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You can find much greater detail for the timeframes 1550-1700 at a new website now almost finished ... THE BUSINESS OF SLAVERY... a website book also designed to bring genealogical studies up-to-date from 1530 to the present-day... as well as questions of merchant lives and activities... Click now to... The Business of Slavery (in English history).
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This Merchants and Bankers Listings website is years old and is now (from 2009) undergoing a marked identity change. Its timeline material on economic history (for 1560-1930) is being moved to a website managed by Ken Cozens and Dan Byrnes, The Merchant Networks Project. This will empty many of this website's pages which have always been in series. In due course, Merchants and Bankers Listings will carry information from the Crusades on the early development of what became “capitalism” in Europe to 1560 or so. As well as a conglomeration of data on modern developments, mostly on modern/technical industry, computing, and for the future, today's climate change problems. The editor's view is that in the context of climate change, the views of Merchants and Bankers (and Economists, politicians), the keepers of matters economic, are due for a considerable shake-up. If this website can encourage the shake-up, and help inform it reliably, well and good. -Ed
The history websites on this domain now have a companion website on a new domain, at Merchant Networks Project produced by Dan Byrnes and Ken Cozens (of London).
This website (it is hoped) will become a major exercise in economic and maritime history, with some attention to Sydney, Australia.
The argument (to 1650) has so far much concerned juxtaposing information on the careers of the second Earl of Warwick, Maurice Thomson and Courteen, and some tantalising linkages are seen with Thomson and Courteen. Associated with this, the argument has been involved with presenting matters of long-term conflict in the Caribbean between the allies of the Earls of Carlisle, versus Courteen, where matters are greatly complicated by the activities of men who had fought on either side of the Cromwellian Civil Wars.
In late 1644, acting on a mistaken belief that Carlisle had
his Caribee patent to the Earl of Warwick, Charles I gave the islands
to the Earl of Marlborough. Marlborough had earlier been inclined to
intervene with parliamentary shipping. By 1647 the earl of Carlisle
had leased his Caribee proprietary to Francis Lord Willoughby, a
Presbyterian turned royalist who felt that the Spaniards would
continue to trade in slaves. In 1650, Barbados went royalist, as
influenced by new migrants such as Humphrey and Edward Walrond.
(Bliss, Revolution and Empire, p. 77, p. 86, p. 142. Also, A. P. Newton, The European Nations In the West Indies, variously.)
London was watching Barbados keenly, and it is perhaps
appreciated that by 1650, London's merchant adventurers were
skilfully spreading their portfolio wings in particular patterns.
Olson regards Maurice Thomson as a notable colonial merchant about
1650, or maybe later, active in the Canadian fur trade. Thomson sent
provisions to New England and was recommended by a governor of
Virginia as one of three merchants in respect of a monopoly on
tobacco crops. Thomson was also an interloper in East India Company
trade and by 1649 was also one of the Guinea Company, English slavers
on the African West Coast. Another prominent merchant was Owen Rowe,
active in the Virginia trade, leader and merchant backer of
Massachusetts Bay, a deputy governor of the Bermuda Company - and
related by marriage to the Earl of Warwick.
(Olson, Making the Empire Work, p. 15.)
The seeds of Cromwell's Western Design:
Coldham has many anecdotes on transportation to Barbados. On
June, 1647 the ship Achilles (Mr. Thomas Crowder)
many Bridewell women for Barbados, where there were three classes of
men; masters, servants and slaves. Customs were, slaves were treated
better than servants. By 1655, ship managers were sending as many
convict-fodder people as possible.
(Peter Wilson Coldham, Emigrants in Chains. Phoenix Hill, Far Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire, Allan Sutton, 1992., pp. 115-116.)
By 1645, Barbadians imported 1000 Negro slaves. Between 1710
1810, 250,000 slaves were landed in Barbados alone of Britain's
"sugar islands". So the English sailor-pirate waxed
increasingly fat on servile labour.
(James Walvin, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery. London, Harper Collins, 1992., pp. 7ff. Walvin p. 70 treats Codrington on Barbados. Walvin also, p. 342, cites Richard Ligon, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados. London, 1673., a standard account for early Barbados much cited by historians. Reprinted, London, 1970. See Linebaugh, The London Hanged, pp. 52ff on the origins of the English slave code in Barbados and Jamaica.)
