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 […]

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 all his anti-democratic bile that led him to write his Reflections on the Revolution in France would have been reinforced. It was in that book that he wrote: Along with the natural protectors and guardians, learning will be cast into the mire and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude Now as the Saint-Just […]

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 were sent to prison in Britain for refusing to go to sea in ships that the sailors would refer to as ‘coffin ships.’ On the dockside opposite the SS Great Britain stands the bust of Samuel Plimsoll MP and on it’s plinth is engraved the ‘Plimsoll Line’. This was a simple idea that showed if a ship was overloaded. […]

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 […]

The Moral Economy

The transition from rural economy to the free market, and the resistance

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 relations. As Britain industrialised at speed, there was a change from a paternalistic rural economy, to a free market guided by the ideology of Adam Smith. The moral economy related to part of the resistance from the labouring poor during these economic and social upheavals. This was community based, with a crowd of people […]

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 […]

Refusing to Kill

Bristol’s World War 1 Conscientious Objectors research

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 (CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0) for primary and secondary schools and colleges. They are intended to be relevant to a range of subjects (in particular, history, religious education, citizenship, the humanities more generally and may provide the basis of project work). The material will be added to as the project evolves. To find out […]

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 […]