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 have also recently become 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.

From Wulfstan to Colston

Front cover with a stained glass window of St Wulfstan and a statue of Edward Colston from his tombHot off the press! Tracing a thousand-year history, From Wulfstan to Colston examines the involvement in slavery of Bristol’s merchants, from Anglo-Saxon times through the era of exploration and colonisation, to the transatlantic slave trade and the plantation system of the Americas.  During this period, a merchant elite seized economic and political power, making slave-trader Edward Colston an icon and shaping the city’s present-day historical memory of slavery. More details 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.

The Forest of Dean Miners’ Riot of 1831

Forest Of Dean Miners' Strike 1831 Front CoverOur 50th publication in the Bristol Radical Pamphleteer range. 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. Read more here.

Recent Blog Posts

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

Book Bloc

In November 2010 Italian students demonstrating against Berlusconi’s education reforms introduced the concept of the Book Bloc for the first time. There was no irony intended, […] More

Benign Force? – The Society of Merchant Venturers

Shielded by their Royal Charter of 1552, the Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV) helped shape Bristol’s past and present, but will they shape the city’s future? Regarded today as […] More

Bristol History Commission – questions still not […]

On 4th August Bristol Radical History Group sent a letter supported by the Remembering the Real World War One history group and Countering-Colston to the Mayor’s office concerning […] More

Thug

In the cabinet in M-Shed dedicated to the Reform Act uprising of 1831 are displayed two objects roughly tubular and of similar length that represent the extent of the uprising and […] More

Bristol History Commission – some […]

In the aftermath of the pulling down of the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston on 7th June, elected Mayor Marvin Rees announced the formation of a 'History Commission' to "help […] More

SWINE

Not far from Queen’s Square stands the statue of Edmund Burke. Had he lived to witness the 1831 Reform Act uprising and a protestor astride the statue of one of his beloved royals […] More

Hero: Samuel Plimsoll

In 1871 alone, 856 British merchant ships were lost within ten miles of the British coast in conditions that were no worse than a strong breeze. Between 1870 and 1872, 1628 sailors […] More

Colston slept with the fishes

In April 2019 The Saint-Just Mob subverted the statue of Edward Colston with the word DROWN. The following article first appeared on the BRHG Facebook page in the same month. […] More

Lydney: Black Lives Matter and the Bathursts

Lydney Town Council has attempted to ban a Black Lives Matter event arranged to take place in Bathurst Park, Lydney at 2 pm – 4 pm Saturday 20 June. Forest of Dean Black Lives […] More

Kick over the statues….Colston is […]

Over the last few years in arguments over the commemoration, celebration and memorialisation of slaver-traders we have been told many times that the so-called 'traditions' of […] More

Recent Books

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

Hitler’s British Traitors

Regardless of the 2015 publishing date given, this book is currently (last checked December 2018) just available in hardback, and must have been withheld due to the ongoing release […] More

Wiltshire’s Radical History

Wiltshire's Radical History - Covers

Contributors: Steve Poole – Hanged at the scene of their crime. Rosie MacGregor – Angela Tuckett. Nigel Costley – West Country Rebels. Melissa Barnett – Dame Florence May Hancock. […] More

Recent Articles

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

Age of Adversity

‘Alas when our relatives and neighbours came to welcome us, whole we were embracing them and in the midst of our kisses, we, who carried the arrows of death were constrained to […] More

Update – Brecon plaque commemorates slave trader

In the Welsh town of Brecon, upon an old wall, along Captains Walk (a name based on a fiction), is a slate plaque commemorating the life of a slave trader who resided in the town. […] More

An Alternative History of Westbury-on-Trym Workhouse

In November, 2019 Louise Ryland-Epton gave an engaging talk entitled ‘By Pity and by Terror? A Contrary View of Workhouses’ at the M Shed, Bristol as part of the UWE Regional […] More

Recent Pamphlets

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

Nautical Women

Nautical Women Front Cover

In Nautical Women, Rosemary Caldicott explores the stories of women whose lives were inextricably linked to the sea. She tells of the women of sailortowns struggling to keep out of […] More

Zionism And History

How can we explain the persecution of Jews throughout European history, culminating in the horror of the Nazi holocaust? The founders of the Zionist movement argued that the cause […] More

Men of Fire

Men of Fire Front Cover

The emergence of ‘New Unionism’ in 1889, and the accompanying outburst of strikes across the country, was one of the most extraordinary and significant events in trade union […] More

Recent Events

Christmas Webinar 1: Angela Carter’s […]

Miscellaneous Events 2020

The first in our series of Christmas Webinars.... Acclaimed novelist and short-story writer Angela Carter lived in Clifton during the 1960s, where she wrote her early novels known […] More

It Felt Like Year One: A Tour of Angela Carter’s […]

Stephen E. Hunt of Bristol Radical History Group will be presenting an online tour, based on the Bristol Radical History Group publication Angela Carter's Provincial Bohemia': The […] More

Bristol Festival of Literature: Colston, Fact And […]

This event is part of Bristol Festival of Literature and you can can register for the meeting here. In this two-part event authors Roger Ball and Mark Steeds of Bristol Radical […] More

Conscientious Objection during the First World War

To register for this webinar use this link:   More

Angela Carter and the Bristol counterculture [Postponed […]

  Steve Hunt of Bristol Radical History Group will lead a stroll around some old haunts associated with Angela Carter and the 1960s and 1970s counterculture. Join Steve to […] More

State Surveillance after the French Revolution […]

Government Surveillance in Peacetime: Home Office Spies, c.1800 (David Worrall) Government surveillance, using networks of spies and informers, were active both before and after […] More

Stolen Paradise [postponed until further notice]

During the summer of 1946, thousands of British families took the law into their own hands to temporarily solve their housing problems by "requisitioning" empty military camps. […] More

The Rise and Resistible fall of the NHS [postponed […]

Since 2014 the Cartoon Action Theatre (CAT) have been performing short plays on the street and at events using a modern rhyming mummers' style, covering a diverse range of subjects […] More

Blacklisting and corporate surveillance [Postponed […]

"As old as the pyramids" - is blacklisting still with us? Phil Chamberlain A former member of the Economic League told MPs that blacklisting was as "old as the pyramids". That […] More

‘Malevolence Imposes Vigilance’: State and […]

The modern relationship between the British state and corporate surveillance dates back to a time of rapid industrial change between 1911 and 1921, when socialism and syndicalism […] More

The ‘Emergency’ in Malaya (1948- 60) and the Batang […]

At the end of World War II, an almost bankrupt Britain was determined to reinstate the old areas of European power in the ‘Far East’ and held Vietnam and Indonesia until France and […] More

Set the people free – opposition to ID cards […]

David King will outline how during the Second World War the government introduced compulsory ID cards as part of their emergency measures. It was not until seven years after the […] More