Abstract: The Slave Trader and the Pirates: Risk Management in the Papers of Humphry Morice

Matthew David Mitchell


As the foremost British slave trader of the early period of open trade, circa 1697 to 1732, Humphrey Morice learned to master all the many risks of this uniquely risky branch of commerce.  Among these were pirates, particularly during the massive outbreak of piracy that convulsed the Atlantic economy from 1716 to 1726.  Morice understood that there simply were no cost-effective countermeasures that would allow his slave ships to resist pirates successfully.  He therefore expected the captains of his ships, if cornered by pirates, to surrender rather than resist.  While he possessed enough working capital to keep several ships on the ocean at a time and therefore to accept the loss of one every now and again, in the long run he focused his efforts on encouraging the British state to invest its resources in eradicating the pirates.