‘The Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved African People and the Emergence of New Relationships between State and Commerce in Restoration in England’
Professor William Pettigrew
RHS Sponsored Lecture on 11 September 2023
Held at Canterbury Christ Church University
Listen to the recording of this lecture
This lecture assesses the role of an often-forgotten founder of England’s contribution to the transatlantic trade in enslaved African people, the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa. It defines the company, considers its significance for the history of the slave trade, and reflects on what the company can teach us about the role of the slave trade in British history.
Proceeding from a full prosopographical survey of the founders and investors in the company, this lecture will examine the role of the English monarchy in establishing the slave trade, as well as how the changing membership of the company records a shifting relationship between landed and commercial wealth that had important repercussions not just for the slave trade but for economic growth in this period.
The lecture also examines the interconnections between the investors in the Company of Royal Adventurers and the Royal Navy. The lecture will offer a deep and full appreciation of the role of monarchy, court, merchants, and state in laying the foundations for Britain’s contribution to the transatlantic trade in enslaved African people.
Professor Pettigrew’s lecture was given as part of the Society’s Visit to historians at Canterbury Christ Church University and the University of Kent. Our thanks to those at both departments for hosting this day visit and lecture.
About the speaker
Professor William Pettigrew teaches at Lancaster University. An expert on early modern English trading corporations, he has written two monographs, Freedom’s Debt: The Royal African Company and the Politics of the Atlantic Slave Trade (2013) and Global Trade and the Shaping of English Freedom (2023) and edited three more. He has led multiple large scale research projects and is currently the editor of the Register of British Slave Traders a collaborative project examining all of the (c. 12,000) investors in the transatlantic trade in enslaved African people who were based in Britain.