Abstract: The Changing Use and Importance of Slave-Ship Captains in the Royal African Company

Anne Ruderman


            This paper analyzes how the end of the Royal African Company's monopoly in the late seventeenth century prompted the company to use slave-ship captains in new ways. During the period of the company's monopoly over Britain's African trade (1672-1698), the Royal African Company simply hired slave-ship captains from other merchants for individual voyages to Africa, subjecting captains to the authority of factors at the company's forts on the African coast. However, with the 1698 institution of the Ten Percent Act, which allowed private merchants to enter the slave trade, the Royal African Company suddenly faced new competition for slaves in the African Atlantic. In response to this influx of new traders, the company began to use slave-ship captains for more complex tasks, such as checking up on fort factors to prevent cheating and gathering intelligence about goods in demand on the African coast. As the company began to call upon captains to use their own initiative, it entered into a more dynamic form of trade.