Top UK City firm founders linked to slavery

27 June 2009

New research by University College London has uncovered links between British Investment bank Rothschild and City law firm Freshfields and slavery.

Reported in the Financial Times, documents from the British National Archives reveal that Rothschild founder, Nathan Mayer Rothschild used slaves as collateral in a bank deal with a slave owner and James William Freshfield, founding partner of Freshfields, acted as a trustee in deals involving Caribbean slave plantations.

Both men have been historically portrayed as opponents of slavery, with Mr Rothschild organising the government loan used to compensate slave owners in the 1830s.

The £20 million compensation package, which was used to persuade slave owners to finally end slavery, was equal to 40 per cent of state expenditure at the time.

The revelations have been unearthed as part of a three year long research project to look at the legacy of British slave ownership and understand how slavery helped to shape modern Britain. The compensation records also act as a census of the 3,000 to 5,000 slave owners in the British Empire in the 1830s.