Article ID: CBB786137923

Copper sheathing and the British slave trade (2015)


British slave traders were early and rapid adopters of the new technique of sheathing ships' hulls with copper. From the 1780s this innovation increased sailing speeds of British slave ships by about a sixth, prolonged the ships' lives by at least a half, and reduced the death rates of slaves on the middle passage by about half. It was, above all, the fall in death rates, and possibly the improved condition of surviving slaves, that made the investment so compelling. Copper sheathing may have paid for itself in a single voyage, even though it was usually good for several. By the 1790s few slave ships, even if making only a single voyage, were uncoppered. These results confirm that copper sheathing was one of the major improvements in shipping productivity before the use of iron and steam in the mid-nineteenth century.

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Authors & Contributors
Nuvolari, Alessandro
Ravshonbek Otojanov
Marlous van Waijenburg
Nicholas Radburn
Brigitte Granville
Phillip F. Reid
Business History Review
International Journal for the History of Engineering and Technology
Economic History Review
Transactions - Newcomen Society for the Study of the History of Engineering and Technology
Industrial and Corporate Change
Brussels Economic Review
William Shipley Group for the RSA
Yale University Press
University of California, Los Angeles
Manchester University Press
Landmark Publishing
Technological innovation
Industrial revolution
Slave trade
Business history
Sailing ships
Bentham, Samuel
Watt, James
Telford, Thomas
Maudslay, Henry
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
17th century
20th century, early
Great Britain
Bristol (England)
Bath (England)
Birmingham (England)
Chance Brothers and Company
Royal African Company
Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (Great Britain)
Royal Society of Arts
Great Britain. Royal Navy

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