The fall of Colston – the true story

  Since the fall of the slave-trader Edward Colston's statue in June 2020 the government, institutions, local politicians and his defenders, the Society of Merchant Venturers, have all been forced to react in one way or another. What unites them is that they have all attempted to cover up years of active defence or inaction concerning the celebration, commemoration or memorialisation of slave-traders in the city. From the mouths of people directly involved in the campaigning and activism […]

The Fall of Colston – the Strategies of the Campaigns

The fall of the Colston statue on 7th June 2020 can be seen as the culmination of 100yrs of campaigning against his city centre presence, which had intensified in the last decade, and intersected on that famous day. Whilst many individuals & institutions suddenly rushed to disown him, and the impact of the toppling rippled much further away than just in Bristol, that wasn’t the end of it! Tory ministers, right-wing media, Labour politicians, the CPS and the police launched a campaign of […]

Solidarity With The Colston Statue Topplers In Court

It's taken the vindictive British state and it's imperfect judicial system 18 months, but on Monday 13 December 2021 they will finally start the prosecution of just four, of the hundreds of protesters, who allegedly participated in the toppling of the Colston Statue way back on 7 June 2020. That statue toppling happened in the midst of Bristol's huge Black Lives Matter protest, as once again angry Bristolians made history and kicked over the statues. Now it's time to stand again in support of […]

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 ended up during the middle-passage. But a mixture of paranoia in the Mayor’s Office about a public backlash which might have affected his chances for re-election or perhaps seeing an opportunity to up […]

History Walk: Edward Colston – why was he toppled?

An amble through central Bristol uncovering the history of Edward Colston and a century of protest and dissent

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 and reveal the myths that were created about him and his philanthropy. This two hour walk visits churches in the city centre where, until very recently, ‘the life and work’ of Edward Colston was […]

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 […]

History walk 1: Wulfstan to Colston and the sinews of slavery

An abolition walk

Starts and leaves outside of the front of M Shed. Our first stop will be outside of the Merchant Venturers’ Almshouses (at the Broad Quay end of King Street), where the Merchant Venturers successfully petitioned for Bristol’s involvement in the ‘African Trade’ in 1698. We will cross Queen Square to Redcliffe Street and on to the Seven Stars. This will feature Abolitionists Thomas Clarkson, Wulfstan and the Quakers. On into Castle Park and Colston’s sugar refinery, past All Saints (where Edward […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]