Newly revealed diary reveals reality of African slave trade





On 13 July 1823, a young Royal Navy officer called Cheesman Binstead noticed a large number of sharks in the water as his ship patrolled in the seas off west Africa. His superiors left him in no doubt about the cause. To avoid a fine, an intercepted slave ship had thrown its human cargo into the waves and the jaws of the predators.

Amid the barbarity of a trade that brought 11 million Africans to the New World in chains, what Midshipman Binstead witnessed was not rare. But what was unusual was that he wrote it down as part of an account of the reality of transatlantic slavery and attempts to bring it to a halt.

This week, the diary kept by Binstead for two years while serving on the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron, charged with intercepting slave ships, goes on display for the first time since it was written. It forms part of a new exhibition at the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth to mark the abolition of the slave trade by Britain in 1807.


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