Bristol Radical History Group

Since 2006 BRHG have organised over 500 events; staging walks, talks, gigs, historical recreations, films, exhibitions, trips through the archives and fireside story telling. We have several active research projects, publish a range of books and pamphlets and host an archive on this website.

BRHG projects and events are organised by local people from Bristol and are NOT funded by universities, political parties, business or local government. To break even we rely on members giving their labour for free, donations from the audiences and the sale of publications.

BRHG are associated with several other history groups in Bristol including Remembering the Real World War One, Eastville Workhouse Memorial Group and the Countering-Colston Group. BRHG are also a member of the International History From Below Network.

Our friends include Breviary Stuff Publications, an independent publisher of radical history, working class history and history from below. For almost 10 years they have reproduced out-of-print classics along with new titles for affordable prices, unlike the majority of academic publishers. Check out their interesting range of books here.

Find out about Edward Coslton

A close up of Colston's face from his statue in Bristol's centre

Click here for a selection of content from this site about Edward Colston. Find out about what Colston did in his life-time, and why he is such a contentious figure today. You can also see the content on this site that relates to slavery, resistance and rebellion here.

New BRHG Pamphlet: De-Convicted The convicts who got a second chance

Hands behind bard holding a pancil and a piece of paperWhat is the point of prison? Does it work? By following through a series of case studies from the eighteenth century to the present day, Colin Thomas argues that there are positive alternatives to the brutalising regimes of incarceration. Find out more here.

New BRHG book: Tremors of Discontent: My Life in Print 1970-1988

State Snooping front Covers. I man's face split in two, ha;f copper, half crusty activist.While there are many academic studies of workers’ resistance and consciousness during the 1970s and 1980s, few accounts relate the personal-political experiences of the activists involved. Tremors of Discontent, however, explores how Mike Richardson’s individual consciousness came to change during that period. Find out more...

Recent Blog Posts

The Dragon has two tongues rises again…

After more than 35 years in obscurity the hugely influential TV series The Dragon Has Two Tongues, a history of Wales, has risen again. This week the Welsh Underground Network made […] More

If you are Glad Colston’s Gone – support […]

One year on from the fall of the Edward Colston statue from it's pedestal during the Black Lives Matter protest on 7 June 2020, there's been another media feeding frenzy focused on […] More

Statement of Support for the Toppling of the Colston […]

Early this morning, on the first anniversary of the toppling of the slave-trader and former Tory MP Edward Colston from his plinth, the campaign coalition @GladColstonsGone issued […] More

The M Shed Colston ‘Consultative Display’ – What’s in […]

Introduction After months of secrecy instigated by the Mayor’s Office finally M Shed are launching their ‘Consultative Display” entitled The Colston Statue: What Next? For many of […] More

Abolition Shed 2 – details

A Vision for former Seaman’s Mission and Chapel, Bristol Currently owned by Sam Smiths Brewery (Yorkshire) Introduction After the rejection of our plans for Abolition Shed 1, […] More

Abolition Shed 1 – details

A Vision for O & M Sheds, Welsh Back, Bristol Subsequently sold to a developer Introduction Bristol has played a key role in events, ideas and literature that have shaped […] More

The Legacy Steering Group – Local historians out, […]

The Legacy Steering Group (LSG, initially known as the Slave Trade Legacy Roundtable and now formally known as the Bristol Transatlantic Slavery Legacy Group) was founded by […] More

State Snooping: Spooks, Cops and Double Agents

State Snooping front Covers. I man's face split in two, ha;f copper, half crusty activist.

Elizabeth I claimed that she had “no desire to open windows into men’s souls” while seeking to do just that. This pamphlet traces the way British governments have been snooping […] More

Countering Colston comment on the first hearing of the […]

Today, the 25 January 2021 four people, Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 32, and Sage Willoughby, 21, will appear at Bristol Magistrates Court charged with causing […] More

Eastville Workhouse Memorial Group – Final […]

Eastville Workhouse map 1880

Eastville Workhouse Memorial Group (EWMG) was formed in 2014 after a public meeting with residents of Eastville and Greenbank in East Bristol. The primary aim of the group was to […] More

The Forest of Dean Miners’ Riot of 1831

Forest Of Dean Miners' Strike 1831 Front Cover

  The Forest of Dean uprising of 1831 received scant attention from historians before 1975 when Chris Fisher started researching the subject as part of his MA in history […] More

Bristol – Hot spot of resistance to World War One

An excellent new book Communities of Resistance has just been published which takes a systematic look at the networks of war resisters connected to conscientious objectors in World […] More

Recent Books

Posh Boys

If the reader has had a public school education then this book is probably ‘a huge enjoyable read’ as recommended by one reviewer, on the other hand if the reader is a member of […] More

Imperial Intimacies

A copy of The Bristolian

This is an eloquent and angry account of Professor Hazel Carby’s family history linked to the shameful history of the British Empire. She is painfully honest about the relationship […] More

