Reuters File Photo: A man walks past the Bank of England in the London financial district of London, June 11, 2021. Reuters / Henry Nichols / File photo
By Caroline Cohen and Who Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – British ships across the Atlantic Ocean have carried more than 100 million enslaved Africans. Lloyds of London insured many of those ships, the ones chained under the deck were sometimes classified by market underwriters as “perishable goods” as well as cattle.
Lloyd’s involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade is not included in the permanent exhibition of the market at his modern City Tower but it is about to change.
“The legacy of slavery is racism. You can’t do what you have to do to work in slavery unless you make enslaved people less than human beings,” said Nick Dropper, a former JP Morgan (NYSE) banker who was the founding director of University College. Center for the Study of the Legacy of British Slavery (LBS) in London
“We did it on the basis of race, ethnicity and skin color. It’s bound to British and European culture – that’s what we’re doing now.”
Along with other financial institutions in London, the insurance market has been forced to face its racist past since last year’s Black Lives Matter protests.
Lloyds and the Bank of England have each hired a historian to investigate their role in the slave trade and plan to release results next year.
The exhibitions will shed light on the fate created from a barbaric system and have played the role of some of the city’s most respected grandchildren in maintaining it, including people like John Julius Angerstein, known as the ‘Father of Lloyd’.
Titan was chairman of the 18th century art market when a large part of his business was based on the slave trade, and Lloyds says there is evidence that he was a trustee in the Caribbean who was entitled to slavery.
His portrait hangs at the market’s head office.
Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown wants Lloyd to be aware of his past but he does not want the paintings to be removed.
“I would rather tell the story than dismiss them,” he told Reuters.
The African-Caribbean Insurance Network (ACIN), established to increase black and minority ethnic representation in the London insurance market, disagrees. It said companies should “review organizational patterns and remove anything with racist notions”, according to recommendations submitted to the London market last year.
Junior Garba, co-founder of SIIN, a Lloyd’s underwriter, said it’s good to have art in a museum.
“We can’t ignore history. We can explain it, we can educate it.”
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The roots of the slave trade are deep and widespread in London’s famous institutions.
Angerstein’s art collection, including the works of Rubens, Raphael and Rembrandt, formed the nucleus of the National Gallery in London when it was founded.
The gallery does not mention Angerstein’s links to the slave trade on its website. It says it is the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor, an organization of vested interests.
In an email to Reuters, the National Gallery said it was working with LBS to clarify the relationship between slave-ownership, industrial procurement and the public interest in Britain and would release preliminary results later this year. Angerstein will be included in that study.
According to Draper’s research, Angerstein “benefited from the slavery in the marine insurance business on which he based his career and fortune”. There is no evidence that he was a slave trader.
The decision on what to do with Angerstein’s portrait and other prominent Lloyd’s names will be made after a review of Victoria Lane, who was previously an archivist for Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.
Lane, who began work on Lloyd last month, has been trolling through art, swords, silverware and market documents. Lloyds refused to make him available for interview.
A spokesman said the Bank of England had earlier this year removed 10 portraits and statues of former governors and directors linked to the slave trade and planned to explain their role in an exhibition at the museum next year.
The statues of two politicians involved in the slave trade are set to remain in the Guildhall, the official center of the city of London, following a previous decision to remove them.
Municipal authorities in the financial district will discuss a report this week that would twice recommend retaining the monuments of Lord Mayor William Beckford and merchant John Kass, both of whom were destined to be enslaved, with “explanatory plaques or notices” next to them.
More than 2,000 responses to the two proposals showed “low demand” for statue removal, the report said.
The Chinese colonies of Europe in the West Indies were built on slave labor from Africa during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the city of London was the financial center of the Trans-Atlantic trade between the people.
Or historians estimate that between one and two-thirds of the British maritime insurance market was based on the slave trade in the 18th century, in particular, ships returning to Europe to insure production from seedbeds.
Lloyd was one of the three leading British marine insurers of the 18th century. The other two, Royal Exchange and London Assurance, were later folded into insurers AXA and RSA.
AXA apologized for being involved in the slave business and said it was working to make its workplace more inclusive.
The RSA said there were aspects of its history that “do not reflect the values we hold today”, adding that the agency was committed to dealing with injustice.
The legacy of the slavery industry continues, experts say.
According to a discussion paper published by UK regulators in July, less than 1 in 10 management roles in financial services are conducted by blacks, Asians or other ethnic minorities.
The Bank of England has set a target of 1-20-20% senior managers for black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in February 20228, up from .2.2% in November 2020.
The lack of progress in diversifying the city is putting pressure on the Financial Conduct Authority and it said in July that senior manager salaries could be linked to improved recruitment.
ACIN recommends that insurance companies set targets for ethnic minority representation at the senior level.
Only 2% of the nearly 50,000 strong Lloyds in London’s insurance market are black. It has “ambitions” for one-third of new recruits from ethnic minorities.
“The legacy is part of the response,” said Oliver Kent-Braham, co-founder of digital insurance firm Marshmallow.
“The most important thing is that companies make sure they have a really neutral interview process that isn’t too heavy at the junior level … making sure companies are hiring everywhere.”
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