The latest addition to the permanent exhibition of the Swiss Finance Museum is the security of the "Compagnie des Indes orientales" from 1665. It will be purchased in 2021 in an auction of a private dealer.
The French maritime trading company, in German also called the French East India Company, trades on the one hand with luxury goods from India, as you can read in our blog. On the other hand, she herself is also involved in the slave trade. From 1720 to 1750, the Compagnie des Indes orientales transported 42,467 slaves to the Americas. One of Zurich's most prominent banks, Bank Leu & Co., has been investing in the Compagnie des Indes orientales since its foundation in 1755 until 1798.
Aktiengesellschaft Leu & Co. in Zürich
In 1755, Bank Leu & Co is founded as a state bank of the Zurich city state. Its aim is to lend the citizens’ money out to borrowers abroad. The bank is named after its first president; Zurich’s mayor Johann Jacob Leu.
A share of Bank Leu & Co. from 1937 is exhibited in the current special exhibition "Banks in transition: from counters to apps".
The Bank Leu and the slave trade
In 1755, Bank Leu & Co. still belonged to half of the city of Zurich as an interest commission. The aim is to lend citizens' money abroad. Another of Bank Leu's holdings - beside the Companie des Indes - is its lending to Denmark in the second half of the 19th century. With this financial support, Denmark is able to visit the islands of St. John, St.Croix and St. Thomas. The latter develops into a prominent slave transshipment point. Not only governments, but also private Swiss merchantswith plantations on St. Croix, for example, the Bank & Leu issues loans.
- Here Bern Kolonial writes about slave trades in the financial sector (in German)
- Cooperaxion's database documents the business of the various Swiss actors during the transatlantic slave trade of the 17th to 19th centuries (in German).
- Do you already know Zurich Colonial? A walking tour through Zurich's colonial past
- The SlaveVoyages website is a collaborative digital initiative that compiles records of the largest slave trade in history and makes them publicly available.
- On behalf of the City of Zurich, the University of Zurich 2020 has prepared a research report with a special focus on the Escher family. (In German)
- In 2003 an interpellation is submitted in Bern 03.3014 | Swiss participation in slavery and transatlantic trade in slaves | Business | The Swiss Parliament