Lloyd’s of London and insurance firm RSA have apologised for their role in the slave trade after it was revealed that they benefitted from compensation payments after giving up slave plantations.

The revelation comes from the University College London’s Legacies of British Slave-ownership database which shows that nine companies in Britain were linked to the slave trade.

What was Lloyd’s of London’s involvement in the slave trade?

The connection to slavery was through Simon Fraser, one of its founding subscribers. Fraser owned at least 162 enslaved people and ran the Castle Bruce estate in Dominica. Fraser’s heirs were compensated the equivalent of nearly £400,000 in todays money.

Lloyd’s of London also insured slave ships. The insurance market are the world’s leading insurance market, focusing on specialist areas including marine insurance. The market thrived on the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

What have Lloyd’s of London said?

Lloyd’s of London said in a statement;

‘There are some aspects of our history that we are not proud of. In particular, we are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd’s of London market in the 18th and 19th-Century slave trade. This was an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own, and we condemn the indefensible wrongdoing that occurred during this period.’

They have also said that they would provide financial support to charities and organisations promoting opportunity and inclusion for BAME groups. They have also launched a number of new initiatives aimed at developing BAME talent within their organisation.

How are RSA linked to the slave trade?

The origins of RSA date back to the 17th and 18th Century when it was Sun Insurance. The insurance company had agencies in virtually every British colony or dominion by 1882.

As with Lloyd’s of London, insuring slave-ships was a matter of course for those working between Britain, West Africa and the Americas, which Sun Insurance was at the time. This was the case until the acts of 1806 and 1811 prohibiting the insurance of slave ships and their cargoes.

What have RSA said?

A spokesperson for RSA told Insurance Age;

‘RSA’s origins in insurance date back well over 300 years, with many parts of our business founded int eh 17th and 18th centuries. While this has brought positive things that have shaped us, there are aspects of that history that don’t reflect the values we hold today’.

They have also said that they are working on several initiatives including donating charities to address racism and improve awareness of black history.

What is the UCL database?

The Legacies of British Slave-ownership is an academic database. It documents how several important early figures had enslaved hundreds of people. These figures were then compensated for their loss after slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1833. The database includes nearly 50,000 individuals who are classified as beneficiaries of the slave trade to some extent. Nearly 100 clergymen of the Church of England were also named.

Which other companies were named?

Lloyd’s and RSA were not the only firms to be named in the database. Other firms include HSBC, RBS, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group. The pub chain Greene King have also been named.

Greene King was originally founded in 1799 by Benjamin Greene, who owned plantations. When slavery was abolished they were one of the companies that received huge amounts in compensation. The Chief Executive Officer of Greene King has said in a statement;

‘It is inexcusable that one our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s. While that is part of our history, we are now focused on the present and the future’.

The company have announced that they will make ‘a substantial investment to benefit the BAME community and support our race diversity in the business.’.

Even more notably, the Bank of England also featured. The database found that 25 previous governors and directors benefitted from slavery. However, it is not thought that the Bank itself had direct links to the slave trade.

RBS first acknowledged their links to the slave trade more than a decade ago. Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays have also said that they were committed to doing more for the black and ethnic minority employees and communities in the future. HSBC have yet to comment.

 

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