s The Brookes Ship Model and Poster - Hull Museums Collections

The Brookes Ship Model and Poster

Brookes ship model

The abolitionists had to win over the hearts and minds of both Members of Parliament and the public if they were going to be successful in their campaign for the abolition of slavery.

Spreading the Message

With no mass media, television or radio, the abolitionists had to reach a wide audience with a powerful message. They achieved this by the publication of the Brookes slave ship poster and a ship model.

The poster and the ship model were based on an actual slave ship that was built in Liverpool in 1780-81. It continued to be a slave ship until 1804 and was named after its co-owner Joseph Brooks, a Liverpool merchant. The ship was later mistakenly referred to as the 'Brookes' and was one of nine ships measured for the 1788 Parliament enquiry into the British slave trade.

Brookes Ship Poster

The original idea came from the Plymouth Abolitionist Committee who created a sketch of a slave ship diagram for use in their campaign. The London Committee realised the potential for this powerful image and produced another ship diagram showing a detailed engraving of the Brooks stowage plan. It is this poster that is recognised today and was designed to highlight to people the horrors of the slave trade.

The ship was built to carry 451 people and the poster depicts the amount of space each individual would have. The overcrowding and sheer lack of space shocked everybody who saw it. In reality, this ship diagram was not a true reflection of the space given to the enslaved Africans. It is known that in 1783 the vessel carried more than 600 enslaved Africans from Africa to the Americas.

In 1789 more than 7,000 posters were printed and circulated throughout England. Thomas Clarkson used this poster in his anti-slave trade tours and its powerful imagery made an impact on everybody who saw it. When Thomas Clarkson took the poster to France, the Archbishop of Axix was 'so struck with horror that he could scarcely speak'.

The Brookes Ship Model

This ship model was shown to MPs in Parliament by William Wilberforce during the abolition campaign. It was used to highlight the brutality of the Middle Passage as part of the abolitionist's fight against the slave trade.

Two models of the ship were commissioned by the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson. Clarkson gave one ship to Wilberforce to use in his anti-slave trade speeches and the other to Comte de Mirabeau, French statesman during his visit to Paris in 1789.