William Beckford, owner of 3,000 slaves; statue
prominently placed in Guildhall

There is growing international awareness of London’s past, and deep, connections with the slave trade. For example, this week we noticed:

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:

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.


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