When William Earle settled in Liverpool after retiring from the sea, his main (but not only) occupation was trading in slaves. This activity has been analysed with the aid of two data-sets, one providing detailed information on Liverpool shipping, 1744-86, and the other focussed on the slave trade. Just what such a business involved can be found in William’s one surviving letter-book (1760-61) which shows in detail his relations with his suppliers, captains, potential purchasers in America and the West Indies, co-partners, and the financier in London who discounted his bills. These were difficult years and the letters illustrate the problems of trading in wartime, such as capture by the French and very high insurance rates. William’s reaction to this was to finance privateers himself, a subject also included in this chapter.
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