1781. A British slave-trading ship, The Zong, sets sail from Africa to Jamaica, dangerously overloaded with 442 enslaved Africans. A navigational error sees the ship sail past Jamaica and by the time the mistake is realised water supplies are running dangerously low. Over the next few days, 132 African men, women and children are thrown overboard to drown.
The ship’s owners claimed insurance for “jettisoned cargo”, arguing that the murders were a necessary response to a peril at sea. The insurer disputed that claim and in the ensuing court battles, the Zong massacre became one of the most notorious tragedies in the history of the slave trade.
This play is based on the papers of Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice who ruled on the infamous insurance claim. Mansfield famously brought up a mixed race woman – Dido Elizabeth Belle – in his household and the play re-imagines their exchanges over the Zong.
Written by Dr. Jeremy Krikler, University of Essex, and directed by Kate Lovell.