Lifting of the Royal African Company monopoly

The monopoly of the Royal African Company was lifted on a short term basis of 13 years by Act of Parliament in 1698. The period of free trade was not intended to be a permanent solution to issues. The Company had suffered due to the Glorious Revolution and policing the monopoly had proven difficult. 

A share in the Royal African Company

End of the monopoly held by the Royal Africa Company

Lifting of the Royal African Company monopoly came about for a number of reasons. As a Royal Company the RAC struggled as the Glorious Revolution took place. It had effectively been left leaderless. The company had been facing a number of merchants breaching the monopoly. It could be argued that free trade was a more logical and profitable method of maintaining a viable trade. The compromise of a spell of 13 years of free trade marked the beginning of the end for the Royal African Company. Other Slavers participated and they held enough sway to ensure that once the 1698 Act allowing a temporary free trade came to an end, the monopoly would not be allowed to be reimposed: it had proven very hard to police in any case.

The company’s monopoly power decreased in three stages. First, in 1688, James II’s flight deprived the company of its governor and its best means of enforcing its monopoly. Second, in 1698, after public deliberations throughout the 169Os, Parliament passed the Africa Trade Act, which opened the slave trade to all English citizens for a period of thirteen years on payment of a Io percent duty on imports and exports. Independent slave traders became known as separate traders. Third, these separate
traders prevented the company from gaining parliamentary recognition for its monopoly, and the 1698 act expired in 1712, opening up the slave trade to all. In 1686, during James II’s reign, when the Royal African Company’s monopoly came closest to being enforceable, English slavers embarked on thirty-seven voyages. By 1730 the open trade in slaves allowed slavers to conduct 120 voyages. During this period the company’s market share fell from 86 percent to I percent.

William A. Pettigrew, Free to Enslave: Politics and the Escalation of Britain’s
Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1688-1714

Gold Dust and Ivory

The Royal African Company spent its latter years concentrating on a trade in gold dust and ivory. With no monopoly on Slave Trading, it had been overtaken by other merchants. Triangular trade boomed. By 1700 over 20000 Slaves were being transported by British ships each year, far more than the Royal African Company had transported. Britain was established as the main slave trading nation.

Further Reading on the British Empire

Making of the United Kingdom

Making of the United Kingdom unit homepage – Glorious Revolution – The British in Ireland, 1688-1691 – Settlement of Ireland – Jacobite Opposition – Glencoe Massacre – Darien Scheme – Act of Union – Migration to the Americas

Economic Consequences of Empire

Economic Consequences of Empire – Unit homepage – Royal African Company – Triangular Trade – Lifting of the RAC monopoly – Plantations – The Slave Economy – Opposition to the Slave Trade in North America – Slave Resistance – East India Company – Expansion of trade in East India – Bank of England – South Sea Bubble Bursts

How did the Empire affect working lives and consumer habits in Britain?

Empire and consumerism – Involvement of the British population in the slave trade and the ‘slave ports’ – Emergence of consumerism

How did the Empire affect British politics and changing ideas?

Politics and changing ideas – Coffee houses and developing political activism – growth of ideas of a racial hierarchy and the impact on settled minority communities

Common questions about the British Empire

Questions about the British Empire – When did the British Empire start? – When did the British Empire end? – What countries were in the British Empire? – Why did Britain want an empire? – What was life like in the British Empire? – Was the British Empire a force for good or bad? – What is Is perfidious Albion? – How was the British Empire controlled?

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