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Zong Massacre (case of Grayson v Gilbert 1783)

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Luke Collingwood, Captain of The British slave ship Zong decided to throw overboard a large number of dying slaves to allow the ship owners to make a cargo insurance claim for the loss of the slaves. However, the insurers disputed the claim. An action in the Court of King's Bench was brought by the ship owners against the insurance underwriters, Grayson v Gilbert. A parallel case was brought in the Court of Exchequer, Equity Side by the underwriters seeking an injunction staying proceedings in law (Court of King's Bench) until the ship owners had answered their Bill of Complaint in the Court of Exchequer.

The proceedings ended in the verdict that the ship owners could not claim insurance on the loss of the slaves.

Reference Description
KB 122/479 On rotulet number 1051 (3 membranes). The Plea in the Court of King's Bench of the ship owners with short section at the end setting out the defence of the underwriters.
KB 125/168 Court of King's Bench Rule Book entry on page 15 of section headed Friday next after fifteen days from 23rd year of King George the 3rd.
KB 168/150 On folio 53, one line entry in Court of King's Bench Entry Book of Judgments.
E 112/1528 Number 173, Court of Exchequer Bill of Complaint of Thomas Gilbert and Answers of William Grayson and James Kelsall, the First Mate on the Zong (12 sheets).
E 127/47 Court of Exchequer Order Book -

Entry number 1 under Easter term 1783 - Injunction Order to stay proceedings at law (Court of King's Bench) until the Bill of Complaint in the Court of Exchequer had been answered.

Entry number 110 under Easter term 1784 - Order for Injunction staying proceedings to be discharged.

Papers relating to the Court of King's Bench trial, including a manuscript copy of the shorthand reporter's notes, are held at the National Maritime Museum under reference REC/19

The Law Report in the case Grayson v Gilbert is under 3 Dougl 232; 99 English Report 629 and can be consulted at law libraries and on the public computers in the reading rooms at the National Archives, under Electronic Resources (English Law Reports Volumes 91-176).

The are a number of relevant articles in The Journal of Legal History vol. 28 no. 3 (December 2007).

See Black Presence exhibition on The National Archives' website

See also research guide on British Transatlantic Slave Trade: Britain and the Trade on The National Archives website.

For background information see Wikipedia entry