In 1647, evidently unsatisfied with other supply lines, the
Barbados settlers Thomas Modyford and Richard Ligon had gone out
themselves looking for Negroes, horses and cattle. (In 1657, Richard
Ligon produced a first map of Barbados). Their ship went to Africa.
That is, they were bartering for their own slaves.
(Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, p. 29, p. 69, p. 231.)
As a seeming mere detail in a scheme to be envisaged, by 1654,
James Drax on Barbados had shares in two slave ships. By 1651 the
English Navigation Acts had been designed to tie sugar planters to
English ships, English merchants and the home market, which might
re-export sugar. The revolutionising impact of commodity sugar was
growing in power and financial authority. Patterns were building and
(Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, p. 20.)
Between 1647-1656 appeared Povey, a man destined to
influence on the Caribbean. Povey was a member of the 1647 Long
Parliament, an intimate friend of Noell, and, finally, another West
India magnate. His Letterbook exists; he described the knighting of
Col. James Drax at the instigation of Noell. Noell survived the
"holocaust" of the Restoration, Fraser notes, and was
knighted by Charles II; but he seems to have died bankrupt.
(On Povey and Noel: Bliss, Revolution and Empire, p. 67. Fraser, Cromwell, p. 534. Newton, Colonising Puritans, p. 325. Brenner, Merchants and Revolution, variously. Davies, Royal Africa Company, variously. Burke's Extinct Baronetcies for Bond of Peckham, p. 70. Penson, Colonial Agents, sees Povey as a Carlisle place man. Povey, who was friends with Maurice Thomson, had a brother Richard on Jamaica and another brother William on Barbados. Noel and other merchants are also noted in Shafaat Ahmad Khan, The East India Trade in the Seventeenth Century, a book which also has a lengthy treatment on William Courteen and a novel theory on the origins of Mercantilism.
(Fraser, Cromwell, p. 534.)
In the 1650s, some of Cromwell's final lists of English grievances stretched back to 1603 as he tried to "theologize" (rationalize?) his motives for a Caribbean expedition, which of course was a pro-Puritan, anti-Spanish and a morally-doomed exercise - his Western Design. Here, during 1654-1656, Cromwell's philosophy was split by a dichotomy - he wanted to settle Jamaica with the godly, using less than godly means. Is not such naïveté appalling? Also, sinners may as well be exported (one of the long-term rationalisations for convict transportation). 1654 - August. A committee including sea captains and merchants was created to oversee the Cromwellian Western Design. Samuel Desborough was in overall control. Plans went undetailed. It was complained that many soldiers turned out thieves, cheats and cutpurses. The men were Newgate types. Mrs Venables, wife of the general, assessed the situation admirably when she wondered if God's work could be done by the devil's instruments? It was a wicked army, more so for having no arms or provisions. Arrangements for paying the men seemed to be absent. Much of this was Desborough's fault, he was in part responsible for lack of provisions and proper arrangements. The men were not drilled due to haste, not enough food was shipped, officers and men remained separated, so troop morale fell.
It perhaps speaks for the involvement of English names already
known in the Caribbean that Colonel Holdip had a regiment. Many more
names could be mentioned. Cromwell also made friends with the
now-retired earl of Bridgewater, who had become the brother-in-law of
the Barbados financier, Sir William Courteen. This earl's father had
taken on the debts of William Courteen, after Courteen had finally
bankrupted, apparently after unfortunate speculation with the Dutch
East India Company. The matter is not explained, but Cromwell tried
to smooth things over for, or with, Bridgewater's estates.
(Fraser, Cromwell, p. 491. On Capt. Henry Powell and the Courteen bankruptcy, some details are given in Andrews, Ships, Money and Politics, pp. 41ff. On Courteens generally: Andrews, Ships, Money and Politics, pp. 50ff, pp. 200-201.)
During the Western Design period, one commissioner
of Jamaica was
Major Sedgewick, who wrote back to Thurloe, the brother-in-law of
Noell, the friend of the lawyer-merchant Thomas Povey.
