The lecture reaffirmed the importance of free market economic policy not just today but throughout history. It exposed the unsustainability of a system that allowed for monopolies and did not respect personal freedoms.

Everill gave an overview of the history of the Royal African Company, from its origins in the late 17th century as a monopoly with exclusive rights to trade in West Africa, to its decline in the middle of the 18th century.

"The Gold Coast became a site of African and European traders jockeying for control"

The Royal African Company’s monopoly was a rare example of the expansion of the king’s executive authority to direct commerce in the 17th century. The period is normally remembered as one where the powers of parliament were expanded to temper the powers of the monarchy.

Everill highlighted the importance of Africa, in particular the Gold Coast, to the world economy during the 18th century. Central to the trade of the Royal African Company was the exchange of capitalist ideas between British traders and their African counterparts. Europeans had to adapt to African systems of credit and mortgage systems; the exchange of ideas was reciprocal.

Credit and the creation of credit institutions underpinned the slave trade; it was the over-expansion of credit, combined with the growing strength of human rights movements that led to the end of the official exchange of people as capital.

Everill also assessed the impact of the slave trade on the lives and minds of the inhabitants of the British Isles. The proliferation of traders on the coast prompted a flourishing of travel literature at the beginning of the 18th century, marking an age of discovery and sharing of ideas.

Podcast with Bronwen Everill and Hywel Williams

Event Materials

About the Speaker

Bronwen Everill is the author of Abolition and Empire in Sierra Leone and Liberia and The History and Practice of Humanitarian Intervention and Aid in Africa. She received her PhD from King’s College London in 2010. From 2010-11 she was Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Transnational History at Oxford (St Cross and Nuffield Colleges). Before returning to King’s, she was Assistant Professor of Global History at Warwick University.

About the History of Capitalism Series

This series of lectures, which forms part of the Legatum Institute's 'The Culture of Prosperity' programme, investigates the origins and development of a movement of thought and endeavour which has transformed the human condition. Capitalism's characteristic emphasis on freedom of trade and market expansion has encouraged social mobility, global exploration and intellectual curiosity. Wherever and whenever it has appeared across the world's continents capitalism has undermined monopolies, economic protectionism and restrictive practices. Our lecturers will therefore be assessing case studies in business history and the individual biographies of thinkers, writers and inventors as well as describing particular periods in the histories of cities, states and nations. Further information available here.