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The Insurance of Mass Murder: The Development of Slave Life Insurance Policies of Dutch Private Slave Ships, 1720–1780



Insurance on slaves, a financial spin-off effect of the slave trade, is not yet completely understood. This article investigates the development of the conditions of this kind of insurance in the Dutch Republic, Europe’s most important insurance sector before 1780. By analyzing various historical insurance documents from the period 1720–1780, it reveals that slave life insurance conditions became increasingly specific and standardized due to developments in general marine insurance and insurance debates on bloodily oppressed slave insurrections. This article shows how enslaved Africans indirectly influenced the insurance conditions by protesting, while insurers might have financially motivated the murder of enslaved Africans who attempted to escape. These findings provide insights into how Dutch insurers dealt with insuring humans with agency as commodities without agency and how slavery and the financial world in the eighteenth century were connected.

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This work is part of the Dutch research project Slaves, Commodities, and Logistics, supported by an Nederlands organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO) grant. In the preparation of this article, the author benefited from discussions and feedback from colleagues at Vrije Universiteit and International Institute of Social History. Many thanks go out to Prof. Dr. Karel Davids, Prof. Dr. Ulbe Bosma, Dr. Sabine Go, Dr. Pepijn Brandon, Gerhard de Kok, MA, Rianne Lurvink, AAG, and Han Poesiat, RA.



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The Insurance of Mass Murder: The Development of Slave Life Insurance Policies of Dutch Private Slave Ships, 1720–1780



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