(Penson, Colonial Agents, pp. 10-13; Fraser, Cromwell, p. 533.)
In history, a failure to name names has caused
enigmas to rise
where few should exist by now. Between 1655 -1660, some of the most
influential elements in the West India interest were merchants (whom
Penson for example does not name) whose rise to power had been mainly
due to the share they took in Cromwell's western expedition of
(Penson, Colonial Agents, p. 45.)
Where possible, merchants were forming links across colonies, chaining business - one problem being that some were also civil servants of a kind, and they often had inside knowledge of the ways government might affect colonial developments and politics. (Now many of their interests of course would be regarded as conflicts of interest, their actions smacking of insider trading, today, legally disabling in financial circles).
At the end of the Roundhead-Cavalier civil war, both sides
contributed settlers to Barbados and these men began to contest for
control of the island. There were plots counterplots, armed uprising,
fines and banishments involving some 115 identifiable colonists, only
55 of whom had been on Barbados before 1640. Conflict reached its
climax in 1651, the year the English navigation acts designed to tie
sugar planters to English ships were being ventilated.
(Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, p. 20.)
On Barbados, the Cavaliers ousted the Roundheads. A fleet had
sent from England, however, under Sir George Ayscue, to obtain
obedience. Ayscue found he could blockade, but not invade and subdue
the landed Royalists. Some accord was reached in January 1652,
conditions were set, and the island accepted a parliamentary
governor, Daniel Searle. Most settlers then went back to making
(Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, p. 79.)
Then the English sailor-pirate visited Africa,
Evidently following up on Crispe's actions in the Gambia area, in
1652, Prince Rupert visited the Gambia. It was apparently through his
keenness that ,later, so many members of the Royal Family and Court
became interested in Africa trade.
(Davies, Royal Africa Company, p. 41.)
Some Barbados grants being made were "very generous";
Governor Hawley had no arable land left after ten years. One grant
went to Edward Oistin (a fishing village remains on Barbados named
Oistin). William Hilliard later sold a half share of an estate to
Thomas Modyford for £7000. (Many grants of 30-50 acres went
the poorer folk). And of Modyford we shall hear more.
(Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, pp. 49ff, p. 81.)
Modyford, the son of a mayor of Exeter, was a kinsman of the
of Albemarle. Modyford had landed on Barbados as a young man in 1647
with money and connections after losing the fight in the civil war.
He could pay £1000 down and pay £6000 in the next
years, operating with his brother-in-law, the London merchant Thomas
Kendall. Modyford soon attempted to dominate island politics.
( Modyford in 1660 negotiated with the Commonwealth to be appointed as governor of Barbados, but as he took office, Charles II was restored, so Modyford reverted to royalism, only to later lose his governorship of Barbados.)
England captured Jamaica in 1655. Fraser in her book on
reports that in 1655, after England acquired Jamaica, reports flooded
back to England of suffering on the island, following efforts to
encourage emigration to Jamaica. In other areas... As an innovation,
by about 1655, a licence was granted to Sir James Modyford to take
all felons convicted on circuits and at the Old Bailey, then
reprieved, to Jamaica.
(Wilfrid Oldham, Britain's Convicts to the Colonies. Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1990., p. 5.)
Thus, one of the major figures in the development of English
slave-holding in the Caribbean also helped to formalise convict
(For records on how servants were recruited in London for America from 1750 see William Eddis, Letters from America. Edited by Aubrey C. Land. Cambridge Massachusetts, 1969.)
As well, (1655) during the Protectorate, pardons conditional on transportation appeared, with their use to be continued by succeeding rulers. Such pardons were later granted by the Crown on the recommendation of presiding Justices and remained a part of the transportation system long after the loss of the American colonies, that is after 1776. Cromwell's men in 1656 suggested that 1000 Irish boys and girls be rounded up to fill the empty island, but there is no evidence this transportation actually occurred. In 1656 Cromwell ordered the Scottish government "to apprehend known idle, masterless robbers and vagabonds" to Jamaica. Cromwell also wanted to send Highlanders out, but he was warned they might incite the island to rebellion.
