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This weekend, as thousands attended Black Lives Matter marches across the country, protesters in Bristol pulled down a statue of 17th century slave trader, Edward Colston. Protesters then rolled the statue into Bristol Harbour to the sound of triumphant cheers – a clear victory after years of unsuccessful campaigns to have the statue removed.The Colston statue, as well as Colston's legacy elsewhere in Bristol (there are numerous roads and buildings named after him), has been a long-maligned presence in the city. Colston was the deputy governor of the Royal African Company and oversaw the trafficking of an estimated 84,000 Africans, many of whom died horrific deaths. Although campaigners and public figures had spoken out against the statue – including MP for Bristol West, Thangam Debbonaire, in 2018 – attempts were thwarted by Colston supporters. Conservative councillors once argued against a plaque contextualising the statue, saying that the wording could be "biased" against the slave trader.
But Colston's statue is by no means the only monument in the UK with ties to the slave trade. This week, Sadiq Khan called for a review of all London statues with links to slavery, bringing to light the many monuments across the country that memorialise figures involved in the trafficking of slaves, or who profited from the slave trade.Here is a list of just some of Britain's statues with ties to slavery – should you wish to, you know, visit them.
According to the essay "Set in Stone? Statues and Slavery in London" by Madge Dresser, published in the History Workshop Journal, "it is difficult to ascertain just what statues exist in London, let alone which might be confidently associated with the transatlantic slave trade". Her article includes a limited list of standing monuments in the city with links to the slave trade.Sir Robert Clayton was a banker, politician and a board member of the Royal African Company, which shipped more Africans across the Atlantic than any other institution involved in the slave trade. Clayton’s statue stands outside the north wing of St. Thomas' Hospital in Lambeth.Hans Sloane, who gives Sloane Square its name, was a 17th century physician and botanist. He travelled to Jamaica, where he sourced large supplies of cacao and wrote extensively on the plants that he collected from the island. He is often credited with bringing cocoa to England, although drinking chocolate is believed to have been consumed as far back as the Maya civilisation. Sloane married Elizabeth Langley Rose, a plantation heiress, and benefitted financially from slave plantations.
Sloane's original statue suffered weather damage and was moved to the British Museum in 2007, but a replica can be found in the same spot, in the Chelsea Physic Garden.John Cass was a director of the Royal African Company, like Clayton and Colston. Replicas of his statue, commissioned by the John Cass Institute in 1751, can be found around London, including one in the London Metropolitan University Archive on Goulston Street, and one in the Guildhall building in central London.William Beckford was a political figure who, according to Dresser, "inherited sole interest in 13 sugar plantations in Jamaica and owned approximately 3,000 enslaved Africans". His statue stands in the Guildhall.Thomas Guy was a philanthropist and founder of Guy's Hospital. He gained his wealth from the South Sea Company, which traded slaves. His statue stands at the entrance to the hospital, helpfully located on Google Maps here.Robert Milligan was a Scottish merchant and slave owner, responsible for the construction of West India Docks in east London. In the year of his death, Milligan owned 526 slaves on a sugar plantation in Jamaica. You can find his statue at West India Quay in east London. Local councillor Ehtasham Haque has started a petition for the monument to be removed.
Robert Peel was a politician and a founder of the Metropolitan Police. Peel's father opposed the Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill, seeing it as a threat to the cotton industry. Statues to Peel stand in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, Parliament Square in London, Woodhouse Moor in Leeds and George Square in Glasgow. This weekend, protesters vandalised the Glasgow monument.
Denbigh, in north Wales, is home to a statue in memory of Henry Morton Stanley, a colonial administrator and explorer who was accused of the horrifying abuse of African people. The erection of Stanley's statue in 2010 led to an open letter in the Telegraph from academics and high profile figures, including poet Benjamin Zephaniah, criticising the monument for "wrongly romanticising his racist African adventures".
This week, the "Rhodes Must Fall" campaign to bring down the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford University's Oriel College hit the headlines. A 19th century imperialist, Rhodes is regarded as one of the figures who paved the way for apartheid in southern Africa, annexing large amounts of land and altering laws on voting rights. Rhodes also believed that the Anglo-Saxon race was the "first race in the world", and therefore, "the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race".
Unsurprisingly, the legacy of the slave trade looms large across the UK, with further statues of men who profited from its spoils in Bristol, Liverpool and Bath. This crowd-sourced map details some of these statues, along with their locations.Update 10/06/20: This article has been updated to show that Robert Peel's father – also called Robert Peel – opposed the Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill, not his son.@RubyJLL