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Insuring the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Pearson, Robin; Richardson, David


David Richardson


Copyright © 2019 The Economic History Association. One important, but overlooked, risk mitigation device that facilitated the growth of the slave trade in the eighteenth century was the increasing availability of insurance for ships and their human cargoes. In this article we explore, for the first time, the relative cost of insurance for British slave traders, the underlying processes by which this key aspect of the business of slavery was conducted, and the factors behind price and other changes over time. Comparisons are also drawn with the transatlantic slave trades of other nations. As well as analyzing the business of underwriting slave voyages, we have two other objectives. First, we explore the meaning of slave insurance from the perspective of those directly involved in the trade. Was it about insuring lives or goods? Second, we provide new estimates of the importance of the slave trade to U.K. marine insurance. Did the former drive the growth of the latter, as Joseph Inikori has claimed?


Pearson, R., & Richardson, D. (2019). Insuring the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Journal of Economic History, 79(2), 417-446.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Nov 12, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 26, 2019
Publication Date 2019-06
Deposit Date Jan 31, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jan 31, 2019
Journal Journal of Economic History
Print ISSN 0022-0507
Electronic ISSN 1471-6372
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 79
Issue 2
Pages 417-446
Public URL
Publisher URL


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