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The English Business of Slavery

By Dan Byrnes

Contents - The English Business of Slavery

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Note: From 2010, the author feels obliged to confess that when this website book was written, mostly in the 1990s, he had not yet read work by Theodore Allen. (See Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Vol. 1, Racial Oppression and Social Control. New York, Verso, 2002. Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Vol. 2, The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America. New York, Verso, 2002.) Allen's work has extensive material on the English presence in Ireland from somewhat after the time of William the Conqueror, and the co-incident oppression of the Irish people in terms of "racist" English attitudes, all of which deserves wider consideration in terms of the later development of the English use of the labour of enslaved Blacks from Africa. - Dan Byrnes

Introduction - 5 pages (Total pages - 188 pages)

Chapter 1
Finding a way to Australia: The European spiritualization of the location of Australia - Questions of Cartography-Mapping - How did Australian come to the world's attention? English views from 1500 - Anchors into Australia's heritage of maritime history - Four major themes - Endnotes on merchants - 10 pages

Chapter 2
Elizabeth 1 inherits the oceans of the earth - The Dudley family - The English engagement with slavery - The English-Morocco trade - The North-west Passage - The English move to slaving business - The Hawkins-Gonson-Winter naval rivalry story - The Asiento, the Spanish slaving concession - 16 pages

Chapter 3
Hawkins' third slaving voyage - Intermarriages - Sir William Winter: "a stubborn fighter" - While Drake circumnavigates the world - The First Bargain with the navy - The Hawkins-Winter rivalry - Puritans and piracy - The growth of English companies - 12 pages

Chapter 4
Sir William Winter re-examined - Drake harries the Spanish - The time of the Spanish Armada - Fresh maritime business arises - A quickening in business - The Winter family story continued - 8 pages

Chapter 5
Further on the time of Henry VIII - The Boleyn family and other political scenarios - The bible-study group of Catherine Parr, wife of Henry VIII - John Dee - Religious factionalism - Puritans and business - Endnotes - 7 pages

Chapter 6
Expansionism and The Levant - London's Lord Mayors - Commoner families and aristocracy - 6 pages

Chapter 7
Beyond the Levant - A sense of global expansion - Slavery and the origins of Modern Capitalism - The Barbary/Morocco trade - Sources of commodities - The London backers of Ralph Fitch's travels - 10 pages

Chapter 8
Amazonia - the understated English adventure - Origins of the English East India Company - The Earl of Warwick, Puritan noble - The appearance of Martin Noell - 13 pages

Chapter 9
Courteen and Terra Australia Incognita - Questions of handling bullion - Virginia to 1749: how it grew from Amazon adventures - London's Virginia merchants regroup - Dissolution of the Virginia Company - Puritan business and the Mayflower - Convict transportation to colonies - Endnotes on Maurice Thomson - 15 pages

Chapter 10
Caribbean chaos - Matters on Barbados - Maurice Thomson as trader - Seeds of Cromwell's Western Design - Appearance of Prince Rupert - Notes various on Noell and Povey - Convict transportation - After the Western Design - Colonial consolidations - Slavery and rise of the English Whigs - Endnotes on Godschall family- 16 pages

Chapter 11
Sir William Courteen and the struggle for control of Barbados - The Earl of Carlisle and proprietary rights to the Caribbean - The English find Barbados - Cartographic arguments - Control over Barbados and Providence Island - 14 pages

Chapter 12
Enter Willoughby of Parham - The Courteen Association - 7 pages

Chapter 13
The Guinea Company - The Courteen debts - Endnotes - 9 pages

Chapter 14
The Asiento silver exchange - The English in the Caribbean - The Royal Africa Company of 1672 - The English on the African Gold Coast - Cromwell and commercial developments - The Restoration - Convict transportation - The proprietors of Carolina - A royal slaving company - 22 pages

Chapter 15
Progress of English East India Company - Sir Josiah Child manages the East India Company - 9 pages

Chapter 16 (not yet placed on the Net as part of this website book)
Re-exploring Dampier as explorer - Maritime terrorism and pirate Capt. Kidd and his backers- - William III, Whigs, politics and the New East India Company - Dampier's earlier life - Dampier's explorations - Raleigh's prediction on Australia - The last chapter - 15 pages


For particular reasons, I have long researched on British merchants with special reference to their interests in Australasia, India, South-East Asia, China and the wider Pacific. Here I need to emphasise that these reference points enable me to provide a different perspective, a view as seen from the fringes of empire, not from the hubs of English power and activity.

