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The Irish Slave Trade

Caribbean Map

The early slave trade in the 1600s is well documented with misery inflicted upon possibly up to 11 million people torn forcibly from West Africa to labour in appalling conditions in the the United States and the Caribbean.

History Journal has uncovered fascinating research into the role of Irish people exposed to the same suffering in the early

slave trade with Irish deportees and indentured servants sent to the same dreadful conditions initially in Antigua and Monserrat and later in Barbados and the United States.


From the early 1600s to 1800 many 1000s of irish people were sent to slave conditions in the carribean and US as part of the trade in human labour that marked the start of the slave trade.

Irish and african people suffered under dreadful conditions in Barbados, Antigua, the southern states of the US and Brazil. The legacy of this trade in Irish people still remains today with a strong Irish mark left on the culture of the Carribean.

Indentured Servants

Although there are records of Irish people being transported to South America as early as 1612, the earliest confirmed records of indentured servitude date from 1636.

Cromwell's Deportations

Cromwell had a devastating effect on the population of Ireland in the 1600s, reducing it by 500,000 just 1.1 million from 1641 onwards. During his reign, more than 50,000 Irish people, mostly women and children, were forcibly deported to Barbados to work on sugar plantations.

Redlegs in Barbados and Antigua

The Irish in Bardados earned the pejorative term 'Redlegs' as they struggled in the extreme heat and sun on sugar plantations. Their legacy remains to this day.

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