There is growing international awareness of London’s past, and deep, connections with the slave trade. For example, this week we noticed:
- Aljazeera: ‘Shameful’: Lloyd’s of London apologises for role in slave trade
- Bloomberg: The City of London Has a Slavery Problem
- Barbados Today: ‘Sorry is not enough’: Caribbean states say of British slavery apologies
- South China Morning Post: How London’s wealth was built on the backs of slaves
The awareness appears to arise from international revulsion at the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of a white Minneapolis policeman. That precipitated widespread reflection upon the discrimination suffered by black people, including during slavery. And that in turn has precipitated reflection upon The City’s involvement in slavery.
The City profited greatly from the slave trade, and more importantly, from the low-cost labour of slaves in the Caribbean and the Americas. You don’t have to look far to find signs of this. Consider, for example the statue of William Beckford, prominently placed in Guildhall. He was Lord Mayor in 1762 and 1769, and owned some 3,000 slaves.
Much to their credit, London and The City are facing the issue openly and proactively, and quickly. For example:
- DM: Church and Bank of England apologize over historic links to slave trade
- Guardian: Bank praised by Boris Johnson had slavery links, data shows
- Some U.K. companies plan to pay reparations for ties to slavery
- In wake of global anti-racism protests, two major UK firms vow to compensate for slavery links,
- City of London Corporation sets up working party to tackle racism
- Museum of London recognises that Milligan statue white-washes history
- Museum of London removes Milligan statue
- Statement on City, University of London’s response to Sir John Cass’ link to the slave trade
- Sadiq Khan orders review of London’s landmarks including slave trader statues
With The City’s current push for greater diversity, complemented by increased discussion of discrimination against black people, expect London’s role in slavery to be a topic that won’t go away.