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BOWES, Christopher (fl 1792)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0114 MS0003
Held at: Royal College of Surgeons of England
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Full title: BOWES, Christopher (fl 1792)
Date(s): 1792
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 volume
Name of creator(s): Bowes | Christopher | fl 1792 | surgeon
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Christoper Bowes was surgeon to the slave-ship LORD STANLEY, which traded between the African coast and the Isle of Grenada, West Indies in the late eighteenth century. Bowes was born in 1770, and became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England on November 6th 1788. He was a naval surgeon and apothecary, residing in Richmond, Yorkshire.

Between 1450 and 1850 at least 12 million Africans were taken across the 'Middle Passage' of the Atlantic. European traders would export manufactured goods to the west coast of Africa where they would be exchanged for slaves. The slaves were then sold in the Americas, and traders used the money to buy raw materials such as sugar, cotton, coffee, metals, and tobacco which were shipped back and sold in Europe. To maximize their profits slave merchants carried as many slaves as was physically possible on their ships. A House of Commons committee in 1788 discovered that one slave-ship, The Brookes, was originally built to carry a maximum of 451 people, but was carrying over 600 slaves from Africa to the Americas. Chained together by their hands and feet, the slaves had little room to move. A large number of slaves died on the journey from poor food and diseases such as smallpox and dysentery.


Scope and content/abstract:

Medical log of the slave-ship LORD STANLEY, kept by Christopher Bowes the ship's surgeon between 23 March-26 July 1792. The ship traded between the African coast and the Isle of Grenada, West Indies. Of the 389 slaves on board, 16 died. The log gives the daily sick rate and there are brief notes of the cases and treatment.

At the end of the manuscript, Christopher Bowes states it is a "just and true journal" which he then presents to Custom House, at St George, Grenada in 1792. This is witnessed and signed by George Ferguson [Possibly George Ferguson, Governor of Tobago c1781]. The next page of the volume contains a statement signed by George Ferguson, saying that this is a "true copy of the original journal", and is dated September 5th 1792. Therefore it is likely that this manuscript is a copy of the original journal, which was perhaps retained in Grenada.

At the front of the volume is a letter to Arthur Bowes Elliot (grandson of Christopher Bowes) dated 5th October 1911, from Sir Ronald Ross (FRCS) 1857-1932, regarding the contents of the volume, and the diseases the slaves were suffering from.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The records are arranged as outlined in the scope and content.

Conditions governing access:

Open for research by written appointment. Please contact the Archive.

Conditions governing reproduction:

At the discretion of the Royal College of Surgeons Library and Archive staff.

Finding aids:

Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1928) by Victor G Plarr.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The log was delivered to the Custom House, St George, Grenada on 14 August 1792 by Christopher Bowes.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Presented by the grandson of Christopher Bowes, Arthur Bowes Elliott in 1914.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography (Smith, Elder and Co, London, 1895); Historical Manuscripts Commission On-line National Register of Archives; British Library Public On-line Catalogue; Spartacus website:; BBC News website: Compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Edited and updated by Beth McNeice, October 2003 - August 2004. Additional sources used: PI and RV Wallis, Eighteenth Century Medics, 1985; RCS Membership lists. Further editing by Louise King in April 2007.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Original description created in October 2002, edited 2003-4, further editing 200

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