The Spanish king meanwhile was reportedly furious about the
English "rape" of Jamaica.
(Antonia Fraser, Cromwell: Our Chief of Men. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973., p. 532. Eric Williams, From Columbus to Castro. pp. 101, 114. Coldham, Emigrants in Chains, p. 49-51.)
Cromwell did send 7000-8000 Scots from the 1651
Worcester to British plantations in the colonies. In 1656, Cromwell
reinstituted transportation by ordering all counties to send in lists
of those [who might be] recommended for transportation. So, Coldham
writes, with this followed up by an Act of 1657, the Puritans
established procedures which were hardly altered in principle till
1776 - at least as far as North America was concerned. Re
legislation. In June 1661, Jeremy Bonnel and Co. of London petitioned
the King to have delivery of prisoners to ship to Jamaica on their
ship Charity. Bureaucracy ruined those overtures,
pardons were issued on conditions of transportation, whereupon the
sheriffs of London complained of the costs of keeping reprieved
prisoners. (But the City could reimburse itself by selling its
(Coldham, Emigrants in Chains, pp. 50-51.)
Coldham notes also, James II probably disposed of over 800 pardoned felons, many merely "prisoners of conscience", with less than half actually arriving in the West Indies. Till 1707, London officials had to play round robin to find which colonies found transported prisoners most acceptable, for which reasons, or not, for which excuses. After 1718, Virginia and Maryland took the brunt of the convict transportation situation.
Eric Williams in his book so much concerned with slavery, From
Columbus to Castro, suggests that for 1654-1685, it has been
estimated, that 10,000 indentured servants sailed from Bristol alone
to North America and the Caribbean.
(We find from John D. Krugler, 'Sir George Calvert's Resignation as Secretary of State and the Founding of Maryland', Maryland Historical Magazine, LXVIII, 1973., pp. 239-254.; p. 55 in an essay, James Horn, `Servant Emigration to the Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century', pp. 51ff of Tate and Ammerman's anthology, the first ordnance passed by the British Parliament to prevent kidnapping was in 1645. Ten years later, Bristol passed its own legislation requiring all servants to be registered before transportation, hence the Bristol lists of indentured servants going out and in London, The Lord Mayor's Waiting Books, at the Guildhall. Yet people continued to be spirited away.; Horn's essay, p. 65, Note 42, mentions His Majesties charter to Lord Baltimore, translated into English, London, 1635. See Thad W. Tate and David L. Ammerman, (Eds.), The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century: Essays on Anglo-American Society. New York, Norton, 1979.)
About half went to Virginia. Williams says that in 1688 it was
estimated that in Jamaica alone, the developing agricultural system
required about 10,000 slaves annually. Between 1680 and 1688 the
Royal Africa Company supplied 46,396 slaves to the West Indies, about
5155 annually; and at 300 slaves per ship, about 17 ships annually.
(Eric Williams, From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean, 1492-1969. London, Andre Deutsch, 1970., pp. 98-101, p. 137.)
"Besides the white indentured servants, convicts and malefactors provided a second source of white labour. If the existence of a contract gave a semblance of legality to the system of white indentured labour, convict labour was also surrounded with the aura of the law by the commutation of sentences involving death or imprisonment to transportation and servitude in the colonies for a term of years. The crime was extended to fit a punishment which contributed to the solution of the colonial labour problem, and a veritable system in this regard was developed in Bristol, where magistrates and judges were connected, directly or indirectly, [Williams says], with the Caribbean sugar plantations."
God-botherer Cromwell then did much to institutionalise an incipient British attitude - a desire to transport unwanted people from the English island, that has been too-much attached to penal history solely, and been left aside from treatment of the psychology of the expansionism of European states, particularly England, or even the description of English expansionism, which was so much prompted by Puritans. The desire to deport transgressors was to become wrapped increasingly in its own red tape of custom and legislation.
