SESSION 01. Risk, risk management, and insurance in the slave trade business: Connecting Atlantic experiences

1. Risk, risk management, and insurance in the slave trade business: Connecting Atlantic experiences.

Jesús Bohorquez (Instituto de Ciências Sociais – Universidade Lisboa). jesus.bohorquez@eui.eu
Maximiliano Menz (Universidade Federal de São Paulo).


The slave trade was a long-lasting enterprise in which many European powers vigorously participated. Throughout the last century, the business of slavery has produced a prolific and hot debate, particularly as regards its actual profits. Both historians and economists have largely discussed on the impact that slavery and the commerce in humans had in the consolidation of capitalism in Europe and North America. On the other hand, abundant research on the activities of slave merchants has put forward the troubles of these ventures and their high transaction costs regardless of their being an apparently highly profitable business whose profits were partly due to sharp price differences across the Atlantic. Only recently, scholars have started focusing more carefully on private-order and formal institutions that contributed lowering business risks and facilitated risk management of Atlantic ventures that were perceived as being highly risky.

This panel seeks precisely to discuss how merchants managed risk through the implementation of a vast set of formal and informal institutions. We are particularly interested in connecting different Atlantic experiences, examining how English, Portuguese, French, Dutch, and Spanish traders faced risk and risk management. Papers will deal with different imperial and temporal settings in order to build a transimperial dialogue of the slave trade business.