Abstract: Was London the Center of Finance for the Transatlantic Slave Trade?

Serika Nagasawa


  This paper reinterprets the financial sources for British slave sale transactions, in which payments gradually converged to bills of exchange by the mid-eighteenth century. Preceding studies have focused on the importance of London as a location that accepted those bills for slave sales, and it has been often said that those bills of exchange were drawn on London, especially on West India houses, which engaged in sugar commission business for the colonial planters in the British West Indies.

  However, there has been no research thus far that specifically examines the ratio of those slave bills that were drawn on Londoners, or simply on West India houses, although accumulated studies report some cases of West India houses accepting and paying those bills in London and Bristol. To clarify whether or not London was a major center for the acceptance of bills of slave sales, and whether or not West India houses were as well, including other regions in England and Scotland, this paper analyzes the bill books, which contain the records for the bills of exchange that a slave merchant known as William Davenport received, contained in the Davenport Papers.