We’ve got a monument to British involvement in the slave trade

The Observer asks:

Is Britain simply too ashamed to fund a memorial to slavery?
It is time that the country fully acknowledged its role in this vile practice

Sorry, we’ve already got one:

wilberforce

26 thoughts on “We’ve got a monument to British involvement in the slave trade”

  1. its role? They talk like we were the only country involved in it, that it’s something that we invented, when the reality was that keeping and trading slaves was the norm in almost all of the world until the 18th century.

  2. Or maybe they want a monument to Britain’s major role in *ending* the slavery era in the Western world?

  3. Agammamon, the dead white bloke depicted in the statue is William Wilberforce. It’s in Westminster Abbey.

  4. The problem is of course that Wilberforce was a ‘white, middle aged man’, therefor wholly unacceptable as a symbol of the end to slavery.

  5. Pingback: A Memorial? | Longrider

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Almond – “They talk like we were the only country involved in it, that it’s something that we invented, when the reality was that keeping and trading slaves was the norm in almost all of the world until the 18th century.”

    And the other reality is that the keeping and trading of slaves after the 19th century continued as a government monopoly. Especially a monopoly of those governments the nice people in the Observer usually support. Vastly more in the case of the Soviet Union – whose passing was so eloquently mourned by Seamus Milne:

    About 14 million people were in the Gulag labor camps from 1929 to 1953 (the estimates for the period 1918–1929 are even more difficult to calculate). A further 6–7 million were deported and exiled to remote areas of the USSR, and 4–5 million passed through labor colonies, plus 3.5 million already in, or sent to, ‘labor settlements’.

  7. Rob has it spot on.

    A little anecdote. Went to Brazil a year or two back and while their picked up a local English language history of Brazil book.

    First chapter which covered Brazil’s history included a brief section on slavery. It perfunctorily ended with “slavery in Brazil ended when the British Navy turned up and ended it.”

  8. There is a memorial in Simonstown, once British naval base guarding the seas of the Cape of Good Hope, raised by his men to the captain of a British ship killed in a skirmish with Somali slave traders as part of Britain’s war to stop the slave trade.

  9. Perhaps we should give them a memorial celebrating slavery. After all, there’s never been a civilisation, including ours, doesn’t owe its origins to the spare productive capability of slaves.

  10. The Arabs were trading in African slaves for more than a thousand years. It wasn’t formally outlawed in Saudi until 1964, but continues under the radar to this day.

  11. bloke outside the M25

    Without excusing the sheer barbarity and awfulness of the slave trade, where the key word here is “trade” then why pick on us? “Trade” implies that the slave ships purchased their cargo from A and sold it to B. Surely is should be A that ought to be pursued? After all A’s expertise in moving slaves westward from the Indian sub-continent for a millennia was truly legendary
    Otherwise an interesting legal point is created- does one blame the common carrier for the ills created by what they carried? Is so then should the Internet carriers of IS(IL?) propaganda be accused of supporting that vile cause?

  12. bloke in spain said:
    “there’s never been a civilisation, including ours, doesn’t owe its origins to the spare productive capability of slaves.”

    Didn’t Adam Smith argue that free workers generated more surplus than slaves? Not only more productive but also lower acquisition costs (advert in the local paper rather than having them captured and shipped half way across the world), lower management costs (less wear and tear on whips), and they organise their own transportation, food and housing.

  13. From the article: “the slave owners who received “compensation” for loss of human “property”,”

    If the simplest method was to simply purchase all the slaves and set them free, then that was the simplest method. Individuals and organisations had been doing this for decades before the State decided to use its greater purchasing powers to nationalise the entire “asset portfolio”. Compulsary Purchase, while a forced action, still involves that important part of the transaction “purchase”. What other nationalisation without compensation would these people insist on?

    Exactly the same thing was done to set up the NHS, the government just said “sod it” and bought off all the private doctors.

  14. So Much For Subtlety

    jgh – “What other nationalisation without compensation would these people insist on?”

    On Taiwan the Nationalists carried out a process of land reform that bought all the land from the landlords and handed it out to farmers. The landlords were paid in bonds that could be invested in factories or in the stock market. Over night Taiwan created an class of entrepreneurial businessmen.

    Meanwhile on the Mainland the Communists also carried out a process of land reform. Compensation was not paid. How did that work out I wonder?

    I am pretty sure I know which of these two processes the Guardian supports.

  15. Does military conscription count as slavery. Or is that a noble activity. True the soldiers get paid and fed but free will goes right out the window. And in WW2 the pay was microscopic.

  16. Didn’t Adam Smith argue that free workers generated more surplus than slaves?

    Even the Soviet Union couldn’t make slavery profitable. The Gulags were a money-losing venture. This is why governments now enslave us with taxes, not chains.

    But it’s probably worse than that. I suspect one of the reasons industry developed in the northern US states rather than the south was because the north didn’t have a plentiful supply of slaves, so they built machines. In the long term, that alone probably cost the southern states far more than any gains they made from slavery.

    Certainly I’ve seen that theory suggested as an explanation of why the industrial revolution didn’t happen in Roman times, when they’d already figured out the basic idea of steam power. Why bother with such toys, when they could just bring in a few more slaves?

    Indeed, we’re seeing the equivalent right now. The EU wants mass immigration from anywhere to provide warm bodies to run the economy. The Japanese are building robots. Which one will be better off a hundred years from now?

  17. “Didn’t Adam Smith argue that free workers generated more surplus than slaves?”
    Once you have a civilisation with a mature economy, they do. But pre-civilisations, at the agrarian stage, generally don’t have the spare capacity to free up people to perform the specialisations civilisation requires. All their productive capacity goes into feeding themselves.The utilisation of enslaved captives provides marginal surpluses, enabling the release of people from the basic subsistence role to other tasks.
    And, as far as I’m aware, every civilisation has gone this route.

  18. Easy way to settle this stupid argument with the Left: do it again. There’s still plenty of slavery going on in various bits of the world. Let’s build up the military a bit and go out and stop it. I predict there’d be more volunteers than required.

    And anyone who volunteers to join the British armed forces to fight slavery gets automatic citizenship after one tour of duty.

    Can’t think of a better monument.

  19. Our role in the slave trade was to ban it, then spend much blood and treasure enforcing that ban.

    A bit of gratitude would be nice.

  20. pedant2007 – “I thought the Wilberforce Museum in Hull was pretty much a memorial to slavery.”

    That, and the 90 foot-tall millstone grit column with a statue of the man himself on top in the city center.

    A Hull MP has to do something quite outstanding to get that; – not even John Prescott got one!

  21. Ever wondered where the Nelson in Nelson Mandela came from. Ever since the British under admiral Lord Nelson did such a lot to stop slave trade Nelson is one of the most popular names in darkest Africa.

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