In November 1664 the King told the sheriffs that Sir James
Modyford would ship felons to his brother on Jamaica, Sir Thomas
(In 1665, a similar licence was given to Thomas Bennet; and in 1668, Peter Pate was given an exclusive trade in disposing of Newgate convicts. Coldham notes, James II probably disposed of over 800 pardoned felons, many merely "prisoners of conscience", with less than half actually arriving in the West Indies. Till 1707, London officials had to play round robin to find which colonies found transported prisoners most acceptable, for which reasons, or not, for which excuses. After 1718, Virginia and Maryland took the brunt of the convict transportation situation.)
In 1665, a similar licence was given Thomas Bennet, and in
Peter Pate was given an exclusive trade in Newgate convicts.
Meantime, Noell's interest in the Caribbean declined, and Povey's
schemes disappeared with the decline of the Willoughby interest,
which was the interest of the Whig, Carlisle. As a London
merchant-lawyer, Thomas Povey by about 1664-1666 was surveyor-general
of the Victualling Dept. Povey by then had already been interested as
a Carlisle place-man in deals concerning West Indian islands. Penson
notes, Povey was a barrister of Gray's Inn and a merchant with
widespread interests, "well-known for exerting his influence".
His brother Richard was secretary and commissary general of
provisions at Jamaica; another brother was William Povey, provost
marshal at Barbados.
(Penson, Colonial Agents, pp. 10-13.)
Povey was also friends with the ubiquitous Maurice Thomson, a largely unrecognised Seventeenth Century entrepreneur. And so it begins to seem, that as more is discovered about English commercial life and personalities of the Seventeenth Century, more is discovered also about the entwinement of two trades in labour - slavery and convict transportation.
Just one statistic is telling: Dunn records that by the 1970s,
old Jamaica plantation, Worthy Park, produced 7000
sugar per year, more than all Jamaica's production in 1680.
(Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, pp. 48-49; p. 78; p. 115 on Colletons; p. 177, Note 36; p. 98. On the Price family, the owners of Worthy Park, see Burke's Peerage and Baronetage for Price of Trengwainton.)
This places much
human suffering in
bleak perspective - the slaves were used as factors of technology -
today, one plantation cannot possibly produce so much sugar without
the use of equipment applying hydraulic pressure to sugar cane. As
the American Revolution broke out, Worthy Park
in sugar and rum sales. In 1969 on Barbados there were eighteen
factories and plantations still carrying seventeenth century names.
During the 1640-1660 period the Barbados planters switched from
tobacco and cotton to sugar, and from using white servants to black
(Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, p. 59.)
After the Western Design:
Between 1640 and 1660 occurred a significant development in
administration and self-government of English colonies which probably
bore on the inability of the colonies to provide sufficient education
for the sons of original colonists. Associated would have been the
debts which colonists had with mostly London merchants. Between 1640
and 1660, noted families in trade who had connections in government
sent out sons whose descendants inherited, if they did not develop,
the traditions and heritages of the burgeoning colonies. In the North
American tobacco colonies appeared later-influential names such as
Bland, Burwell, Byrd, Carter, Digges, Ludwell, Mason.
(Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, p. 78, Note 62.)
It is indicative of the commercial links between Britain and
America that the Virginian William Byrd II, (1674-1744) (who owned
4000 books), after his schooling had gone to Holland to learn
mercantile matters. Later he was associated with merchants Perry and
Lane of London, before studying law and being admitted to the
(Ver Steeg, The Formative Years, p. 192, p. 103, p. 233.)
William Byrd I In Virginia had 25,000 acres, his son William Byrd II had 175,000 acres. The links Americans had with English firms were often affectionate, productive of family relationships, but would be sundered by the American Revolution.
By the 1650s some of the grandest planters on Jamaica were the
Beckfords and the Prices, spectacular figures.
