Enslavement and Colonialism
NatWest itself started trading in 1970, but its origins come from a complex family tree of much older banks. More than 100 of these were founded in the 18th and early 19th centuries, when the enslavement, trafficking and exploitation of African people was a fact of British commercial life. This means that some of our archives from those times offer valuable insights into the events, systems and motives that underpinned this shameful practice.
We support work to uncover and share a better understanding of this history by welcoming historians into our archives to do their research. Recognising that not everybody can visit our archives in person, we have also started publishing on this website digitised versions of key sources pertaining to this history, such as:
- The ledgers (1663-1672) of the London goldsmith-banker Edward Backwell, which include details of some of the earliest shareholders in the Royal African Company
- Records of the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies (1695-1707), an early and failed attempt at Scottish colonialism
- The letters of Robert Scott Moncrieff, Glasgow agent of the Royal Bank of Scotland, 1801-1803, which provide a rare insight into trade and life in one of Britain’s key west-facing ports
By working with the experts who use these records, we are coming to a deeper understanding of the role of banks and bankers in Britain’s slavery history. The following summarises what we know so far.