This project page collects together all the research and other materials on the leading slave trader Edward Colston (1636-1721). For more on the campaign to challenge the celebration and memorialisation of Colston see the Countering Colston website.

Stuff linked to this project...

Articles

Edward Colston: A century of dissent and protest

Introduction During the furore about the renaming of the Colston Hall in 2017 a number of angry letter-writers to the Bristol Post claimed that the recent protests over Edward Colston were merely a ‘flash in the pan’ and a product of ‘woke’, faddist politics propagated by people from outside […] Read More =>
A close up of Colston's face from his statue in Bristol's centre

Who owns Colston?

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 […] Read More =>
Colston's statue in Bristol's center.

The Edward Colston ‘corrective’ plaque

Introduction Just over a year ago a project was launched to research, design and install a ‘corrective’ plaque on the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol City Centre. It was claimed by the originator of the idea, Bristol City Council’s Principal Historic Environment Officer, that the new version was […] Read More =>

Myths within myths…

In the light of recent moves to place a ‘corrective’ plaque on the statue of Edward Colston in the centre of Bristol and calls for it to be removed to a museum it seems the time is right to investigate the origins of this monument and the claim emblazoned on it that it was: Erected by citizens of […] Read More =>

Joshua Fitch and Colston’s Girls’ School

Introduction On 11th November 2017 Colston's Girls’ School (CGS) announced that they would not be changing the name of the school, despite its associations with Edward Colston, the Bristol merchant who both organised and profited from the transatlantic slave trade. Colston was a major investor, […] Read More =>

Edward Colston Research Paper #2

Introduction This research article is an examination of the Royal African Company (RAC) and the role of Edward Colston (b. 1636 d. 1721) within the organisation as both an investor and executive. It is unsurprising that this history has not been previously collated in this form as Colston still […] Read More =>

Edward Colston Research Paper #1

Introduction Edward Colston was an investor, official and eventually deputy governor of the Royal African Company (RAC) from 1680-92. Over this period the RAC purchased and transported tens of thousands of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic into a life of hard labour. This article aims to answer […] Read More =>

Publications

Front cover showing a stained glass window with St Wulfstan and Colston as depicted on his tomb

From Wulfstan to Colston

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 […] Read More =>

Event Series

Move on over: From Countering Colston to Black Lives Matter

All over the world I've seen grandchildren of slave masters tearing down slave masters statues - over in England they put it in the river. Reverend Al Sharpton speaking at the funeral of George Floyd in Houston, Texas, 10 June 2020. Move on over ...or we'll move on over you US Black Panther slogan […] Read More =>

Slavery – The Hidden History

March 2007 was the 200th anniversary of the parliamentary abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. The 'celebration' of the abolition was controversial for several reasons. As a school children we were taught that William Wilberforce was the 'conscience of the nation' reforming the worst […] Read More =>

Events

Newport Chartist Convention – 2021

Court drama, pioneering photography and toppling statues...Newport Chartist Convention 2021 The annual Newport Chartist Convention will take place at St Woolos Cathedral 105 Stow Hill, Newport NP20 4ED, UK. There is a full programme of lectures, with guest speakers including Professor Joan Allen on […] Read More =>

Book Launch: From Wulfstan to Colston

Note: this is an online event organised by M Shed. Registration and booking is required via their website. Published a few days before the fall of Edward Colston’s statue in June 2020, From Wulftsan to Colston traces a thousand-year history of the involvement in slavery of Bristol’s merchants, from […] Read More =>

History Walk: Edward Colston – why was he toppled?

