It is difficult to believe the claims by some contemporary commentators, as well as those of more recent vintage, that the British slave trade was not profitable, for it cannot be denied that the two official companies engaged in the trade for decades. It may have been true that slave trading in itself was not as profitable as other parts of the companies’ business, and/or that profits from such trading constituted only a small or moderate portion of the companies’ total profits. Certainly, the independent traders operating out of ports around Britain, and those sailing from other countries, were not going to do so without the prospect of significant profits, the captains of those ships often being paid in slaves as well as in cash received from trading non-human goods. According to figures readily obtained from the Slave Voyages database, British ships during the first half of the 18th century held 50 per cent of the total Atlantic slave trade, with the independents at 45.5 per cent and the two official companies at 4.5 per cent. The busiest period for the two companies was 1721-6—and that was, coincidentally, the height of the Royal Academy of Music’s success.
That collective form of arts patronage, the Royal Academy of Music, also exhibits connections with the slave trade. Founded in 1719 by 63 noblemen and other very wealthy supporters, the Academy had exhausted its capital by the end of the 1727-8 season. By then, 172 men had been directors of or subscribers to the company. In our context the significant fact is that 54 of these subscribers or their close relatives had been RAC investors in 1720. Thus nearly a third of the Academy’s subscribers had a financial interest in the slave trade.
Henry Drax was one of those subscribers to the Academy (in 1723). He was part of the Dorset-Wiltshire social circle that included Handel’s friends the 4th Earl of
2016 8 MARCH TO 11 APRIL including: HANDEL ARIODANTE ALEXANDER BALUS BERENICE HANDEL SINGING COMPETITION 2016 LAURENCE CUMMINGS MUSICAL DIRECTOR Contact for information: firstname.lastname@example.org 01460 53500 / 54660 www.london-handel-festival.com
22nd International Singing
Competition Ferruccio Tagliavini
Opera singers (1st section -33 years) and voice students (2nd section -24 years)
Deutschlandsberg, 14th-21st April 2015
Jury: Juan Pons
Chairman Richard Bonynge Andrea de Amici
Sung Bin Kim Sabino Lenoci Vittorio Terranova
Information: I.S.O: c/o RUEFA Reisen Frauentalerstaße 8, A-8530 Deutschlandsberg
www.iso.or.at Email: email@example.com
Opera, December 2015
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