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 […]

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 Edward Colston ‘corrective’ plaque

Sanitising an uncomfortable history

Colston's statue in Bristol's center.
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 needed to stop the statue being damaged by unauthorised ‘protest plaques’. Several of these have been fixed to the statue over the last couple of years and removed by Bristol City Council. It […]

Myths within myths…

Edward Colston and that statue

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 Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city Looking into the history of the statue demonstrates the same myth making that has characterised the popular memory of […]

Joshua Fitch and Colston’s Girls’ School

The school the Merchant Venturers never wanted...

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, manager and then deputy-governor of the Royal African Company (RAC) which held a monopoly over the West African slave-trade in the seventeenth century.] During Colston’s time managing and then leading the […]

History Walk: Edward Colston

Why is our city dominated by this man’s legacy?

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 Bristol churches in the city centre where ‘the life and work’ of Edward Colston is still provided religious legitimacy on an annual basis. Along the way we will share the most recent historical […]

Studio 2: Bristol Radical History Group highlights

Lady Blackshirts, The Smoke Dragon, Bristol's Aircraft Industry, From Wulfstan to Colston

A series of 10 minute 'taster talks' covering recently or soon to be published Bristol Radical History Group texts. These include: Lady Blackshirts: The Perils of Perception – suffragettes who became fascists [Rosemary Caldicott] During the 1930’s a small group of ultra-nationalistic women, who considered themselves feminists, joined Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. Surprisingly some of these women were former high ranking members of the suffragette movement. The Smoke-Dragon and How […]

History Walk 1: Edward Colston

Why is our city dominated by this man’s legacy?

Starting with St Mary Redcliffe church, this walk takes in other historic Diocese of Bristol churches in the city centre where 'the life and work' of Edward Colston is still provided religious legitimacy on an annual basis. Along the way we will share the most recent historical research regarding this man's involvement with the transatlantic slave trade and discover how the Victorian elite created a 'cult of Colston' that is now said to form part of our city's 'identity'. At our final stop, […]

Edward Colston Research Paper #2

The Royal African Company and Edward Colston (1680-92)

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 retains a popular status amongst sections of Bristol’s population as a philanthropist and ‘city father’, his memory protected by powerful civic organisations. Although the depiction of Colston as a […]