( The career of the Whig, Lord Mayor of London, and slave owner, William Beckford (1709-1770) is often noted; his grandson was the author of Fonthill, William Beckford (1760-1844). However, the Lord Mayor's genealogy is fretted by lack of the names of women. Less often noted as connections of his broader family are: Thomas Howard, eighth Baron Howard of Effingham (171401763); William Courtenay twentieth Earl Devon (1777-1859); Charles Wood second Viscount Halifax; George Richard Lane Fox, first Baron Bingley; George Pitt-Rivers fourth Baron Rivers (1810-1866); Patrick Bowes-Lyon, thirteenth Earl Strathmore and Kinghorn. A connection occurs between Jamaica and Australia, thus. One early Beckford marriage had been with Bathusa Herring, daughter of Colonel Julines Herring who would have been on Jamaica after 1700. The Colonel's son Julines had a daughter Anna Maria who married John Lumley, seventh Earl Scarborough (1760-1835); who had a descendant Anna Maria Manners-Sutton (daughter of a governor of Victoria, Australia, John Henry Manners-Sutton). This Anna Maria married Melbourne merchant Charles Bright, whose firm was absorbed by a firm originally from Bristol, Antony Gibbs and Co. In the late eighteenth century, this Bristol family Gibbs was in West Indies trade, by the late nineteenth century it was involved in Indian Ocean and Australasian trade.
(On Charles Bright, see G. F. Whitwell, `Charles and Reginald Bright', pp. 137-159 in R. T. Appleyard and C. B. Schedvin, (Eds),. Australian Financiers: Biographical Essays. South Melbourne, Macmillan, 1988.)
In the 1640s and 1650s, some 200-300 planters on
charge of the sugar business, (and much less tobacco on Barbados).
The Barbadians had a full generation earlier than their counterparts
on Jamaica and the Leewards managed the change to specialising in
sugar, which meant specialising in using slaves.
(On the Price family see Michael Craton and James Walvin, A Jamaican Plantation: The History of Worthy Park, 1670-1970. Toronto, 1970., as cited in Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, pp. 48-49.)
Sugar colonies also developed some peculiarities in disease patterns. In the 1640s and again in the 1690s, thousands of Barbadians died from yellow fever, called Barbados distemper, or bleeding fever. The patient vomited and voided blood. One Caribbean ailment, called "dry bellyache", seemed to be the result of drinking too much rum processed through lead pipes. Cromwell's troops on Jamaica died appallingly due to malaria, partly as their barracks were near swamps. On Barbados were 20,000 settlers by 1645, 30,000 by 1650 - including many Royalists. Later, during the Puritan Revolution in England, many wealthy middle-class Englishmen emigrated to Virginia, supporters of Charles I. For such emigrants, the death rate on ships or once ashore was painful - up to one in six. This statistic places in perspective the death rate for trans-Atlantic convict ships of the Eighteenth Century - about one-in-seven.
There followed a period of Caribbean prosperity with the
Cromwellian Commonwealth, but this ended with more interference from
home during the Restoration, partly the result of the Navigation Acts
which had been formulated in respect of the success of the Dutch in
the maritime carrying trades. The defence of shipping lanes became an
obvious necessity. (In September 1706, a huge tobacco fleet left
Virginia, to encounter heavy weather and French privateers. Some 30
ships with nearly 15,000 pounds of tobacco were lost. The English
market was anyway glutted and the result was a financial crisis for
(John M. Hemphill, Virginia and the English Commercial System, 1689-1733. London, Garland, 1985. [Facsimile of a 1964 Ph. D thesis, Princeton University.]., p. 27.)
Slavery and the development of the English Whigs:
Between 1660-1700, England's dependence on profits from
handling was transformed, new forces were taking up in the economy,
especially in re-export trades, and about 30 per cent of goods
handled came from the East or West Indies.
(Mintz, Sweetness, p. 63. E. Williams, From Columbus to Castro, p. 143.)
Meanwhile, considering the history of slavery often brings an air of unreality to mind. Unreality, because too many historians seem so accepting of slavery as an institution, and disapprove of it so little, which is an inappropriate attitude for "civilized" people to adopt to a system of unrelieved evil. Unreality, because of the sheer scale of "the Atlantic trade triangle". Unreality, because of the intensity of the continued violence and atrocity necessary to maintain slavery as an institution. Unreality because of the continued genealogical affront and shock given the bloodlines of particular African clans and tribes. Unreality because two religions, Islam and Christianity helped maintain slavery in Africa, and raised so little protest against it. Unreality because of the distortions of economic systems that were installed in "capitalism".
