The Student Union Lecture Series 3: Legacies of Slavery in Britain Tue, 2015-11-03 16:52

Legacies of Slavery in Britain

The history of British slavery, although superficially acknowledged from time to time, has been largely concealed. Indeed, few acts of political and historical forgetting could be described as thorough or as effective as the erasure of slavery from the “British story”.

The compensation of Britain?s 46,000 slave-owners was the largest bailout in British history until the bailout of the banks in 2009. Not only did the enslaved receive nothing, but they effectively paid part of the bill for their own manumission.

“Legacies of British Slave-ownership” is the umbrella for two unprecedented projects based at University College London (UCL) tracing the impact of slave-ownership on the formation of modern Britain. At the same time, questions are raised surrounding the enslaved themselves, their stories, and their legacies.

As the project notes, the role played by the British crown, state, families and individuals in the slave trade, slave-ownership and the wider slavery business has been largely written out of British history. Rather, British involvement in slavery is most commonly viewed through the lens of the abolitions of the slave trade (1807) and slavery (1834). Thus the wealth, social standing and political clout gained by involvement in the slavery business has been greatly underestimated. This research is part of the wider work being done by many others to rebalance the British national narrative, by reinserting slavery and its legacies into it.

Kristy Warren, a research associate at the project, will deliver a talk on the process of the project itself and its significance, its continuation into the next phase, its engagement with young people through outreach work in Hackney, and the political and historical significance of British colonial slavery, uncovering a scale and depth which has not been fully appreciated until now.