Tag Archives: Slave trade

Britain’s involvement in the slave trade

On 18 January LDCRE (Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality) hosted a very interesting and informative discussion with Dr Philip Woods about Britain’s role in the slave trade, the institutions involved in it, and issues such as reparations, education and commemoration.  We had 47 people register for the talk.  We had extensive technical and advertising help from London Lib Dems, for which we are grateful.  We were delighted to see participants from a number of Lib Dem groups.

Here is a summary of some of the issues discussed, to inspire you to think about policy responses.

Titled “Britain’s Role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its Abolition: some current issues.  A Discussion with Dr Philip Woods.” we learnt about the shocking scale and brutality suffered by millions of African people.  Africa could have had double the population if it hadn’t been for slavery depopulating the continent, and this would have contributed to Africa’s economic growth.  It disrupted established kingdoms in Africa, led to warfare on the continent, and diverted economic activity away from domestic uses such as growing crops for domestic consumption to coastal activity instead.

Slavery became a key part of globalisation and contributed to economic growth in Britain and elsewhere.  The Royal African Company was a key vehicle for the slave trade in the 18th century and the Company became enormously wealthy as a result.

There has been involvement by all sections of the British establishment, including the monarchy, the government, the Church of England and the City of London.  Other key institutions who have benefited from the slave trade include universities and the heritage sector such as the National Trust.  It was a key part of the industrial revolution and a key part of the growth in investment within slave-trading countries.  To end slavery in this country, the government paid £20m to 40,000 slave owners: this was an enormous sum, constituting 40% of the annual budget.  The government borrowed in order to fund this compensation, and some of this was finally repaid in 2015.

There have long been calls for reparations to be paid and the Black Lives Matter movement has reignited this desire in society.  This has been a more active topic of discussion in the USA over a longer period of time compared to the UK.  It is a complex subject but some topics discussed included the role of affirmative action such as scholarships, and the removal of monuments and street names, as well as the need for reparations.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 44 Comments

Church of England creates community fund as compensation for investment in the slave trade

The Church of England has committed £100 million to a fund to “address past wrongs” over its investments in the slave trade in the 18th century. Of course, people will say it is too little, too late and will not reach those most affected, and I have some sympathy for that reaction. But it is nevertheless both a substantial commitment and a symbolic act which will hopefully encourage other public bodies to follow suit.

As an active member of the Church of England I applaud the stance of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Faced with demands for compensation he commissioned the “Church Commissioners Research into historic links to transatlantic chattel slavery“. (The Church Commissioners are the trustees responsible for the charitable funds of the Church of England.)

He has now set up an oversight group to manage the new fund “with significant membership from communities impacted by historic slavery”. However he does not use the term “reparations”, as the fund will not pay individuals; instead it will finance community projects in areas most affected by the slave trade.

Nothing can ever compensate for the greatest crime in western history, but that does not mean that nothing should be done.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 24 Comments

Why good statues of slaves must replace the bad

Statues, as David Olusoga reminds us, are but a distraction from the real issues of race inequality, we as a nation and as a party must change.

But, but, but… They remain a very visual presence in places where people congregate. As an insular Londoner, I have been well aware of the long and principled campaign to remove the bronze Colson, the man who branded his properties on their chests.

How, then can any Liberal Democrat want to continue celebrating such ogres?

Reasons for removing or pulling down statues of slave traders and owners vary greatly. Some deserve a dunking, like Colson. Others, displayed in places of leaning with full histories attached, as history is should represent the truth, whole and inclusive.

Posted in News and Op-eds | 5 Comments
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