It is the distortions of economic outlook that I want to dwell on here. It is often suggested that "modern English capitalism" began with the Industrial Revolution, from the 1760s and 1770s; particularly with the spread of the new ideas promulgated by the Scottish philosopher and economist, Adam Smith. And this, only a decade or so before the English anti-slavery movement began to have effect. One problem with this view is that it gives almost a "new start" to capitalism in England, and incidentally allows one to avoid consideration of slavery. An alternative view exists, however, developed by Mintz, which fits facts better, a view that modern, "scientific" English/European capitalism began much earlier, on Caribbean sugar islands.
The "scientific" process in question was the
crystallisation of sugar, a process which was strictly time-bound and
conducted in specified physical conditions with specially designed
equipment. This process was staffed by skilled slaves, that is,
ultra-cheap labour. The crystallisation process divided the overall
process of manufacturing sugar from its agricultural aspects and
enabled marketable product to be delivered into ships, then to
warehouses, to retailers, to consumers. Ranged around the production
and marketing of sugar was a giant system of slave gathering and
management completely reliant on shipping, sophisticated use of
capital, and partly dependent on sub-markets, such as the market for
cowrie shells, which were often supplied from areas such as the
Maldives, well east of Africa.
(From the English perspective, by the 1670s, the French had made a major thrust into eastern trade. By 1601 they had sent only two ships for the Maldives, Ceylon, Sumatra and other places, and overall, the Dutch discouraged the French. In 1642, Richelieu had let sailors try to sail to Madagascar, found a colony, and trade there. Fort Dauphin was built. French ships sailed to Arabian and Indian ports. Meantime, French adventurers were going overland, through Asia Minor and by sea, such as Jean Baptiste Tavernier.)
By 1685, sugar beginning to be used with tea (used as early as
1658 at Sultaness Coffee House). Coffee and other beverages, tending
to be served hot and sweetened, moved consumers away from the
calorific values of ale and beers. Chocolate became more popular.
(Mintz, Sweetness, pp. 110-111.)
Between 1660-1700, England's dependence on profits from
handling was transformed; new developments were seen in the economy,
especially in re-export trades, and about 30 per cent of goods
handled came from the East or West Indies.
(Mintz, Sweetness, pp. 110-111.)
There was "scarcely a manufacturing sector in England" which did not gain some business from connections with slavery, from the packaging of bulk food, to ironmongery, to weapons supply, to cotton handling, to the enjoyment of tea, sugar or tobacco. Slave shipping could be as easily regarded as a "nursery of seamen" as any other sector of English shipping, but that is not how maritime historians tend to view matters. Further, "capitalism" was corrupted at its heart by ultra-violent reliance on ultra-cheap labour, while wars might be waged over resources, such as the islands or sea lanes which sugar production required. We still live today with this distortion of a rational and realistic view of input-output costs of production. It is almost unreal: the truer costs of using labour were apparently hidden from the analysis of "economists" by something as visibly widespread in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as slavery.
What is to be done with such an opinion? It becomes relatively simple. Name names, trace careers, examine family and business histories. It becomes clear in the history of English capitalism, that the history of the East India Company is not so free of the smell of slavery-tainted money, as historians suggest. The way money travelled in the City of London made the City a major location for the re-handling of funds which had earlier been associated with some aspect of "slave business", as can be seen in the careers of specific merchants or families who are conspicuous in the history of "Mercantilism". East India Company capital was by no means sealed off from connection with slavery. This chapter, then, is built around the possibilities that arise as names are named.
We find that on the question of a role for London capital in
slave trade, Bristol entered the slave trade soon after 1700 and
later took a lead in opposing the Royal Africa Company's monopoly of
(Davis, Rise of the English shipping industry, p.37.)
Slavery was well established by 1700, and it is hardly likely that capital flows in the City of London knew nothing of money derived from business associated with slavery. So the question here becomes, is, did London capitalists invest in or promote Bristol-based slave business? If so, to what extent? This question is unanswerable if names are not named.
Charles II had made attempts to get the contract for
the supply of
slaves to Spanish, which was not granted to Britain till the Treaty
of Utrecht in 1713.
(Between 1665-1670: Clark, Later Stuarts, p.328.)
- Dan Byrnes (otherwise indicated in these pages as -Editor)
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