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Lloyd's seeks archivist to investigate slave trade links

·3 min read
Lloyd's of London building
Lloyd's of London building

Insurance market Lloyd's of London is seeking an archivist who would examine its artefacts for historical links to the slave trade.

It has posted an advert for an expert to investigate its collection of more than 3,000 items, including paintings, swords and furniture.

It is not yet clear what will happen to the objects following the research.

Last June, Lloyd's apologised for its "shameful" role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Lloyd's, which was founded in 1688, insured slave ships. It is often lauded as the world's leading insurance market, focusing on specialist areas, such as marine, energy and political risk.

Journals published by the insurance market in the 18th and 19th Centuries also often contained advertisements for slave ships.

The new recruit to the Lloyd's archives will carry out research "to ascertain what artefacts and objects link to African and Caribbean history (specifically slavery and abolition)", according to the job advert.

For example, they will look into the swords and pieces of silverware the Lloyd's Patriotic Fund gave out as prizes to those in the military who "went above the call of duty" and have since been returned to its collections.

A spokeswoman for Lloyd's of London said: "As society evolves, it is right and proper for us to take a look at those symbols and artefacts and make a decision as to whether or not what they stand for reflects where we are.

"Of course, it is important to fully understand history, but we must do so in a way that reflects changing sentiments and societal views as we more fully understand that history - the good, and the bad."

Dr Katie Donington, a senior lecturer in history at the London South Bank University said that the move by Lloyd's was "very welcome".

"The work of analysing the historical relationship between commercial organisations and the business of slavery must take place within the context of evidence-based research. That process begins with examining the archive as well as relevant material culture held by Lloyds," she said.

She added that transparency around the research is key, and hopes details on any linked records or artefacts will be made available to historians of slavery, community groups and the public "so they can understand the ways in which slavery and its legacies shaped both Lloyd's and the wider City of London during this period."

Protestor outside Lloyd's of London building.
Activists in September protested outside London financial institutions with historical links to the slave trade

After racial justice protests swept across the United States in 2020 following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody, pressure on firms to address links to slavery and tackle racial inequality has intensified.

In a statement in June 2020, Lloyd's said: "There are some aspects of our history that we are not proud of.

"In particular, we are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd's market in the 18th and 19th Century slave trade."

"This was an appalling and shameful period of English history, as well as our own, and we condemn the indefensible wrongdoing that occurred during this period."

At the time, the centuries-old insurance market also committed to providing financial support to charities and organisations promoting opportunity and inclusion for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups.

It was one of a number of firms identified in an investigation by the Telegraph newspaper to have historical links to the slave trade.

Pub chain Greene King, for example, apologised after it was found that one of its founders owned a number of plantations in the Caribbean.

The company said it would make a "substantial investment to benefit the BAME community", after consulting with its staff on how this money can best be used.