Almost two years ago, the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled in Bristol during the Black Lives Matter protests. The nationwide coverage of the event sparked fresh debates about how we as a nation deal (or have failed to deal) with our colonial past, particularly in relation to our significant involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. Despite being thrown into Bristol Harbour, the statue has since been placed in the M Shed Museum and interpreted to acknowledge its status in debates about Bristol’s past involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. Other cities with colonial links have also now started address their own histories. So, the question remains – how much has changed in the last two years?
It got me thinking about my own geographical area. I’ve lived in Lancaster ever since I moved here to go to university in 2017 and came to discover Lancaster’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade whilst doing my bachelor’s degree in history. In total, Lancaster was involved in the capture and enslavement of approximately 30,000 people with 122 slave ships sailing from the city between 1700-1800. It was the fourth biggest slaving port in the entire country – behind Liverpool, Bristol and London. Even more shocking, Lancaster was one of the few places in Britain that sent a petition to the government in favour of slavery at the time of the abolitionist movement.