Meet at 3.30pm outside M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN Walk ends at Bristol Cathedral at 5.30pm (approx.) With the imminent launch of a so-called 'consultative display' featuring Edward Colston's statue at M Shed it seems apt to expose his involvement with transatlantic slavery […] Read More =>

Support the Colston 4 – Repeat Film Screenings

Due to people reaching out and wanting to see the films we have added this screening of the short films and the recorded Q n A On January 25th, 2021 four defendants appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court on charges arising from the toppling of the Colston statue at a huge Black Lives Matter […] Read More =>
Miscellaneous 2021

Support the Colston 4 – Film Screenings

On the day of the first scheduled court appearance of the Colston 4, there will be a online film screening and conversations to provide a context for that event. January 25th, 2021 will see four defendants appearing at Bristol Magistrates Court on charges arising from the toppling of the Colston […] Read More =>

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 […] Read More =>

History Walk: Edward Colston

11.30am Redcliffe Caves, Phoenix Wharf, Redcliffe Way, Bristol BS1 6SR Walk ends at Bristol Cathedral at 1.30pm (approx.) After popular demand the Countering-Colston group are re-running their recent history walk. Starting with St Mary Redcliffe church, this walk takes in other historic Diocese of […] Read More =>

Book Reviews

Bury the Chains : The British struggle to Abolish Slavery

Bury the Chains

Thrilling account of the first grass-roots human rights campaign, which freed hundreds of thousands of slaves around the world. In 1787, twelve men gathered in a London printing shop to pursue a seemingly impossible goal: ending slavery in the largest empire on earth. Along the way, they would […] Read More =>

Blog

If you are Glad Colston’s Gone – support the Colston […]

One year on from the fall of the Edward Colston statue from it's pedestal during the Black Lives Matter protest on 7 June 2020, there's been another media feeding frenzy focused on Bristol. The iconic statue toppling event continues to buzz around the world's newswires. But let's not forget that […] Read More =>

Statement of Support for the Toppling of the Colston Statue & for […]

Early this morning, on the first anniversary of the toppling of the slave-trader and former Tory MP Edward Colston from his plinth, the campaign coalition @GladColstonsGone issued the following statement and a press release. Amidst the chatter from policiticans, celebrities and media, it will likely […] Read More =>

The M Shed Colston ‘Consultative Display’ – What’s in and what’s out?

Introduction After months of secrecy instigated by the Mayor’s Office finally M Shed are launching their ‘Consultative Display” entitled The Colston Statue: What Next? For many of us the Colston statue should have been left to ‘sleep with the fishes’, where many thousands of his Company’s victims […] Read More =>

Countering Colston comment on the first hearing of the Colston 4

Today, the 25 January 2021 four people, Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 32, and Sage Willoughby, 21, will appear at Bristol Magistrates Court charged with causing criminal damage to the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol City Centre during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest on 7 […] Read 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 the doyen of Bristol’s charities, this undemocratic, unelected club for wealthy business(men), is guardian to a goodly […] Read More =>

Bristol History Commission – questions still not answered….

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 the Bristol History Commission (HC) which was set up by the elected Mayor Marvin Rees in response to the statue of […] Read 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. Republishing it here seems apposite as he slept with the fishes for a few days at the bottom of the very docks where slave […] Read More =>

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 […] Read More =>

Colston Hall, the first domino goes down…

It's official, today the board of the Bristol Music Trust (BMT) have announced the Colston Hall will be changing its name. Congratulations to the Counter-Colston campaigners and their supporters for all the work they have done over the last few years to highlight this issue. We have been having a […] Read More =>
A close up of Colston's face from his statue in Bristol's centre

Renaming the Colston Hall: An opportunity to rediscover the hidden […]

The following statement by BRHG historians was published in the Bristol Post last week in response to Councillor Richard Eddy's article the week before entitled: Prominent Tory: Renaming Bristol's Colston Hall 'panders to tiny minority'. Almost a century ago in 1920 the Reverend H. J. Wilkins of […] Read More =>
A close up of Colston's face from his statue in Bristol's centre

The Slave Trader ‘Celebration Season’

The onset of autumn in Bristol sees several idiosyncratic ceremonies, rituals and traditions that remember the locally born slave trader Edward Colston. Whilst public display has in recent years retreated, commemoration and maintenance of a partial historical narrative focused only on philanthropic […] Read More =>
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