The British government and royal family must take responsibility for their involvement in the horrendous transatlantic slave trade and its legacy of oppression and exploitation. This is the call from David Comissiong, Barbados’ ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), following the Church of England’s admission of its past atrocities.
The birthplace of the British slave society, the colonization of Barbados between 1636–1876 was among the most ruthless in history. The island was subjected to a particularly oppressive form of colonialism, with the British exploiting its resources and people for their own gain.
The Caribbean nation has long been pushing for reparatory justice. Mr Comissiong, also the deputy chairperson of the country’s National Task Force on Reparations, has praised the Church of England’s “groundbreaking” developments in disclosing its involvement in the mass enslavement of African people.
In the 18th century, the Church of England invested significantly in the South Sea Company. The firm, founded in 1711, was granted a monopoly on Britain’s trade of enslaved people to the Spanish Americas. This investment by the Church of England was part of a larger trend of investment in the company. The British government, the Bank of England, and scientific pioneers such as Sir Isaac Newton invested in the South Sea Company. Additionally, members of the ruling class of European nationalities, including the British Royal Family and King Philip V of Spain, invested in the company.
Mr Comissiong said, “The eyes of all right-thinking people, all over the world, will now be on the British government, the British royal family, the Bank of England and other institutions of the British establishment, and the governments of Spain and other relevant European countries.
“How will each of them respond to the moral imperative that now confronts them? The world will be watching.”
The South Sea Company operated for a period of 30 years and is estimated to have transported a total of 34,000 enslaved African people in the most appalling conditions. They were subjected to extreme overcrowding, unsanitary environments, unsafe conditions, and inhumane treatment.
▪ Text: This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 17-Jan-2023.
▪ Cover: Adobe Stock/rodjulian.