Glasgow, United Kingdom – It was the second metropolis of the British Empire and flourished on the again of the transatlantic slave commerce, but this week a landmark research into Glasgow’s controversial hyperlinks with slave labour started after being launched by the town’s council.
In what’s the first such research to be carried out by an area authority within the UK, the investigation will have a look at how the good wealth that Scotland’s largest metropolis amassed was achieved utilizing enslaved peoples who had been trafficked from Africa between the 16th and 19th century.
The findings will result in a session with the folks of Glasgow on how finest to deal with its slavery-associated avenue names and landmarks which have lined this nice Scottish city centre for many years.
“It is an honour that Glasgow is taking this step,” stated Graham Campbell, a Glasgow councillor for the pro-independence Scottish Nationwide Social gathering (SNP), who will chair a committee supporting the research.
Campbell, who’s of Jamaican descent and whose great-grandfather was a Scotsman who owned a former slave plantation within the Caribbean island state, stated he hoped the investigation would additionally immediate an even bigger “public dialog with the folks of Glasgow”.
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“They know extra about this factor of their historical past than they did beforehand, however it’s nonetheless a comparatively unknown a part of their historical past as a result of it has been quietly forgotten,” he advised Al Jazeera.
Boomtime for slave-owners
Glasgow’s – and Scotland’s – associations with the slave commerce started in haste following the 1707 Act of Union, which noticed Scotland and England unite to kind Nice Britain.
When Scotland gave up its formal independence in 1707, it had 4 universities to England’s two. Quickly, this extremely literate workforce eyed alternatives abroad, with some Scots exploiting the transatlantic commerce in human trafficking for their very own private acquire.
As Scotland’s tobacco lords amassed nice wealth from their shady dealings, Glasgow boomed, and right now Glassford Road – named after Scottish tobacco plantation proprietor John Glassford – stays one of many many remnants of the town’s slavery-enriched previous.
The brand new investigation is ready to be carried out by College of Glasgow historian Stephen Mullen, and is predicted to take a 12 months to finish. It follows the college’s determination in August to pay £20 million ($26 million) in reparative justice over the subsequent twenty years to make amends for the monetary help it acquired from benefactors who profited from the transatlantic slave commerce.
“Glasgow College began what I name ‘first gentle’,” stated Sir Geoff Palmer, who turned the primary black professor in Scotland in 1989, and is right now an emeritus professor at Heriot-Watt College in Edinburgh.
“After which Glasgow metropolis has picked it up – and I am simply ready for different establishments and different cities to comply with the sunshine that these two locations have lit.”
‘Including historic context’
Lisa Williams runs the Black Historical past Strolling Tour of Edinburgh, which explores the Scottish capital’s hyperlinks to slavery.
She stated she could be happy to see one thing comparable rolled out in her personal metropolis, and advised Al Jazeera that the Glasgow research was exhibiting why it was vital to focus on the “legacy of that exact interval”, not least “when it comes to racism”.
Experiences have urged that a few of the metropolis’s most controversial names may very well be eliminated or modified following the research and a public dialogue with Glasgow residents. However the likes of Palmer contend that including historic context to current names or landmarks is a extra preferable final result.
Certainly, with experiences additionally suggesting that Glasgow’s iconic Gallery of Trendy Artwork – as soon as a grand mansion of a former Glasgow tobacco lord – has been earmarked as a possible venue for a museum exploring Scotland’s hyperlinks to historic slave labour, Palmer insisted that “eradicating the proof [does] not take away the crime”.
“We can not change historical past,” he concluded. “And something that tries to alter it’s in itself unfaithful.”