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 the doyen of Bristol’s charities, this undemocratic, unelected club for wealthy business(men), is guardian to a goodly proportion of Bristol’s schools and university, presenting itself as an innocuous force for good. Others are convinced that the SMV are outdated and outmoded. The Charter was granted at the time of a […]

Bristol Festival of Literature: Colston, Fact And Fiction

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 History Group and Countering Colston discuss how facts, fictions and silences about the history of Edward Colston became part of the collective memory in the Victorian period and were subsequently challenged by historians, writers and artists. Ros Martin is a literary-based artist and activist of many years standing. She […]

Black History Month 2020

Brecon slave trader plaque was removed, and a poem was penned!

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 slave ship Hannibal without public consultation. African people were purchased by agents of The Royal African Company to undertake forced labour and childbearing as slaves for the accumulation of profit. In 1693 700 enslaved African women, men and children were forced below the decks of the Hannibal under the command […]

Bristol History Commission – some questions….

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 us tell our full city history" and to "shape the future of Bristol". Since the announcement we have waited for some clarity about the Commission, its members, processes, timescales and remit but none have appeared. Several people have asked questions of the Mayor's Office but received no answers (as yet). As Bristol […]

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. Republishing it here seems apposite as he slept with the fishes for a few days at the bottom of the very docks where slave ships bound for Africa would have moored and now skulks in the basement of M Shed. The statues of Samuel Plimsoll and Edward Colston stand within half a mile of each other and share one thing in common […]

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 unless we recognise that our knowledge of that long dead figure will always be dependant upon how we read, interpret and understand the historical record which is made up of histories, biographies, memoirs, documents, images, statues and artefacts. And because most of the historical record was created, constructed, produced […]

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 Matter has issued a statement on their Facebook Page which includes the following: We cannot continue to allow this oppression in our society; the primary purpose of this event to begin with was to challenge this and to encourage change, it is sad that you have prevented from us doing so. We do not wish to, and we will not […]

Kick over the statues….Colston is going…going…gone

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 Bristol must be protected. That is code for not changing anything; names of buildings, schools and statues, which are all part of the memorial landscape of Bristol created over the last couple of centuries largely by the merchant and business elite. Well, there is another great historical tradition in Bristol, that is […]

From Wulfstan to Colston

Severing the sinews of slavery in Bristol

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 colonisation, to the transatlantic slave trade and the plantation system of the Americas. During this period, Bristol’s 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. Throughout the millennium, determined […]

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth Century North America and The Caribbean

By Gerald Horne
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 uncompromising about the position that the book takes: The years between 1603 and 1714 were perhaps the most decisive in English history. At the onset of the seventeenth century, the sceptered isle was a second-class power but the Great Britain that emerged at the beginning of the eighteenth century was, in many ways, […]