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Letter: We Should Not Brush Centuries of Slave Trading, Before Abolition, Under the Rug

Published on: 26 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 26 Jul, 2020

From George Potter

Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

In response to: Cllr Potter Misses the Point

I’m afraid it is Mr Middleton who misses the point.

Yes, we were all taught in school about Britain’s role in the abolition of slavery (usually with a very charitable slant that glosses over what a gradual process it was) but we, as a nation, tend to focus exclusively on that role in abolition and brush the centuries of slavery proceeding it under the rug.

Historical honesty dictates that if we want to praise ourselves for our role in abolishing slavery then we should also face up to our role in the slave trade before that, to the fortunes it created and how that wealth enriched our country and still leaves a legacy today; ie that we are a developed country as opposed to a developing one as is the case with most of the countries that we plundered both before and after the abolition of slavery.

To do as Mr Middleton seems to wish would be no more honest than if Germans were to praise themselves for the success they made of denazification whilst trying to relegate Adolf Hitler to a historical footnote.

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Responses to Letter: We Should Not Brush Centuries of Slave Trading, Before Abolition, Under the Rug

  1. George Potter Reply

    July 27, 2020 at 1:06 am

    I’ll add that the converse is also true. To talk about slavery and its legacy in our history without also mentioning those, from all walks of life and backgrounds, who fought against it would, similarly, be just as historically dishonest as if a biography of Churchill were to obsess over his failures with the Gallipoli campaign whilst barely mentioning his Second World War leadership.

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    July 27, 2020 at 8:46 am

    Is it not time to put a stop to this topic? It is very boring to read about it over and over again.

    Perhaps the Liberal Democrats might look for a topic which does not require that our great little country, which civilised half the world, be sneered at? I suggest that that is not likely to increase their popularity.

    Obviously they wish us to know that they still exist, so why not try something positive for a change?

  3. John Lomas Reply

    July 27, 2020 at 8:58 am

    Yes, teach the full truth about slavery, teach also about the African tribes which were also slavers herding members of other tribes to the coast in order to sell them to the Europeans.

    How many of their descendants are now protesting about European involvement?

  4. Gordon Bridger Reply

    July 27, 2020 at 10:53 am

    Mr Potter and others seem to be unaware that the slave trade was endemic in the economics of the world until the Industrial Revolution.

    Does Mr Potter know that the primary beneficiaries of the trade were the coastal African tribes such as the Ashanti, that the Royal Navy played a key part in suppressing it or that slavery went on in Africa long after we abolished it. In fact, it was not until the 1870s, as results of the “Ashanti wars” that the Gold Coast was colonised and slavery abolished and in the Treaty of 1874 Britain forced them to abandon human sacrifice.

    Indeed it was not until Britain colonised Africa that slavery was abolished. In 1898 two British District Commissioners in Northern Nyasaland, as was) encountered an Arab slave train and shot the two Arab traders.

    Britain made money from the slave trade so why did we give it up? It was because Britain was the first major country to recognise it as an evil trade. We should have more statues to William Wilberforce and his like.

    As for colonisation, I suggest Mr Potter and others who are appalled by our colonisation record visit African countries and ask them what they thought of British administration and why they have all joined the Commonwealth? No other imperial regime has made such a favourable impact.

    While there are plenty of events one can use to challenge this account these have to be balanced against the spin-off benefits obtained in the colonies associated with the industrial revolution which mostly took place in Britain.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      July 27, 2020 at 6:42 pm

      Well said Mr Bridger. I bow before his sagacity.

      Perhaps he could offer some of these newbie councillors the benefit of his experience? They may learn something about humility.

  5. David Middleton Reply

    July 27, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    I am certainly not attempting to brush Britain’s involvement in the slave trade “under the rug” as Cllr Potter implies. I clearly stated that it was abhorrent and wrong in my letter.

    My point was that Britain did a great deal, possibly more than any other nation in history, to put an end to the global slave trade of the 19th century and subsequently throughout the British Empire and should quite rightly be praised for that.

    I would frankly be amazed if any British school since the beginning of the 20th century, very possibly earlier, portrayed slavery as a good thing.

    As for his puerile analogy with the denazification of Germany, may I suggest he himself takes up a history book and he will see that it was primarily the British, the Americans and the Russians, who achieved that by defeating the Nazis in World War Two, not the German people.

  6. Peta Malthouse Reply

    July 27, 2020 at 3:56 pm

    I am all for Black Lives Matter and a proper explanation given to all of us about those things that appear to have been “airbrushed” out of our history. Indeed we seem to be having, all over again, the arguments that I thought were won in the 60s and 70s. Frankly, I am shocked to read about present-day discrimination.

    This, however, started from a well-intended proposal to review what we have in our local museum. We have had a very worthwhile and informed comment from Mary Alexander. It is clear our museum staff have got it covered. Does it need to go further?

    I for one am keen that the museum should obtain the necessary funding to display more of its treasures.

    Perhaps, through your pages, a local funding campaign can be started. Perhaps even, Cllr Steel and Cllr Bridger could see if that could be done. After all, there is unlikely to be funding available from the National Lottery etc since Covid, is there?

    A really positive outcome to this debate might be achieved?

  7. Pearl Catlin Reply

    July 27, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    Why do they keep on about this subject? If it’s not face masks (called nappies by Peter Hitchens) it’s Black Lives Matter or slavery. Change the record.

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