The Royal African Company, founded in 1672, was established primarily to license London merchants in the slave trade in competition with the Portuguese and Dutch. Although in earlier decades English captains had held the slave trade in some contempt, the growth of sugar plantations in the Caribbean established a voracious market for labour and the merchant captains began to see the profits to be made. Their involvement in the slave trade between Africa and the Caribbean was formalised in 1660 with a company of London traders with exclusive rights to Africa, but this was mismanaged and eventually dissolved. The Royal African Company was set up in its place with exclusivity of rights that guaranteed that any other trader, called an 'interloper', not associated with the Company, had to pay a tax of 10 to the Company. The Company's trade rapidly advanced into vast numbers, and they established holding forts on the West African coast to process hundreds of voyages carrying some 5,000 slaves per year. The number of 'interlopers' increased, however, and resentment against the tax grew until 1698 when Parliament repealed the Company's monopoly. This had the effect of increasing fourfold the slave traffic. The Company survived and in 1750 became a full partner in a new company of merchants trading with Africa.
When sold by Christie's both in 1921 and 1942, the present monteith was accompanied by a Chinoiserie tazza dated 1688, maker's mark I*R, and engraved with the arms of the Royal African Company. It is now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Two other Chinoiserie monteiths of 1688 by Garthorne have been sold by Christie's; 27 November 1935, lot 120, and 29 October 1947, lot 157.