Custom Becomes Crime, Crime Becomes Culture: The Sea Related Informal Economies From Feudalism To Capitalism – Trevor Bark

Troublemaker and academic from the North East, Trevor is on the editorial board of Capital and Class. He is an expert on the social history of crime and author of papers such as ‘Crime becomes Custom, Custom becomes Crime’.

This talk describes the inter-related nature of the sea based informal economies through time, and in the process drawing out important characteristics. Wide-scale economic change and changes to the everyday lives of working class people are related to contemporary and historical examples of wrecking and smuggling.

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Nicotina Tabacum – Jim McNeill

Jim McNeill, local historian, storyteller and member of Living Easton.

Jim will talk about how the seeds sewn during 17th Century Colonialism and after the Cromwell Revolution led directly to the loss of our freedom of movement and to severe restrictions in trade and agriculture by the common people. For example, did you know that the poor of Gloucesterershire were once persecuted and hounded by the state for growing tobacco? Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for September 19th, 1677. recorded “…the lifeguard [soldiers] was sent down into the country about some insurrection, was sent to Winchcombe [Gloucesterershire] to spoil the tobacco there, which it seems the people there do plant contrary to law, and have always done, and still been under force and danger of having it spoiled, as it hath been oftentimes, and yet they will continue to plant.”

Jim’s Talk has three main strands:

  • How poor small holders in 17th Century Gloucestershire were forcibly prevented by the monarchist and commonwealth states from growing tobacco.
  • How their lives were linked to the lives and struggles of indentured labourers, slaves and the native people of, what is now, the state of Virginia, USA.
  • A look and discussion of today’s tobacco industry and repression of subsistence farmers in Afghanistan.

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Branscombe Bay And The Sea Commons – Roger Ball

Easton Cowboy and West Ham United fan. Has bored his fellow Cowboys with rants about history for years. The formation of Bristol Radical History Group has made their lives a lot easier.

In January this year the container ship MSC Napoli was grounded and shed 57 of its 2300 cargo containers onto the beaches of Branscombe Bay, Devon. The media were at first amused and then astounded as hundreds, then thousands of people made their way to the site and plundered motorbikes, casks of wine, nappies and other goods from the beach. Police seemed unable or unwilling to act as huge crowds gathered be dealt with. After all, it was said, this scavenging must be illegal. This talk will briefly look at the events of those few days, how the media reacted to them and why the events at Branscombe connect to a hidden history of contestation over the sea commons.

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