Royal African Company
|“||The RAC shipped more enslaved African women, men and children to the Americas than any other single institution during the entire period of the transatlantic slave trade.||„|
|~ Historian William Pettigrew about the RAC.|
The Royal African Company (1660 - 1750) was an English trading company led by James Stuart, Duke of York, who would later be crowned king James II, and set up by his brother King Charles II. Its original purpose was to exploit the gold fields up the Gambia River, but its agents soon engaged in the Slave Trade, as well as with other commodities.
The RAC was founded in 1660, when its charter was issued by Charles II, giving them a monopoly over English trade in Africa with the purpose of finding gold. Charles later issued a second charter in 1663 giving the RAC permission to trade in slaves. Forts were established along the West African coast in order to capture non-RAC trading ships, the profit from which went to the king and the RAC.
In 1664, an RAC fleet under the command of Robert Holmes assaulted a Dutch trading post, sparking the Second Anglo-Dutch War, which ended with the loss of all but one of the RAC's forts, leaving them heavily in debt. As a result, the RAC was forced to licence other traders in their territory in order to make money, as well as setting up a proxy group known as the Gambia Adventurers. However, they returned to prominence in 1672 when Charles II issued them with a third charter giving them permission to set up more forts, raise a standing army and establish martial law in West Africa in pursuit of gold and African slaves.
By the 1680s, the RAC had become a slave trading organisation, transporting about 5000 slaves a year to slave markets in North America and the Caribbean. Between 1662 and 1731, they transported 212,000 slaves, 44,000 of whom did not survive the journey. Slaves transported by the RAC were often branded with either the letters "DoY" for "Duke of York" (referring to James Stuart) or the company's initials, "RAC". Slaves who were sick or who they could not afford to feed were thrown overboard to drown.
From 1694 to 1700, the RAC was a major participant in the Komenda Wars in the port city Komenda in the Eguafo Kingdom in modern-day Ghana. The company allied with a merchant prince and slave trader named John Cabess and various neighbouring African kingdoms to depose the king of Eguafo and establish a permanent fort and factory in Komenda. The RAC and Cabess were ultimately successful in establishing their business their.
By 1689, the RAC had lost its monopoly on West African trade due to the decline of royal power, and in 1697 Parliament passed the Trade with Africa Act, opening up trade to all merchants. However, this was advantageous to the company, as the Act also mandated that 10% of all profits made by merchants in Africa went to the RAC. As a result, the number of slaves being taken from Africa and sold rose dramatically. The RAC continued to participate in the Slave Trade until 1731, when they began trading ivory and gold dust instead. It also provided coins made from ivory to the Royal Mint.
In 1750, Parliament passed the African Company Act, dissolving the RAC and confiscating their assets, which were later transferred to the African Company of Merchants in 1752.