Stock share certificate for the Royal African Company

About the Project

The Royal African Company (RAC) shipped more enslaved African men, women, and children to the Americas than any other single institution during the entire period of the transatlantic slave trade. Between 1673 and 1688, the years when the RAC had a monopoly on English slave trading in Africa, the RAC transported an estimated 90,000 to 100,000 enslaved persons on an average of twenty-three voyages a year. Many of the enslaved were branded with the letters ‘DY’ for the Duke of York, Governor of the Company, who succeeded his brother on the throne to become King James II in 1685. Other enslaved persons were branded with the Company’s initials, RAC, on their chests.

The loss of the Royal African Company's slave trade monopoly, increased competition, the overthrow of King James II, and issues of mismanagement of the company, likely led Champion Ashby the owner of this share certificate to transfer his shares to Thomas Louws in 1691. The company continued to trade in enslaved persons and gold from Africa until it was dissolved with Parliament's creation of the Company of Merchants Trading to Africa in 1750. Help us transcribe this stock share and learn about the history of slavery in the United Kingdom.

Read more: The Royal African Company was initially led by James, Duke of York (King Charles II’s brother), with the purpose of exploiting the gold fields up the Gambia River in Africa. The company was officially chartered by the English government and Charles II in 1660 under the name Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa. The charter document for the Company granted it a monopoly on the English trade with West Africa. In 1672, the original Company re-emerged, restructured, and reorganized with a new charter from the King, as the Royal African Company. The new charter gave the company the right to set up forts and factories, maintain troops, and exercise martial law in West Africa in pursuit of gold, silver, and slaves. Between 1672 and 1689 profits from the slave trade were a major contribution to the increased financial power of those in control of the city of London. Throughout the 1680s, RAC transported an average of 5,000 enslaved people per year across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the Americas. In 1698, the Company acknowledged that it had lost its monopoly on the trade with the end of royal power in the Glorious Revolution. The Company continued transporting and purchasing the enslaved until 1731, when it abandoned slave trading in favor or ivory and gold dust. Charles Hayes remained the sub-governor of the Company until 1752, when it dissolved. It was succeeded by the African Company of Merchants.

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Difficulty

(3 out of 5)
(details)

Level 1 --- BEGINNER

Content: all typed
Language: English
Format: letters, diaries, flyers, pamphlets, and one-page documents
Subject Area Expertise/Special Skills: none required

Level 2

Content: mostly typed, handwritten in print, or otherwise very clearly written/readable
Language: English
Format: memorabilia, advertisements, image captions, telegrams, diaries, letters, notes
Subject Area Expertise/Special Skills: none required

Level 3 --- INTERMEDIATE

Content: typed and handwritten materials in cursive or print
Language: English
Format: newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, letters/diaries/notes that may include annotations or margin notes
Subject Area Expertise/Special Skills: experience reading cursive writing may be useful

Level 4

Content: handwritten materials, primarily in cursive or somewhat difficult to read (predominantly from the 19th and 20th centuries) , audio recordings that are relatively easy to hear/decipher, and scientific materials
Language: English and/or other languages that use Roman script but may require the use of diacritics (French, Spanish, German, Italian, etc.)
Format: audio recordings, letters, diaries, notes and other written materials, projects with templated fields and special instructions
Subject Area Expertise/Special Skills: some knowledge of non-English Roman-character/script languages and diacritics may be useful, as well as experience reading cursive handwriting. A general knowledge or familiarity with scientific terminology.

Level 5 --- ADVANCED

Content: handwritten materials in cursive (from the 19th century or earlier) or in a non-Roman script language, audio recordings that are difficult to hear or are not in English, specialty materials/projects such as numismatics projects and the Project Phaedra notebooks 
Language: foreign languages that use non-Roman characters (Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Greek/Cyrillic, Native American and Indigenous languages, etc.) and English 
Format: audio recordings, columned data/tables, manuscripts, letters, diaries, notes, currency sheets, coins
Subject Area Expertise/Special Skills: knowledge of a specific language and access to a keyboard with the characters in that language may be required for certain projects. Experience reading cursive handwriting and familiarity with 19th century (or prior) handwriting and conventions/abbreviations may be useful, as well as knowledge of scientific terminology, astrophysics data, or linguistics.

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