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The Zong case in the context of the eighteenth-century slave trade

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jane Webster


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This contribution places the Zong tragedy in the wider context of the eighteenth-century Atlantic slave trade, a global business venture which from 1750 to 1807 was dominated by British ships. Evidence for 'jettison' within the British slave trade is examined, and the uniqueness of this aspect of the Zong case is emphasised. Attention is given to the role of the Zong hearings of 1783 in bringing together individuals who would go on to play a leading role in the British anti-slavery movement, established in 1787. Finally, this article examines the impact of the Zong incident upon eighteenth-century maritime insurance law relating to 'human cargoes', and on the passage of the 'Dolben Act' (the first Act to regulate British slave shipping) in 1788. * This collection of papers about the Zong is the result of a collective academic effort. In creating this tribute to the late Martin Dockray, Andrew Lewis has brought together scholars from a number of disciplines who have shared their research with great generosity of spirit.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Webster J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Legal History

Year: 2007

Volume: 28

Issue: 3

Pages: 285-298

ISSN (print): 0144-0365

ISSN (electronic): 1744-0564

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/01440360701698403

Notes: From 2006-7 I took part in an interdisciplinary venture (directed by Professor Andrew Lewis, UCL) focusing on the eighteenth century slave ship Zong, which has a unique place in both British legal history, and in the history of the abolition movement. The venture resulted in a day conference (the 2006 London Legal History Seminar), and a special volume of the Journal of Legal History, dedicated entirely to the Zong court. My contribution explores the slaving voyages of the Zong, and sets it in the context of other contemporary slaving ventures, whilst emphasising the features that make the Zong case unique. Other contributors include Andrew Lewis, James Oldham, Tim Armstrong and Anita Rupprecht.


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