catholics including Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Unitarians and members of the United Reformed Church

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Oppression domination by others in a harsh or unwanted way

Outward Passage the first stage in the transatlantic slave trade with ships carrying goods from Europe to trade in Africa for captured Africans (see also Triangular trade)

Overseer person on a plantation paid a wage to organize the work of the enslaved people; manager

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Philanthropy love of mankind; philanthropists habitually display goodwill and make charitable gestures

Physician a medical doctor who is not a surgeon

Pidgin a simplified language developed as a result of colonialism. As the Caribbean islands were colonized their populations grew to include Europeans, Africans and Indians. The fact that they spoke different languages necessitated a common means of communication

Plantation a large area of farmland, or estate, planted with particular crops

Plantocracy the successful settlers who developed plantations in the Caribbean; the name combines their local rank and the status to which they aspired

Prejudice a preconceived opinion, usually springing from feeling rather than evidence and balanced judgement

Privateer a privately owned war-ship, or its captain, licensed by one government to raid the shipping of an enemy country

Privilege slave an enslaved African given to a ship's officer by the slave ship owner as a special honour, or privilege

Pro-slavery describes a person, an action, or an idea that is in favour of slavery

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Quaker member of the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers, a radical nonconformist Christian religious group established by George Fox (1624 - 91) with a strong sense of morality and social justice

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Racism a belief that one group of people is inferior, or superior to another because to their race

Rebellion organized armed resistance against established government or authority

Reform electoral reform, or Reform as it became known, was a movement in the 1800s for increasing the democratization of Parliament and voting rights; social reform was concerned with changing conditions for the better, especially for the poor

Reparation making amends, compensation; claim to payments to the descendants of the enslaved and to Africa by those who benefited economically from slavery

Repatriation to return, or be returned, home, to one?s native land

Repression to put down and keep down by force any active general opposition or rebellion

Resistance to strive against, or refuse to comply (sometimes secretly) with a decision or an established way of doing things

Return Passage the third stage in the transatlantic slave trade with ships carrying items grown or made in the Caribbean or the Americas, such as sugar or tobacco, to Europe to sell (see also Triangular trade)

Revolt uprising against a ruler; or government, sometimes including going over to a rival power

Revolution a major change or fundamental reconstruction, usually of a nation by replacing a ruler or system of government or in ways of thinking

Royal African Company London-based trading company with a monopoly on the early trade with Africa

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Scramble clambering and struggling with competitors for a share, e.g. ?The Scramble for Africa?

Seasoning a period during which enslaved people newly arrived from Africa were initiated into the labour regime; new enslaved people were given marginally lesser tasks in the seasoning period as their ability to survive disease was tested

Segregation separation of people, especially in the use of public facilities, employment, education, and housing; usually with a denial of political rights for the excluded group

Serfdom a system in which the serf, or labourer, was not allowed to leave the land that he or she worked on

Shackles metal hoops and chains put round the necks, wrists and ankles of (usually male) enslaved people to restrain them

Sherbro members of an ethnic group from Sierra Leone who share a common culture and language

Shillings pre-decimalization in 1969, one pound sterling was made up of 20 shillings, each made up of 12 (old) pence; a shilling is the equivalent of 5p today

Slave a servant devoid of freedom and personal rights; one who is the property of another whether by capture, purchase or birth

Slave colony a settlement on plantations, based on the labour of enslaved Africans

Slave labour work carried out by the enslaved for the profit of others

Slavers people who earn a living from capturing, trading and transporting enslaved people; ships engaged in transporting the enslaved


the institution that kept people as property, and submissive to work under the domination of others

Smallpox acute contagious disease caused by a virus, with fever and pustules, and with a high death rate; now eradicated world-wide

Snow small two mast, square-rigged sailing ship, similar to a brig

Stereotype/typing a fixed notion of a group of people, often based on prejudices


area south of the Sahara Desert in Africa

Subordinate of inferior importance or rank, secondary, subservient

Suffrage the right to vote in political elections

Suffragette a woman who agitated for the female right to vote

Supplication pleading or appealing for something from a point of weakness

Surgeon doctor who specializes in using tools to operate on the body; also a general term for a naval doctor (since most were surgeons)

Sweated labour employment in poor conditions, for long hours and low pay, typically in the late-19th century garment industry; sweatshops still exist today

Sweatshops a factory or workshop employing workers employed for long hours and under poor conditions

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Task labour a system where people are given goals to achieve and therefore benefit if they can complete the work quickly

Temperance a movement started in the 19th century to encourage people to stop drinking alcohol

Tenant farmers people who farm land rented from a landlord

Thirteenth Amendment the 1865 alteration to the United States Constitution which abolished slavery

Tithe a form of taxation where a tenth of a person's income or the produce from their land, whether derived from crops or animals, was paid to the church to support the clergy

Tract a short printed pamphlet, on religious or political subjects, to distribute to the public

Trading forts Europeans built forts as trading bases along the West African coast; they temporarily housed enslaved Africans until they were loaded onto ships

Trafficking the transport and trade in humans for economic gain using force or deception

Transatlantic across the Atlantic Ocean

Transatlantic slave trade a Eurocentric term used to describe the selling of Africans as chattel across the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and the Americas

Transatlantic slavery the institution that kept people as property, and submissive to work under the domination of others; the system of slavery that incorporates the ?trade? of enslaved Africans, the culture of enslavement, resistance of the enslaved and abolition

Treaty formally ratified agreement between political groups or states

Triangular trade the name often given to the transatlantic slave trade; describes the three sides to the route the slave ships took from Europe to West Africa, then to the Caribbean and the Americas and finally back to Europe; the routes are known as the Outward Passage, the Middle Passage, and the Return or Homeward Passage

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Unassimilated failed to make or become similar to others; retaining distinctive differences

Underground Railroad a means of escape for thousands of enslaved people from the southern United States to the north and Canada operating from the late 1700s to 1862; it was called the Underground Railroad in 1831, and free blacks and white abolitionists (?conductors?) offered the enslaved travelling at night food, clothing and safe locations (?stations?)

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VD venereal disease, contracted through sexual intercourse

Venture a commercial undertaking, dealing with goods or assets in the hope that it will bring profit to those involved

Voodoo beliefs and practices with a strong emphasis on magic and the spirit world, associated particularly with the island of Haiti, in the Caribbean, and thought to have been brought by enslaved people from Africa

Voyage a long sea journey

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West Indies islands of the Caribbean (so called as Columbus thought he had reached India)

Whitney?s cotton gin Eli Whitney?s invention in 1793 of an engine that separated the seeds from the cotton plant, and greatly increased cotton cultivation and the demand for enslaved people (especially female) in the US

Women's Suffrage the right of women to vote in Parliamentary elections; finally extended to all women in Britain in 1928 after a long and bitter campaign

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Xenophobia Xenophobia denotes a phobic attitude toward strangers or of the unknown. The term is typically used to describe fear or dislike of foreigners or in general of people different from one's self. For example, racism is sometimes described as a form of xenophobia.

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Yaws a particularly painful disease with fever, ulcers and arthritis-like pains

Yellow Fever an infectious and often fatal disease, spread by mosquitoes in tropical zones

Yoke wooden bar used to link two things, people or animals together, or to carry a burden

Yoruba an ethnic group from Nigeria who share a common culture and language

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Zong the name of the slave ship which became infamous when, in 1781, Captain Luke Collingwood had 131 enslaved people thrown overboard, hoping he could claim the loss against the insurance