The Mortar, the Pestle, and the Slave Trade: British Pharmacy and Slave Trading in the Eighteenth Century

Carolyn Roberts, Harvard University / Consortium for HSTM

American Philosophical Society; McNeil Center for Early American Studies; Consortium for HSTM (Philadelphia, PA)

Friday, October 23, 2015 - 4:00pm

Time: 3:00pm to 5:00pm Location: American Philosophical Society, 2nd Floor, Conference Room, 104 S. 5th Street, Philosophical Hall, Philadelphia, PA Pre-circulated paper and discussion. This paper is an extract from Roberts's dissertation, Surgeon, Fetish Woman, Apothecary, Slave: The Medical Culture, Labor, and Economy of the British Slave Trade examining pharmaceutical dimensions of the British slave trade. The paper explores the processes involved in getting medicines onto slave ships and into British forts and settlements in West Africa. In later chapters, it will become apparent that an expansive network of medical resources was operative in the West African slave trading zones. African indigenous medical knowledge, materia medica, and therapeutics were critical tools in the fragile quest to stay alive. This chapter, however, is a view from the metropole, and it observes the Britons who prepared, compounded, packed, advised, and financed slave trade drug supply. A complex medical network was required. Highly-regarded medical institutions were involved. Prominent men in the metropolis and the provinces were active participants. At Garraway’s Coffee Shop near London’s Royal Exchange raw ingredients such as rhubarb and opium were purchased at auction. Along the docks, in the emergent industrial centers in the country’s outports, new warehouses were erected for the bulk manufacture of pharmaceuticals for the slave trade. The pharmaceutical dimensions of slave trading were diffused throughout the British Isles. Please RSVP to {encode="ashelton@amphilsoc.org" title="ashelton@amphilsoc.org"} or 215-440-3405 Please read the paper in advance. Use password Mortar&Pestle15 to open the file available at http://www.mceas.org/102315sp.pdf . This event co-sponsored with the American Philosophical Society and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.