Lloyd’s of London to pay for ‘shameful’ Atlantic slave trade role

By Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) – The Lloyd’s of London insurance market apologized on Thursday for its “shameful” role in the 18th and 19th Century Atlantic slave trade and pledged to fund opportunities for black and ethnic minority people.

As part of a global reassessment of history and racism triggered by the death of George Floyd in the United States, some British institutions have begun re-examining their past, especially connections to slavery.

The Bank of England also apologized for what it called the “inexcusable connections” of some past governors and directors to slavery, and said it would remove any portraits of them from display anywhere on its premises.

About 17 million African men, women and children were torn from their homes and shackled into one of the world’s most brutal globalized trades between the 15th and 19th centuries. Many died in merciless conditions.

“We are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd’s market in the 18th and 19th Century slave trade – an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own,” Lloyd’s said in a statement on Thursday.

“Recent events have shone a spotlight on the inequality that black people have experienced over many years as a result of systematic and structural racism that has existed in many aspects of society and unleashed difficult conversations that were long overdue,” it added.

The world’s leading commercial insurance market, Lloyd’s – which started life in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house in 1688 – is where complex insurance contracts ranging from catastrophe to events cancellation are agreed and underwritten.

Lloyd’s grew to dominate the shipping insurance market, a key element of Europe’s global scramble for empire, treasure and slaves, who were usually in the 18th Century included in insurance policies in the general rate for ship cargo.

Weapons and gunpowder from Europe were swapped for African slaves who were shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas.

Those who survived endured a life of subjugation on plantations, while the ships returned to Europe laden with sugar, cotton and tobacco.


Although Britain abolished the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807, full abolition did not follow for another generation.

Lloyd’s said it would invest in programmes to attract black and minority ethnic talent, review its artefacts to ensure they were not racist and support charities and organizations promoting opportunity for black and minority ethnic people.

Among other British institutions reassessing the legacies of the past is Oriel College, part of Oxford University, which said on Wednesday it wanted to remove a statue of 19th century colonialist Cecil Rhodes.

Greene King, which describes itself as Britain’s leading pub owner and brewer, apologized for the profit one of its original founders made from the slave trade.

Greene King would make investments to help the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community and to support race diversity in its business, chief executive Nick Mackenzie said.

The history of several other British financial firms, including Barclays , is also under fresh scrutiny.

The bank was named after David Barclay, a Quaker who campaigned actively against slavery in the late 18th century, but it later acquired institutions with links to the slave trade, including Colonial Bank in 1918 and Martins Bank in 1969.

“We can’t change what’s gone before us, only how we go forward,” a Barclays spokesman said.

The City of London Corporation has launched the Tackling Racism Working Party, which it said will look to promote economic, educational and social inclusion in the City of London and assess the future of statues and monuments.

(Additional reporting by Sinead Cruise, Huw Jones and David Milliken; Editing by Estelle Shirbon and Andrew Cawthorne)


Shackles used in the Transatlantic slave trade

They are right.

It was inexcusable. At least they didn’t try to justify it or say “it happened a long time ago.” They paid handsome prices for the lives of those who died aboard these slave ships. Many times people were taken aboard these ships simply to collect an insurance payment. They knew the person wasn’t strong enough to make the voyage. But their lives were insured. At trading posts, insurance were bought for each person being sold. These companies sometimes had set-up at these Points of No-Return.

Or either they fiance the trip and the purchases in return for a share of the profit. London isn’t the only city that prospered on the backs of slaves. Almsot the entire world did.

About unholypursuit

A. White, an award winning former librarian, who is also a long time member of Romantic Time and Publisher's Weekly. A. White has been writing for over fifteen years. She took classes in creative writing in college, specializing in ancient myths and legends. and later at a local community center while living in Chicago. In college she won the national contest to verbally list every country in the world, it's capital and ingenious language. Her works are mainly horror, fantasy, extreme, and sci-fi as well as, as some may says, "the truly strange predicament and puzzling." Books that I've written are "Clash with the Immortals, and eleven others which are part of the "Unholy Pursuit saga,". She has been working on the Chronicles since 2007. She wished to complete them all before introducing them to public so the readers wouldn't have to for the continuation to be written. The ideas of the book come from classic literature such as whose work greatly influence the world world such as Homer, Sophocles, Herodotus, Euripides, Socrates, Hippocrates, Aristophanes, Plato, Aristotle and many more. The "Book of Enoch" influenced the usage of Azazael as a main character and love interest. I created the primary main character from the Chronicle of Saints. I wanted to show them as real flesh and blood with thoughts, desires and yearning as any human. Not as they are so often depicted. So I created one of my own to show her as a real human that everyone can relate to.
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29 Responses to Lloyd’s of London to pay for ‘shameful’ Atlantic slave trade role

