The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

The Slave Trade

Sir John Hawkins
by Magdalena de Passe, or by Willem de Passe
published 1620
NPG D3236

British trading in enslaved Africans became established in the 1500s. In 1562 Captain John Hawkins was the first known Englishman to include enslaved Africans in his cargo. Queen Elizabeth approved of his journey, during which he captured 300 Africans. He then sailed across the North Atlantic and exchanged them for hides, ginger and sugar. He returned to London in 1563. Thirsty for greater profits, he organised another voyage for 1564 to which Queen Elizabeth contributed one vessel.

Meanwhile, the African presence in England became established to such an extent that attempts were made to limit their numbers. Queen Elizabeth enjoyed the profits of the Atlantic slave trade and employed African entertainers in her court but she issued a decree to expel Africans from England in July 1596. Despite this, Africans were to remain a consistent presence in English life.

Previous page...The African Diaspora in England Next page...Sir Walter Ralegh


Tudor and Elizabethan matching pairs

Test your memory by playing our matching pairs game. Three levels of difficulty make it fun for the whole family.

Test your skill

Regency familiar faces

Rearrange tiles to uncover sitters from the Gallery's Collection by playing our puzzle game.

Play today

Who do you think you were?

Answer a few lifestyle questions about the Elizabethan period and discover your inner Elizabethan!

Start now