All funding from this project comes from the Mellon Foundation and Johns Hopkins University. The collaboration between a research institution and Lloyd’s may invite skepticism regarding the accurate portrayal of Lloyd’s relationship to slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade given any potential reputational ramifications. For there to be zero financial conflict, Black Beyond Data has not sought (nor will it) accept any funding from Lloyd’s. While Lloyd’s has provided access to their archives and the work on some of the final materials was be produced in collaboration between Lloyd’s, Victoria Lane, Alexandre White, and Black Beyond Data, no financial relationship for the research or production of materials was (or will be) provided from Lloyd’s.
What kind of relationship does Underwriting Souls have with Lloyd's?
How long was the collaboration between Underwriting Souls and Lloyd's?
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 transatlantic 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 Ms. Lane and Alexandre White, it was suggested that 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, Johns Hopkins University and Lloyd’s entered into a collaboration agreement that protected academic freedom and integrity as central to this project. As part of this agreement, Lloyd’s 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 both Johns Hopkins and Lloyd’s have agreed and are committed to this principle.
How involved was Lloyd's in slavery and the slave trade?
The risk book of Horatio Clagett shows that he underwrote approximately 60 different slaving voyages, which roughly account for 33 percent of all known slaving voyages leaving Britain in 1807 (See Memo). This can lead us to conclude that at least one-third of all slaving voyages leaving Britain in 1807 came before underwriters at the Lloyd’s market for particular legs or entire voyages.
Be that as it may, there are still methodological challenges inherent to the scale, scope, and quantification of records around slavery. Much of the recorded data is so incomplete that researchers could not possibly generate any new claims or insights. At times, there also seems to be a belief that quantitative projections alone can resolve the violence that occurred and the legacies we live and experience thereafter. They cannot. As Jennifer Morgan says, arguments about the demographic scale and scope of slavery appear to be rooted in a “perverse arithmetic” omitted from the categories of subject and citizen. It is crucial that we recognize the important efforts of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database and other researchers who have worked tirelessly to locate data, not only quantitatively significant but qualitatively complicated. The difficulties around compiling data in suggest that these records were likely never meant for researchers. In the hands of scholars, we must always remain attentive to the structural forces that made the very notion of humans-as-commodities possible.
Shouldn't there be more in the Lloyd's archive?
As summarized by Robin Pearson and David Richardson, “Very few individual policies insuring British slaving voyages have survived. Consequently, any analysis is dependent on other sources, notably merchants’ records of the insurance they purchased, or more rarely, brokers’ underwriting books.”
Currently, there are likely fewer than 10 risk books known to archives that have records on the insuring of slaving voyages and there are even fewer records of insurance agreements themselves. With this in mind, the materials in Lloyd’s archive constitute a rather significant contribution to the existing research on slavery.
Eighteenth-century archives are often fragmented. Before the last century, the Lloyd’s market did not have a conventional corporate form because it was a society of underwriters and brokers. What they had in the way of archives they purchased later. For this reason, Lloyd’s did not maintain their own archive like other companies may have in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Furthermore, all of the papers and materials on market activity were held with individual syndicates. We are still working on collecting these materials from elsewhere.
If one were to look at the existing materials from Lloyd’s in the archives at the Guildhall, namely the minute books of the committee members of Lloyd’s, you would not find an explicit reference to slavery. Rather, these documents tend to outline the day-to-day practices and operations of the market. Similarly, while the Lloyds list, a critical and crucial tool in maritime intelligence, wrote often of slaving voyages and particularly insurrections by enslaved people aboard ships, it does not mention whether those ships were, in fact, insured through the market. At the same time, as Lloyd’s has always been a market and not an insurance company as some falsely assume, its records are not those of all the business dealings done within it. The operations of the market as the space in which underwriting and brokering was done is fundamentally different than the accounts of the business conducted within it. We can surmise that many of the critical sources that would provide us a more complete understanding of the insurance practices relating to slavery in the 18th and 19th century were kept with the individual underwriters, their partnerships, and the brokers of agreements. We are thus left with materials gifted to Lloyd’s and the market’s holdings but nevertheless, the materials that are within Lloyd’s collection pertaining to slavery and the transatlantic slave trade are still quite significant.
The fractured nature of the archive means that a systematic accounting of all business operations of Lloyd’s through the 17th to early 19th century that encompasses all the periods in which Lloyd’s was in operation during the slave trade would be impossible. The materials available to the researchers were not sufficient to build such a study, nor was it our primary intention from the outset. Given the subject matter and the deeply violent nature of these documents and objects, we remained conscious of the need to refuse methods and analyses that reproduce the logics of enslavement, means that dehumanized and quantified people into chattel-property to be commoditized, traded, and parsed as units of capital and labor.
Was Lloyd's involved in the Zong massacre?
The Zong Massacre occurred in November of 1791 when over 130 enslaved Africans were thrown overboard as it was claimed that the ship was running low on drinking water after stalling in becalmed seas away from port. The owners of the ship attempted to claim insurance for the murdered Africans as a loss of property. The insurers refused to pay and it resulted in a legal battle that would contribute to the abolition of the British slave trade. The Lloyd’s market was not involved in insuring this particular case to our knowledge but the owner of the ship George Case, appears as an owner on several agreements to which Horatio Clagett was party as an underwriter in 1807.