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Alice’s voyage

12 November 2010 by Sam

detail of an old document

Curator of maritime archives Sarah Starkey explains why this document is helping to build up a picture of the history of the slave trade and the ships involved with it:


“This image is a detail from a recent offer to the Maritime Archives and Library. It is part of the ship’s articles for the ship ‘Alice’, on a voyage from Liverpool to Africa and the West Indies in 1760, which indicates a slave trading voyage

The document is missing the list of crew signatures which would usually be attached. The articles were their contract for the voyage and they signed to agree to the conditions of service listed, such as food provided, when wages would be paid and what share of the profits would be allocated.

The articles also state that the Alice carries a Letter of Marque, this means that the ship was a privateer (a pirate with a licence from the government) and could capture merchant vessels from other nations and their valuable cargos. This could be a very profitable enterprise.

Further information about the Alice and its captain, Samuel Murdoch, can be found on the online Transatlantic Slave Trade database, which shows that the voyage for which these articles were produced lasted 426 days and 200 slaves died on the middle passage.

So, it may be slightly tatty, but this document, along with other sources held by the Maritime Archives and Library, provides important evidence about merchant seafaring in the 18th Century.”

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