In June of 2020, the Lloyd’s Insurance Market formally apologized for its role in the transatlantic slave trade. In 2021, Lloyd’s hired Victoria Lane, an archivist, to explore the Lloyd’s archives and its artifacts to better understand their links to the trans-Atlantic slave trade with the aim of addressing past harms. While the materials in the collection were in the process of being fully evaluated, after discussion between Lane and Alexandre White, it was suggested that the Mellon funded project, Black Beyond Data based at Johns Hopkins University write a preliminary proposal for an educational digital humanities platform to present the artifacts related to slavery within the proper context of their production. In March of 2022 Lloyd’s and Johns Hopkins University entered into a collaboration agreement that protected academic freedom and integrity as central to this project. With funds from the Mellon Foundation, we have digitized the materials within the Lloyd’s Collection pertaining to the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as well as produced a database of the key actors linked to the slave trade through these materials. As part of this agreement Lloyd’s of London bears no editorial right over the final language, form, or presentation of the digital products produced. As a university, Johns Hopkins has a legal responsibility to maintain academic freedom and integrity, and Johns Hopkins and Lloyd’s have agreed and are committed to this principle.
This memorandum details the ethical approaches and historical methods we employed to assess the materials within the Lloyd’s archives to understand their connections to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. These activities were necessary to produce the exhibits, the research structures necessary for them, and the digital storage and display of these objects.
While materials in the digitized collection stretch across the 18th and 19th century, they primarily provide key insight into the financial dynamics of the last two decades of the legal slave trade in the British Empire, from the 1790’s to the 1807. In conducting the necessary background research to adequately present these materials through a digital archive and online exhibits, we have concluded that the subscribers to Lloyd’s including members of the governing body of the market, the Lloyd’s Committee had significant connections to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and the economies produced from the trafficking and enslaving of people in the 18th and 19th century. In order to build out the exhibits, the metadata, and the database for underwritingsouls.org, we reconstructed networks of business relations, underwriting practices, and familial networks that operated within and through Lloyd’s, the City of London, and beyond. Far from solely operating as underwriters, we are able to show that numerous members of Lloyd’s maintained business ties with the largest slave ship owners in Liverpool, actively protested and appealed the abolition of the slave trade and slavery in the British Empire, maintained, owned, and operated plantations and African slaving ports, and heavily invested in the first London dock companies that would be responsible for expanding the trade in goods produced from the labor and lives of enslaved people and those across the empire more broadly.