The Testimony of Jacques Francis, a diver in Tudor England

Papers relating to a suit (claim) and countersuit before the High Court of Admiralty in 1547/8 give us a glimpse of one slave working in Tudor England. In November 1546, a merchant ship, the St Mary and St Edward of Southampton, caught fire and sank while riding at anchor two miles off Southampton. An Italian salvage operator, Pietro Paulo Corso, was hired to recover tin and lead from the ship, these being the only salvageable parts of a cargo valued at £6,000. Domenico Erizo, one of the consortium of Florentine and Venetian merchants who owned the cargo, subsequently claimed that Corso had secretly removed tin from the sunken ship and hidden it away for his own benefit. One of Corso’s divers in this salvage operation was a man called Jacques Francis, a (so called) slave from Guinea in West Africa. We know something about his role because he and other witnesses gave depositions (statements under oath) in support of Corso’s claim against Erizo for damages and/or Erizo’s countersuit.

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Type: book
Location: England
Continent: Europe
Keywords: diver, slaves, ships, trial