Summary of the history of Irish slavery:
  • In the 17th century, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, an estimated 30,000-50,000 Irish people were sent into slavery in the Caribbean and Virginia. Cromwell shipped Irish slaves to the colonies as a way to help fund his military campaigns.
  • Irish slaves were sent to British colonies in North America and the Caribbean throughout the 1600s and 1700s. Estimates range from several tens of thousands to over 100,000 Irish shipped as slaves during this time.
  • They endured extremely harsh conditions and were commonly worked to death on sugar and tobacco plantations. Irish slaves were cheaper and viewed as more expendable than African slaves at the time.
  • Irish slavery tapered off in the early-mid 1700s. The practice was eventually abandoned for economic reasons as it proved more lucrative for the English to utilize African slave labor in their colonial enterprises instead.
  • Slavery left an enduring mark on Ireland. Resentment of British rule was fueled for centuries after. Comparisons between African American slavery and antebellum America vs. Irish slavery under British rule emerged as controversial topics in later eras.
So in summary, Irish slavery, especially under Cromwell in the 1600s, represented a significant period of Irish servitude and harsh treatment that deeply shaped Ireland’s people and history over centuries. The full scale and impact of this history continues to be studied and debated.