British Slave Businesses


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The history of Greene King gives a glimpse into some of these entanglements. Benjamin Greene started off as an apprentice to the leading brewing firm Whitbread in London, and would go on to inherit estates in the island of St Kitts, becoming one of many absentee slave owners living off their Caribbean property. Once emancipation happened he was one of the 4,000 people in Britain (20% of whom were women) who received compensation. His share was £4,000 – £270,000 in today’s money – for 1,396 enslaved men and women in St Kitts and Montserrat.

In 1836, he established a leading London merchant house dealing in colonial goods and shipping. His son Benjamin Buck Greene, who spent time in St Kitts and was a successful planter, married the daughter of a prosperous merchant trader in Mauritius and set up a partnership with him. Greene gained recognition as a respectable entrepreneur and philanthropist, and was appointed governor of the Bank of England in 1873. Meanwhile the brewery flourished under the management of Benjamin’s third son Edward Greene, and the Caribbean estates continued to be profitable up to the 1840s.

There are British businesses built on slavery. This is how we make amends, Catherine Hall in The Guardian