Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023

Bank of England owned 599 slaves in 1770s, new exhibition reveals

Bank of England owned 599 slaves in 1770s, new exhibition reveals

Research commissioned by Bank in the wake of Black Lives Matter uncovers grim history of colonial Grenada
In the late 18th century Britain’s Caribbean island colony of Grenada was a place of boom and bust. A hurricane, a plague of ants, and Britain’s wars against France and American revolutionaries made for volatile trade in its main commodities – sugar, coffee, and slaves.

Amid the turmoil, property changed hands regularly among Britain’s financial elite, but in the early 1770s the ownership of two plantations and 599 people passed to an unusual new owner: the Bank of England.

The Bank has already apologised for its role in the slave trade, but revelations of the institution’s direct ownership of the people have been uncovered in new research commissioned in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

The research has been presented in a new exhibition that opened this week at the Bank’s museum in its headquarters on London’s Threadneedle Street. The names of the 599 slaves, acquired by the Bank in the 1770s, take a central position in the free exhibition.

During the protests the Bank apologised for the 25 governors and directors who had owned slaves. It removed eight paintings and two busts of the slave owners from public display, although the exhibition includes some reproductions.

It has been part of a reassessment of historical links to slavery and imperialism by institutions ranging from many of the UK’s big high street banks – Barclays, HSBC, NatWest Group and Lloyds Banking Group – to the insurance market Lloyd’s of London and the brewer Greene King, as well as the National Trust and English Heritage, the custodians of British country houses that were in many cases built using colonial or slave wealth.

Despite the key role that slavery played in the British imperial economy, that reassessment has become a sensitive subject. The National Trust in particular has faced a barrage of criticism from parts of the Conservative party and campaigners who complained that acknowledging links to slavery and colonialism would “give country house visits a political and racial dimension”.

The Bank of England was itself criticised this month for supposedly “woke” policies after it changed the flag depicted on its logo from the English flag of St George to the Union flag, to better reflect the central bank’s role serving the whole of the United Kingdom.

A Bank of England spokesperson said: “In 2021, the Bank of England commissioned a researcher to explore its historic links to transatlantic slavery, working with the Bank of England museum and archive.

“This research found that in the 1770s the Bank made loans to a merchant company called Alexander & Sons. When the business defaulted on those loans, the Bank came into possession of two plantations in Grenada which had been pledged as security for the loans. Our research has found that 599 enslaved African people lived and worked on those plantations. The Bank subsequently sold on the plantations.”

The research was led by Michael Bennett, a specialist in the history of early modern Britain and Caribbean slavery, and followed work by a small group of volunteers from across the Bank, including members of its ethnic minorities network.

Michael Taylor, a historian whose 2020 book The Interest showed how the British establishment resisted abolition, said it would be difficult to find any UK financial institution of a comparable age that was not involved in some way with the slave trade.

“For the century before the abolition of the slave trade in 1807-8, Britain was the world’s leading slave power,” he said. “Moreover, slave-grown sugar, coffee, and cotton were among the most valuable commodities in global markets. Together, these factors meant that the slave economy was absolutely vital to Britain’s wider prosperity.

“Owning and running slave plantations was a capital-intensive enterprise: planters needed to buy slaves, import machinery and build boiling houses, all of which took massive up-front investment and extensions of credit. Plantations were then mortgaged and remortgaged, and in these ways British banking was connected intimately to slavery.”

Accounts for the plantations show spending on hospitalisations of slaves, the recapture of runaways and “cage fees”, as well as payments to the Bank of England.

The plantations, called Bacolet and Chemin, were eventually sold in 1790 to an MP, James Baillie, for the equivalent of £15m in today’s money. The plantations were held under nine of Andrew Bailey’s predecessors as the Bank’s current governor.

A 1788 inventory of Bacolet, reproduced in the exhibition, shows property under several headings: “land”, “slaves”, “buildings” and “stock”. Most of the men, women and children listed have European names such as Pierre, Alexandre, Catherine and Marie, with no information on which country they were taken from.

Beside each name is a sterling price for how much the person was worth to her or his owners, ranging from £330 for Pierre, a “field man” labelled as a “driver”, to £30 for Michell, who is described in a bracketed note as “sickley”.

Related Articles

Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Italian Court's Controversial Ruling on Sexual Harassment Ignites Uproar
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
BBC Personalities Rebuke Accusations Amidst Scandal Involving Teen Exploitation
A Swift Disappointment: Why Is Taylor Swift Bypassing Canada on Her Global Tour?
Historic Moment: Edgars Rinkevics, EU's First Openly Gay Head of State, Takes Office as Latvia's President
Bye bye democracy, human rights, freedom: French Cops Can Now Secretly Activate Phone Cameras, Microphones And GPS To Spy On Citizens
The Poor Man With Money, Mark Zuckerberg, Unveils Twitter Replica with Heavy-Handed Censorship: A New Low in Innovation?
Unilever Plummets in a $2.5 Billion Free Fall, to begin with: A Reckoning for Misuse of Corporate Power Against National Interest
Beyond the Blame Game: The Need for Nuanced Perspectives on America's Complex Reality
Twitter Targets Meta: A Tangle of Trade Secrets and Copycat Culture
The Double-Edged Sword of AI: AI is linked to layoffs in industry that created it
US Sanctions on China's Chip Industry Backfire, Prompting Self-Inflicted Blowback
Meta Copy Twitter with New App, Threads
The New French Revolution
BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Application Refiled, Naming Coinbase as ‘Surveillance-Sharing’ Partner