Everyone knows about the African slave trade to America. It’s in all the US history books.

However, what is less well-known is that it was not just the Africans who were sold as slaves. The Irish were traded too.

They were subjected, sometimes, to worse treatment than the African slaves. It’s a subject largely ignored by the history books.

James II

In his article, John Martin writes “The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World.

“His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies.

“By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat.

“At that time, 70 percent of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.”

White Slaves

“Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.”
It seems that the population of Ireland slumped in the 17th century as so many Irish slaves were being sent to the Americas.

Said John, “During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England.

“In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder.

“In 1656, [Oliver] Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.”

Human Cattle

John Martin says that the Irish slaves have gone down in history as ‘indentured servants’ but in most case they were just human cattle.

“…the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period,” says Martin.

“It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.”

Better Price

It seems that black slaves would sell for around £50 in the 1600s compared to the Irish slaves who cost around £5,

As you could get more for a black slave, the British began to breed white Irish women with black slaves, with the girls sometimes as young as 12.

These ‘mulatto’ slaves fetched a higher price than pure Irish slaves. It saved the settlers a lot of money.


“This practice of breeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.”

It was only stopped because it was interfering with the profits of the slave traders.

Martin ends, “In 1839, Britain finally decided on it’s own to end its participation in Satan’s highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves.

“While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded THIS chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.”

Click here to read John Martin’s article ‘The Irish Slave Trade – The Forgotten “White” Slaves’ in its entirety.