On Brandon Hill

This is an absolutely epic overview of Bristol culture – literary connections, film, music, gossip and much more since WW2. That’s around seven decades’ worth. You need to read it […] More

The Fatal Shore

Anyone interested in the history of Australia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would do well to read Robert Hughes’s book. He describes in detail the development of […] More

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of […]

As you will have probably gathered from the title, Professor Gerald Horne wastes no time with mincing his words. The first paragraph of the Introduction is likewise refreshingly […] More

The Battle for China’s Past: Mao and The Cultural […]

This 2008 book is a significant contribution to an ongoing process whereby Chinese radicals are reappraising dominant narratives on revolutionary China and in particular on the […] More

Struggle or Starve: Working-Class Unity in Belfast’s […]

Struggle or Starve is a compelling account of the 1932 Outdoor Relief riots in Belfast, an episode of widespread working-class unity while engaged in militant struggle that is […] More

This is Not a Drill

  Book review and discussion of Extinction Rebellion: This is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook, ed. by Clare Farrell et al. (London: Penguin, 2019). Question: Who […] More

Radical Culture

Worral's book concentrates on the period of the French revolution and the Napoleonic wars. The narrative is based mainly in London, and looks at those who wanted to replicate the […] More

Wales

Clevedon-born author and historian Jan Morris describes herself as ‘by loyalty Welsh’, and writes about her subject with warmth and eloquence. As a book that captures the spirit of […] More

Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone

Just finished Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone, courtesy of Tangent Books and Richard Jones. It's a detailed history of the band from the early eighties through to 2018 by […] More

Make Rojava Green Again

The ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ campaign of the Internationalist Commune of Rojava began in early 2018. I am pleased and impressed that they have now published this inspirational […] More

Recent Articles

Edward Colston: A century of dissent and protest

Introduction During the furore about the renaming of the Colston Hall in 2017 a number of angry letter-writers to the Bristol Post claimed that the recent protests over Edward […] More

‘Triptych’ A poem by Marvin Thompson […]

On the weekend of 7-9 June 2020 the Brecon plaque to a slave trading captain was stripped from the wall on which it was erected in 2010. Poet Marvin Thompson was inspired to write […] More

The Great Post Office Strike of 1971

The 15th February 1971 was United Kingdom Decimalisation Day: no longer were there 12 pennies to a shilling, half-crowns, or 240 pennies to the pound. That day, 50 years ago, was […] More

Black History Month 2020

During 2010, and during Black History Month no less, a plaque was quietly erected in the rural town of Brecon, Wales to commemorate the life of a slave trader and commander of the […] More

As Sylvie Was Walking

This story starts in the Forest of Dean with a riot and song and ends with an account of the struggle for the human rights of the visually impaired in Australia. The folk song As […] More

Memories of 1960s Bristol

I came to Bristol from Newport in South Wales in August 1962 when I was 12 years old. I had been brought up there and my family came from the Pontypool area. I had once been to […] More

Pity the Poor Buttyman

Recent years have seen the growth of sub-contracting, piece work, self-employment, daywork, zero-hour contracts, minimum wages and the use of agencies in the never-ending attempt […] More

Who owns Colston?

A close up of Colston's face from his statue in Bristol's centre

A silent clause When Edward Colston died in 1721 we can be fairly certain that before long his body had disintegrated into dust. To talk of Colston, therefore, is meaningless […] More

The Moral Economy

The phrase “the moral economy” was first used by E. P. Thompson, within the essay of the same name. He explained it as was part of a long change in economic and community […] More

Refusing to Kill

Refusing to Kill front cover

Usage license Introduction Based upon recent research by academic researchers and local historians, this page contains materials made available under a Creative Commons license […] More

WWII: Upper class protected British fascist leader […]

The Second World War in Europe is often presented as a war against fascism though this is conflated with a war against the nations of Germany and Italy and by default with Germans […] More

A brief note about John Addington Symonds

I have been interested, for some time now, in the writings of John Addington Symonds (1840-1893) mainly because of my researches into the legal censoring and subsequent […] More

Recent Pamphlets

Tremors of Discontent

Tremors of Discontent Front cover showing Mike Richardson speaking into a microphone

While there are many academic studies of workers’ resistance and consciousness during the 1970s and 1980s, few accounts relate the personal-political experiences of the activists […] More

De-Convicted

De-Convicted cover - man's hands holding prison cell bars and a pencil

This pamphlet analyses British penology by focussing on three case studies, spread across two centuries, all with Bristol connections. Francis Greenway, originally sentenced to […] More

State Snooping

State Snooping front Covers. I man's face split in two, ha;f copper, half crusty activist.

