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.

New from BRHG: Steps Against War

Front cover showing two puppets from the history walkThe story of a network of neighbours, workmates, families and comrades in Bedminster who stood together and refused to take their part WW1. Steps Against War is an innovative microhistory of resistance to war in a working-class district of south Bristol, together with two self-guided history walks. Read more here....

New from BRHG: God’s Beautiful Sunshine

Front cover with a photo of striking miners and their families enjoying a picnicIn 1921, in response to a severe depression in the coal trade, colliery owners, supported by the government, slashed labour costs.This is the story of the Forest of Dean mining community during the post-WW1 campaign for nationalisation and workers' control of the pits, culminating in the 1921 lockout. More details here...

Recent Posts

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

Mike Baker – an Easton legend

It is with great sadness that we heard of the death of Mike Baker on 12th March 2020 at the BRI. I first met Mike Baker around twenty years ago when he was leading a local history […] More

John ‘O’ Reiley – ‘Man of Fire’.

Men of Fire Front Cover

For Christmas 2019 I bought my father a copy of BRHG’s pamphlet ‘Men of Fire -Work, Resistance and Organisation of Bristol Gasworkers in the Nineteenth Century'. Since his […] More

Graham Caine (1945-2018)

Sad news that Graham Caine of Street Farm and the Bristol Gnomes died on 19th September. As well as being the Street Farmer who designed and lived in the first ecological house, […] More

Videos from Bristol Radical History Festival 2018

These videos are from Bristol Radical History Festival 2018, held at M Shed on Sunday 6th May, 2018. Strikes, equal pay and workers’ control: the workplace in ’68 Women, politics […] More

Petition to give Bristol a slave trade memorial & […]

Sign the petition. Throughout time Bristol has played a key role in events, ideas and literature that have shaped people’s freedom and parliamentary reform. Previously these topics […] More

1968 events in 2018

Bristol Radical History Festival 2018 Poster Dark Large

As the second Bristol Radical History Festival rapidly approaches, it is also worth doing a shout out for several other 1968 events happening in the coming weeks. […] More

Recent Books

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

The Sons of Belial

This is a very good book, extremely informative. Even though the bulk of the book is set in the North West of England, there is a wider historical scope. Which would be very useful […] More

The Gallows Pole

Cover of novel featuring silhouette of figure with noose for hanging in background.

The Gallows Pole is a wonderful novel set in 18th Century Yorkshire. It is based on a true story about the Craggs Vale Coiners. Coiners clipped coins. If you look at your £1 coin, […] More

Recent Articles

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 […] 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

Bedminster War Resisters

A map of resistance to World War 1 in Bedminster, a district of South Bristol. It shows the homes of over 40 Conscientious Objectors and others who took part in resistance to World […] More

Steps Against War

This is a film of Steps Against War, a history walk with puppets and song, telling the stories of Bedminster people who resisted the First World War. Bedminster, a district of […] More

The South West Tribunal

Foreword During the Second World War, over 60,000 men and 1,000 women applied to register as conscientious objectors (COs) in England, Wales and Scotland. Although this was at […] More

The last piece of the jigsaw

Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them Introduction One evening in 2010 some members of Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG) were poring over some old maps of […] More

Recent Pamphlets

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

Ring Out the Thousand Wars of Old

Ring Out the Thousand Wars of Old - Front Covers

During World War One, 28 men from the Forest of Dean sought recognition as conscientious objectors rather than be called up to fight. This is the story of these men, the options […] More

Recent Events

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

The Postwar Financial and Political Settlement […]

Bristol Radical History Group's Alan Brown will discuss the end of the British Empire to Pax Americana and the cold war, hidden histories 1944-1953. More

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

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

1949 Dockers’ Strike (Avonmouth): Labour Government use […]

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

Gadael Tir / Leave Land the story of land rights and […]

Bristol Radical History Group, the Cube Cinema and the South West Land Justice Network are delighted to present the English Language version of Gadael Tir / Leave Land. Owen Shiers […] More