Recent events have prompted me to think more about the history of slavery in our islands. I recently came across the Legacies of British Slave Ownership Database. It’s uncomfortable but necessary reading if we are to understand what role slavery played in the prosperity of many institutions that still exist today e.g. The Bank of England, Barclays, Baring Brothers, Lloyds of London, Royal Bank of Scotland, P&O Navigation Co and many others.
It is easy to think that our region was not part of this vile trade in human lives and that it was all taking place in Liverpool, Bristol and Glasgow, but this isn’t correct, many institutions such as regional manufacturing works and transport companies had investments in the slave trade, the whole of Britain and Ireland prospered on the profits derived from enslaving our fellow human beings.
On the abolition of slavery, British taxpayers paid out £20 million in compensation to the slave owners, in modern terms this equates to £16.5 billion, needless to say, the slaves themselves received nothing.
As well as institutional investments, individuals from our region were slave owners and received compensation from the taxpayer when slavery was finally abolished. Here are a few examples from the database.
Image Title: [Negro portraits, 16 small drawings with notations]. Creator(s): Berryman, William, artist. Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. USA
Written in solidarity with the protesters who removed the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston from the streets of Bristol.