In terms of maritime history, any examination of Anglo-Australian shipping movements from 1788 will also need to embrace shipping using Indian or Chinese ports. This book presents the first fruit, chronologically considered, of what this exercise has shown me about Australasian history - and England's commercial activities over long timeframes.

Years ago during research, I took note of a remark from Coldham, a genealogist-cum-maritime historian who has studied the transportation of English convicts to North America, with a view to serving the information needs of descendants.
Peter Wilson Coldham, The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775. Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988. Peter Wilson Coldham, Emigrants in Chains. Phoenix Hill, Far Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire, Allan Sutton, 1992.

In Coldham's view, convict transportation is best studied as a subset of the history of slavery, in general, and I adopted this an approach, which turns out to be powerful. During research into commercial and maritime activity, I also took great note of genealogical matters, using a database. This databasing exercise was greatly inspired by Robert Brenner's extraordinary work on English merchants during a crucial period - Robert Brenner, Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict, and Londonís Overseas Traders, 1550-1653. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993.) (And here I remain grateful to Dr. Tod Moore, then of University of New England, for pointing out to me in 1994, Brenner's marvellous research, and for other conversations.)

Brenner had taken great care to cross-link a great deal of genealogical material on many London-based merchants. Then I looked at Rabb's earlier work: Enterprise and Empire.
Theodore K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire: Merchant and Gentry Investment in the Expansion of England, 1575-1630. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1967.

Here, Theodore Rabb has lists of over 6000 persons investing in overseas commercial ventures about the 1630s. But we also find that some interesting commercial names, referred to by Brenner or other researchers working later in this field, are not on such lists. There is a risk of missing some notable merchants. This risk is greater, the longer the timeframe is being considered, and my own work by now was beginning to cross the period from 1550 to 1900.
Dunn also presents many useful lists in Richard S. Dunn, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1730. London, Jonathan Cape, 1973.

Another reason to emphasise genealogical connections is in view of a peculiar English reticence about discussion of engagement in trade, which used to surface in debates between English historians. By 1926, H. R. Wagner had expressed a view that England's "orgy of piracy" had engendered "a profound disdain" amongst the gentry for legitimate [ie, commercial] activity after Elizabethan times. By 1967, Theodore Rabb after his work on merchants thought Wagner seemed wrong. We can agree here with K. R. Andrewsí thesis, that privateering played a vital role in the formative years of England's expansion, as "resoundingly" confirmed [by Rabb's work].
(Rabb, Enterprise, p. 80, Note 106. Kenneth R. Andrews, Elizabethan Privateering: English Privateering during the Spanish War, 1585-1603. Cambridge at the University Press, 1964.

In British historiography, it often appears that Wagner's view has won the day - and it is taken that aristocracy had little direct engagement in English trade. So, I have taken pains to discover genealogical connections between English aristocracy, commercial adventurers, and the upper echelons of England's commercial sector, particularly the Lords Mayor and aldermen of London, plus financiers and other notable names.

Computerisation of data of course is helpful. Before 1967, working on merchants, Rabb had originally intended to treat genealogical data, but as his project was already complex, he ceased work on family relationships.
Rabb, Enterprise, p. 97, Note 131. Rabb discusses his methodology as he began using computerised techniques, p. 133; also here, see p. 102 and p. 210.

Rabb's decisions on data use meant that scholars have had to wait for Brennerís work (published 1992-1993) for better than inklings on commercial networks focused in London, of family relationships, commercial relationships and activity, and the involvements of aristocrats or members of their families.

Rabb himself notes the striking attachment of commercial men to the Middle Temple, London. Attention can be drawn to just one parish in London, St Duns tan's in the East, since my own genealogical research suggests that a great many names had links to that parish, which was a stronghold of radical-Puritan, commercial and maritime endeavour.

Rabb also notes that a phrase applied to the evolution of the British Empire, a phrase sometimes applied to the argument about Britain's reasons for settling Australia, that the Empire was developed in a "fit of absence of mind", was first used by J. R. Seeley in The Expansion of England. (London, 1883.) Wondering about any such vast-scale absent-mindedness has remained a worry for historians. An argument against any view of Australia being settled in a fit of absence of mind has been presented by Alan Atkinson.
Alan Atkinson, The Europeans in Australia, Vol. 1: The Beginning. Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1997.

