London’s Centuries-Old Insurance Market Investigates Its Slavery RoleBreaking News
tags: slavery, history of capitalism, insurance, financial industry, Lloyds of London
Lloyd’s of London has launched an internal investigation into its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade in part to determine whether it is on the hook to pay reparations.
The 332-year-old insurance market is responding to pressure from Black employees and racial-equality campaigners to open up about the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Lloyd’s Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown said he is talking to academic and cultural institutions that can help to investigate its archive.
“We insured cargo vessels and slaves that were the cargoes of those vessels going across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States,” Mr. Carnegie-Brown said. “It’s almost certain that we have a very high share of whatever insurance was bought. We don’t know today how much insurance was bought.”
Amid a global reckoning on race sparked by the May killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, pressure increased on Lloyd’s and other British companies to acknowledge their historic links to slavery and face the possibility of reparations.
Mr. Carnegie-Brown said Lloyd’s risk of reparations was unclear because the company is comparable to a stock market “that just convenes the buying and selling of insurance by other entities.” In the days of slavery, Lloyd’s didn’t underwrite insurance or have a central fund like today, he said. Lloyd’s was unsuccessfully sued by descendants of slaves in the U.S. more than a decade ago.
Describing reparations as a “loaded word,” Mr. Carnegie-Brown said there would be “legal issues to probe to try to get a better understanding about whether any kind of concept of Lloyd’s existed in a way that would command some kind of challenge around reparations.”
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