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Bristol Radical History Week 2006

  Revolutionary Atlantic

Venue: Saturday 4th November
Time: 1.00pm - 6.00pm
Price: Donation
Venue: The Spy Glass, Welsh Back
Speakers: Peter Linebaugh, Ruth Symister, Niklas Frykman, Mark Steeds
Form: Lecture/debate

A Spot in Time: The Opposition between Terror and the Commons in the Perspective of the Atlantic Revolutions - Peter Linebaugh

Was the coincidence on 2 April 1792 in the attempts to abolish the African slave trade and to make the English working class 'a spot of time', to paraphrase William Wordsworth, where vivifying virtue may restore our minds to the sense of right in the midst of fiercest strife, or instances of the perfidy of Albion, splitting the race of Man in twain? What role has the doctrine of white supremacy played in the expropriation of the commons? From Plato to Blake the Atlantic ocean has been a myth and symbol associated both with Africa and utopia.

…Hark! hear the Giants of Albion cry at night:
We smell the blood of the English! we delight in their blood on our Altars.
The living & the dead shall be ground in our rumbling Mills
For bread of the Sons of Albion: of the Giants Hand & Scofield
Scofield and Kox are let loose upon my Saxons! They accumulate
A World in which Man is by his nature the enemy of Man
In pride of Selfhood unwiledly stretching out into Non Entity
Generalizing Art &amp Science till Art & Science is lost.
Bristol &amp Bath, listen to my words…

William Blake - Jerusalem II

Peter The Painter - Jessica Warner

Were the eighteenth-century working poor capable of radicalism? The example of John the Painter. James Aitken (1752-1776), better known as John the Painter, attracted notoriety for his attempts to burn down the royal dockyards and the city of Bristol. His activities were sufficiently novel-and sufficiently concerted-to convince a good many Britons that they were at the mercy of a band of determined "incendiaries" in the employ of the Americans. The truth was that he acted alone, and far from being a revolutionary in the modern sense, he was a hopeless reactionary, driven by the desire to earn a commission in the fledgling American army. His life bears out E.P. Thompson's remarks on the absence of true radicalism among the eighteenth-century working poor. It also illustrates the insurmountable obstacles facing the working poor on the eve of the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately Jessica Warner chose not to speak.

Moby Dick: Below decks in the Pequod - Ruth Symister

From Treason Take Away The T: The Mutiny On The Hermione 1797 - Niklas Frykman

By placing the revolt on the Hermione in the context of an increasingly radical wave of mutinies, I want to think about the origin and impact of the extraordinary level of class violence that erupted when its multinational crew rose upon their officers. The men from over a dozen different countries took several hours to butcher ten members of the solidly British officer corps, throwing some of them alive and bleeding to the sharks of the Caribbean. It was the most violent mutiny in the history of the Royal Navy. It was also one of the most succesful. After handing the ship over to the Spanish in Caracas, the mutineers disappeared into the crevices of the war-torn Atlantic world, and most of them eluded the decade-long manhunt that followed. Yet they were not gone, for they returned into the same multinational maritime labour pool from whence they had come, now one revolutionary experience richer. Future mutineers - and there were many - drew directly on this latest addition to the tradition of maritime radicalism when plotting their own treasonous shipboard seizures of power.

The appeal of the Jolly Roger - Stephen Snelders

The life of pirates is both romanticised and vilified. To some pirates are the glorious rebels/revolutionaries creating new utopias on their ships and tropical islands. Others point to the extreme privations that the lives of pirates had in common with sailors as a whole. The question is whether we can recreate from existing historical sources the subjective experiences in the pirates' lives. I think we can achieve this and answer the following question. Why, if objectively pirates' lives were so terrible, it was a realistic and often-pursued option for many sailors in the 17th and early 18th centuries, as well as in some contemporary parts of the world; without falling into one-dimensional images of the sea rover's lives. Unfortunately Stephen Shelders did not make the event.

The Long John Silver Trust - Mark Steeds

Mark talks about the work of the Long John Silver Trust.

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