  1. Sheree says:

    About time too

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you for writing about it! I recently read a book about the beginning of slavery called “Saltwater slavery” by Smallwood. I found it very interesting and educative, for someone like me who did not know very much about the subject. I just put it out here, in case you’re interested in the subject.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Celeste says:

    For this very reason villages were raided, residents killed, captured and sold. The very reason lives of millions were insured on these death voyages. I am not convinced those involved didn’t know any better. Didn’t know this was wrong. What were the warring Africa thinking to sell your own people to strangers.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I hope it offer some consolation that they finally acknowledged it. But a bigger consolation is to pay the injured parties. Talk is cheap. One who truly means what they say will make serious attempts to righten the wrong.


  4. kevinashton says:

    There are still many wealthy “elite” families in the UK that either made their fortune or enhance their wealth from being involved in slavery.

    We should shaming them, rather than the institutions they worked for (that act like a shield).
    Many descendants of the slavers such as MP Richard Drax hold positions of power. 30,000 slaves dies at their family sugar plantations in the West Indies over a 200 year period.

    And for anyone reading this, that thinks this has has no bearing on how Mr Drax’s conducts himself today, I recommend they look up his voting record in the British Parliament. He voted against a bill to make it a legal requirement that all rented property be fit for human habitation. He also voted against free school dinners for children in poverty. I could say more but I hope these small examples are read many times.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for letting us know that. I’m sure other British blog members are familiar with who he is. You are right– the inhumane conditions and the way it was carried out affected the captured person and those who brought and sold them. Slavery affected how those who benefited from it sees others even unto this day. There’s lots of wealthy, titled people who do not see others as their equal. This was what they were taught from birth. Isn’t the word commoner still used in Britain? I guess that’s better than peasant or serf. 😦

      I looked up the place called Charborough House. It’s quite exclusive. I see he’s well connected from centuries ago. The sale of such a manor could make a lot of people comfortable. I see he’s connected to royalty. I believe the institutions are merely the start of paying the restitution.

      There are still many wealthy “elite” families in all the world that either made their fortune or enhance their wealth from being involved in slavery and this has been the real problem in getting the restitution paid. Going after these people’s individual wallets aren’t something most nations wants to do. The institutions are the source of their incomes.

      Family links to historical slavery

      During the 2010 United Kingdom general election campaign period, in which Drax was campaigning to be MP for South Dorset, the Daily Mirror reported that Drax’s family had earned their fortune through slavery. Drax’s response questioned his responsibility for “something that happened 300 or 400 years ago”, stating “it’s not what I stand for”, and cited the desperation of his opponents- “all they can do is pick at bits of my family history”. In 2013, the BBC reported that his ancestor John Erle-Drax, who had an estate in Barbados, was recorded in a database created by University College London as having received £4,293 12s 6d in compensation in 1836 for 189 slaves when slavery was abolished.

      A 2020 investigation by The Guardian found that Richard Drax still owns and grows sugar on the same Drax Hall plantation in Barbados that made the family’s fortune. Over 200 years, 30,000 slaves died at this and the other Drax plantations, according to Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Chair of CARICOM’s Reparations Commission. “The Drax family has done more harm and violence to the black people of Barbados than any other,” he said.

      Hold on, no one asked him what others did to the blacks of Barbados. Of course he doesn’t think hungry kids are a big deal if 30,000 people dying doesn’t bother him. But I gather, he was being asked what did his family intended to do about restitution, not what others did during slavery. [His answer clearly stated nothing. They intend to nothing. However, his answer was typical.]

      Liked by 2 people

  5. ShiraDest says:

    A start, at last. Now more companies like New York Life, and other insurers need to do more to repair the damage by making reparations and restitution.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Maybe they too will follow suit. There are countless others who financed these voyages like the Lehman brothers.

