Michael Bennett

English Merchants, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and African Slavery in Early Barbados, 1640-1672

5:30pm - 7:30pm / Tuesday 15th March 2022
Type: Lecture / Category: Research / Series: Centre for the Study of International Slavery
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The Caribbean island of Barbados occupies a significant place in the historiography of the British Empire. This is because in the 1640s Barbados was the first place in the English-speaking world that African slavery became a large-scale institution, and consequently the social and economic institutions and slave codes that emerged there had a widespread influence far beyond the island’s shores. It is therefore surprising that historians know very little about English involvement in the trafficking of captive Africans to Barbados in the crucial period of the 1640s and 1650s,when both sugar production and the enslaved population were rapidly expanding. This paper will present new evidence relating to English slave trading in the middle decades of the seventeenth century, demonstrating that the early English slave trade was of larger proportions than is currently suggested by the quantitative data contained within the Transatlantic Slave Trade database. It will also argue that the networks developed by these private slave traders in the 1640s and 1650s would later be of vital importance to the commercial operations of the Royal Adventurers in the 1660s, the new monopoly company formed to govern English trade with West Africa.

About our speaker
Michael Bennett is a Postdoctoral Researcher at The University of Manchester, working on the AHRC-funded project 'Legacies of the British Slave Trade'. He was formerly an honorary research fellow at the University of Sheffield and a researcher at the Bank of England. He obtained his PhD in History from the University of Sheffield in 2020. His thesis provided the first systematic study of the English merchants who financed the development of sugar plantations and African slavery on the Caribbean island of Barbados in the mid-seventeenth century. Since graduating, he has held a Society for Renaissance Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship, and is currently working with the Bank of England on a new research project exploring their links to Atlantic slavery in the long eighteenth century. He has recently published a new book chapter titled 'Slaves, Weavers, and the Peopling of East India Company Colonies,1660-1730' in Richard Allen's volume on slavery and bonded labour in Asia.

Light refreshments served from 5.30pm