West India Trade

Sailors that did not serve in the navies of the world, or who also went to sea in a private capacity.
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Revaquess
Able Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:33 pm

West India Trade

Post by Revaquess »

Hello everybody,
This is my first post on the forum in search of information related to my direct ancestor named John Essex HALL (Scarborough 1767-Dunkirk 1826). According to the HEIC Archives, he started his sailing carreer round 1783 in the "West India Trade before the mast". Could anyone advice me on the best way to get information about this particular trade & their ships/sailors/archives/ ... in the XVIIIth century ?
I thank you right now for your kind attention and send you greetings from Brussels.

Revaquess
Navclio
Captain
Posts: 105
Joined: Thu Jun 22, 2017 10:40 pm

Re: West India Trade

Post by Navclio »

The Honourable East India Company didn't trade to the West Indies, so your ancestor did not start out in the company. "Before the mast" means he was a common seaman, perhaps at first an entirely unskilled "landsman." The West Indies trade in the late 18th century was still concentrated on carrying tropical products, principally but not exclusively sugar, from the British islands to Great Britain. The largest British sugar-producer by far was Jamaica, but there was also sugar production on Barbados. The West Indian planters did not waste land and slave labor on food. They had been able to import it from the British North American colonies before 1775, but that became illegal in 1783, although there was undoubtedly much smuggling. On their outbound voyages your ancestors might have been carrying food, most likely picked up from Ireland. The route was usually circular, with the outbound voyage heading southwest to the latitude of the Canary Islands, picking up the "trade winds" for the trans-Atlantic passage. The inbound voyage usually went north—from Jamaica, through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Hispaniola and then the Straits of Florida to pick up the Gulf Stream and have the prevailing westerly winds on the port beam or quarter. The voyage would more or less follow the Gulf Stream past Nova Scotia and and Newfoundland and then eastward across the Atlantic. I regret that I am not acquainted with the literature on this trade, but searches subject categories like "West Indies—Commerce" should find some of it.
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