Meanwhile, Rabb and Andrews seem correct, Wagner wrong. But as Brenner shows, the greater problem is in organising information on merchant groupings, family networks, and then merchant linkages to aristocratic families. Often, scenarios starring merchants and politics remain in volatile flux of different sorts. Rabb conveys, that a plague in 1603 "virtually brought Londonís trade to a standstill"; in the first decade of the reign of James I was an economic boom, and, the foundation of the Virginia Company in 1606 proved a watershed once peace with Spain presented other and less-threatening implications. From 1601, parliament looked on battles over royal monopolies, and again in 1604. (Present-day discussions (1999-2002) of free trade and "globalisation" seem repetitious - and specious - in the light of the English commercial experience of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, then in the earlier nineteenth century.)

Should all merchant comers have privileges in foreign trade, should trade be open to all upon payment of a fee, or not? Sir Edwin Sandys opted to promote free trade, and made an attack on the "200 families" which by early Stuart times more or less ruled the English economy.
Ramkrishna Mukherjee, The Rise and Fall of the East India Company: A Sociological Appraisal. Bombay, Popular Prakashan, 1973., p. 73.

Here, we can also note, that by the 1960s, it was thought by English Marxists that between Stuart times and the 1960s, the number of families "ruling England" had grown to 400 or more. That is, entertainment with commercial genealogies can cross over into furies or contentments of ideology, depending on one's taste in politics.

So here, I have often opted to simply trace genealogical and network linkages and let the reader make up their own mind. This decision however virtually dictated that this book proceed chronologically. This decision has also helped me to promise the reader - you will eventually discover - and rediscover - Australia.

For what I have also aimed at is retelling the story of how Australia, with its Europeanized history being so short, came to the attention of the rest of the world. In this sense, I am not discussing how Europe - or Britain - or Capt. James Cook - discovered Australia. Or how Matthew Flinders was the first to map Australia usefully. With discussion of the ugly business of slavery, I am also talking about how the rest of the world becomes aware and discovers how Britain discovered Australia, and what Britain and Australians did with the discovery.

It's an interesting philosophical/psychological question. Do we become aware of possibilities and then discover; or discover and then become aware of possibilities? The formulations of Columbus (in terms of his own biography ) about the Americas, would indicate the former; the discoveries of James Cook from 1770, in terms of subsequent history, in terms of Australasia, would indicate the latter.

Dan Byrnes, Armidale, Easter 2002

Research for the Internet generation

Note: While I am very interested in the Internet and its capacity to provoke or assist research, I have been sparing here with placing website addresses (URLs) into this text, as such information can change all too rapidly. I trust that a recommendation that as the Internet gathers in complexity of content, that readers should netsurf on keywords and topics which interest them, will be sufficient advice here.

Popularized outside universities from 1996 worldwide, the Internet has opened up new vistas for the work of historians. Associated is the use of databases, which can now be very large.

Using Internet facilities and multi-media resources, people interested in history (of all kinds) have greater access to many resources that historians (of all kinds) use or provide... news of new books and treatments, bibliographies of books stretching into the past, lists of websites, lists of original documents relevant to examination of particular topic areas, lists of all other kinds, essays, views, cautions, opinions, approaches, polemics, ideas on methodological refinements for historical research, graphic material, virtual galleries, some in 3D; and easier access to other people interested in an enthusiast's topic choice.

By now, genealogy and personal family history are also popular with Internet users. This book, I hope, is a useful example of an attempt to meld traditional research methods with the use of Internet-based facilities.

////////////Ends Introduction ////////////

News in July 2006: The history websites on this domain now have a companion website, and an updating website as well, on a new domain, at Merchant Networks Project, produced by Dan Byrnes and Ken Cozens (of London).

This new website will become a major exercise in economic and maritime history, with much attention to London/British Empire and some attention to Sydney, Australia.


I am very grateful for email-with and permission-to-quote from the research of Wendy Florence Winter Garcia, a descendant of the early English naval administrators, the Winter family of Bristol. Wendy Garcia is the author of a 20+ file website book on the Winter family, entitled The Golden Falcon, painstakingly researched, including at Public Record Office, London (which is duly credited here), crossing centuries, and recommended here with its index page given as (now broken link): http://www.pillagoda.freewire.co.uk/

Copyright © 2002-2004 by Dan Byrnes, Australia, 2002

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