      Liked by 2 people

      • ShiraDest says:

        Wow, so many companies still in business after all of this time, having done such things that no one knows about (thanks to the state of CA for pushing awareness of the NY Life issue…)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, most companies that prospered from slavery are still in business today. It’s not hard to find out who they are. They merely altered their names over time. It would be hard pressed to find a company in American, Europe, and the British, French, Dutch, Spanish, and and Portuguese former and present colonies that doesn’t have its roots in slavery.

          Like for example, shortly after Emancipation many African nations sent money [gold] to help the newly freed people get a footing on a new life but the money wasn’t used to help them. It was argued that rebuilding the country would help them. But it didn’t. A lot of it was placed in the Freedman’s Bureau Bank but that was used to finance the country and rebuild the South after the war. Millions was loaned to white business men who never intended to repay the money. It even finance the railroads being built heading west.

          Many high rollers like Henry D. Cooke used the money deposited by ex-slaves to bankroll their personal wealth. He wasn’t the only one. It’s believed this is where the seed wealth of those like the Rockefellers, JPMorgan, Andrew Carnegie [ At least Andrew Carnegie did try and help the public and give money back to the poor], and many others who because extremely wealthy between 1865-1900 came from. The bank failed in 1872 but the loans had made many millionaires. They were getting their seed money from the Freedman’s Bureau Bank, the bank designed by Lincoln to aid the newly freed slaves..

          Had the money been given directly to the former slaves and not bureaucrats who spree it out like it was theirs, I believe there would have been a different life in the African American community today.

          Liked by 1 person

          • ShiraDest says:

            What?! I read that the Freedman’s Bank had been mismanged and lost money though incompetence before they hung it around Frederick Douglass’ neck, but I never heard of teh money being used outside of the Freedman’s Bureau! Wow! I just assumed that there had never been much money to begin with in the Bureau, and yes, had the funds been given directly to the freed slaves, things would be very different!

            Liked by 1 person

            • No, the Freedman’s Bureau at that time was perhaps the wealthiest agency of the government. It has 27 headquartered branches and hundreds of agents expanding all the way from Maryland to Florida to the West Coast. Frederick Douglas didn’t become president of the bank until the last few months in an attempt to save it. He invested and lost of money trying to save it.

              How it went under is that after the assassination of Lincoln, President Johnson removed the original president of the bank, named Howard, and instilled a southerner sympathizer as the head of the Freedman bureau. Henry D. Cooke was instilled and used the money deposited by ex-slaves to bankroll his and his friends personal wealth. At its wealthiest time the deposits stood at 35-55 million dollars and back in the 1800’s this was like trillions of dollars today.

              This is why General(s) Grant, Mead, and Sherman were threatening President Johnson. This is part of the reason Congress impeached him. Johnson and his cronies tried to overturn all that was gained by the Civil War and would have had not Congress stopped them.

              “I read that the Freedman’s Bank had been mismanaged and lost money though incompetence before they hung it around Frederick Douglass’ neck. ”

              This is what’s taught in school level history. A lot of times colleges go far deeper into something than high school.

              It was not mismanagement that closed that bank. It was Congress refusing to save it after loans were made to people who had no intentions of repaying them.

              When people tried to withdraw their money—they were unable to do so because the money didn’t exist.

              Had the money from Africa gone directly to the newly freed people—I truly believes things would be vastly different for African Americans today.

              Liked by 1 person

              • ShiraDest says:

                Aha, as in General O. Howard, of Howard University, which also nearly went under, if I recall correctly?

                Wow, and no classes were available (ok, I was an engineering major, so I didn’t get alot of choice, either, even at Morgan…) back when I went to college that addressed the issue at all, afaik, and this is something that all Americans need to know!
                Thank you for sharing this!

                Liked by 1 person

                • Yes, the same general. Yes, Howard University stumbled several times but it pulled through with the help of other historical black colleges ganging together and pulling the black Harvard through. It pulled though and gave the nation the first woman ever to sit in the Vice Presidential seat. These colleges have given the nation some of the most influential and successful African Americans such as Oprah Winfrey and many others.

                  The Freedman’s Bureau is what partial financed all the historical black colleges like Howard, [the seed money] the rest was done by former slaves backing the building of the schools by waging their labor against it.
                  You can find some of it in the writing of W. E. B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglas.
                  Well, things like this isn’t taught about the giants in the industries because then you would have to admit they didn’t become who they did by their own merit. Yes, it is something all Americans could know, but it’s not so new of a practice after all. These very practices are why certain people can get loans today and ordinary people can not.

                  Liked by 1 person

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