In the 1550s Elizabeth I claimed that she had “no desire to open windows into men’s souls” while seeking to do just that. This pamphlet traces a near 500 year history of British […] More

The Forest of Dean Miners’ Riot of 1831

Forest Of Dean Miners' Strike 1831 Front Cover

In June 1831, the free miners and commoners of the Forest of Dean rioted. This book considers the background to the uprising and the motives of the participants. Chris Fisher […] More

Steps Against War

Front cover showing two puppets from the history walk

In World War 1 there were at least 40 conscientious objectors in Bedminster, as well as others who resisted the war and conscription. Fred Berriman took an uncompromising stand and […] More

God’s Beautiful Sunshine

Front cover with a photo of striking miners and their families enjoying a picnic

In 1921, in response to a severe depression in the coal trade, colliery owners, supported by the government, slashed labour costs. Refusing to accept this cut in wages, a million […] More

From Wulfstan to Colston

Front cover showing a stained glass window with St Wulfstan and Colston as depicted on his tomb

Tracing a thousand-year history, Mark Steeds and Roger Ball examine the involvement in slavery of Bristol’s merchants, from Anglo-Saxon times through the era of exploration and […] More

Angela Carter’s ‘Provincial Bohemia’

Front cover with a portrait of Angela Carter

Socialist and feminist novelist Angela Carter is one of the most acclaimed late-twentieth-century English writers, famous for short-story collections such as The Bloody Chamber and […] More

Facing up to the Fascists

Facing up to Fascists front cover

As the ultra-right tries to spread its message of hate, Colin Thomas reminds us that we have been here before. This is how the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism resisted the […] More

Censured

Censured Front Cover

Mike Richardson’s intriguing account of his aunt, Beatrice Richardson and her biracial daughter Gillian, brings into stark relief the racism and sexism that existed in Britain […] More

Refusing to Kill

Refusing to Kill front cover

Over 580 men from the Bristol area refused to fight in World War 1. They claimed the status of conscientious objector (CO) for moral, religious or political reasons. Some agreed to […] More

Mabel Tothill

Mabel Tothill Front Cover

June Hannam’s pamphlet examines the life and work of Mabel Tothill (1869 – 1964), Quaker peace campaigner, socialist and Bristol’s first woman councillor. It reveals how this […] More

Recent Events

Class war in 1892: Bristol dockers and Black Friday

Miscellaneous 2021

The success of strikes in 1889 by Bristol dock workers over pay and conditions led to a massive rise in membership of the newly formed dockers unions. In the autumn of 1892 timber […] More

Bristol dockers strike of 1949 in support of Canadian […]

Miscellaneous 2021

The 1949 Docks Strike involving Bristol dockers was notable as an international solidarity action in support of strike action by the Canadian Seamen’s Union. Canadian employers had […] More

Bristol docks and cholera

Miscellaneous 2021

Cholera reached Bristol on the 11 July 1832. The London Quarterly Review described the new disease sweeping the world in November 1831: ‘It has mastered every variety of climate, […] More

Black Power – a British Story of Resistance with […]

  Note: This online event is hosted by The Cube and requires booking. Details here. Join BAFTA-nominated documentary film-maker George Amponsah (The Hard Stop) in conversation […] More

History Walk: Severing the sinews of slavery in Bristol

Meet at 2.00pm outside M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN Walk ends at Bristol Cathedral at 4.00pm (approx.) This history walk in Bristol City centre uncovers a […] More

They don’t protect us: A history of the police […]

Note: this an online event organised by Bristol Copwatch. Advance booking is required, please pre-register here in order to attend this meeting. Bristol Copwatch with Institute of […] More

Book Launch: From Wulfstan to Colston

Note: this is an online event organised by M Shed. Registration and booking is required via their website. Published a few days before the fall of Edward Colston’s statue in June […] More

Who will inherit the legacy of the Bristol Bus Boycott?

Lilleith Morrison and Richard Jones, co-author and publisher of Dr Paul Stephenson’s autobiography Memoirs Of A Black Englishman (Tangent Books) ask, along with artists and […] More

The Hummingbird: the role of the the black bookshop in […]

Never allow skin colour to get in the way. Our status in life was not ordained by God. It’s an incident of history. Cathy Lecointe's aunt In 1985 the Hummingbird Bookshop situated […] More

History Walk: Edward Colston – why was he […]

Meet at 3.30pm outside M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN Walk ends at Bristol Cathedral at 5.30pm (approx.) With the imminent launch of a so-called 'consultative […] More

State and Police Racism: The Making of a Hostile […]

The term ‘hostile environment,’ coined in 2012 by Home Secretary Theresa May to deter “illegal” immigration, did not exist as official government policy during the 1950s, 1960s and […] More

‘Secret and delicate sources’: UK Black Power and […]

Black Power in Britain started in 1967, reached its apogee in 1971 and was in terminal decline by the mid-1970s. It was an expression of frustration, anger and – most importantly – […] More