UK’s track record on slavery is mixed
Dear Sir, - There seems to be an almost invariable rule of thumb that anyone writing into the Chronicle bemoaning young people’s deficient grasp of British history are often in need of a history lesson themselves.
Chris Turner (letters, 2nd August) claims that Britain went to war with America in an effort to stop the slave trade. What war was this? Britain fought two wars with America, the first when some of the colonists sought independence (1776-1783) and the second in 1812-14 against what was then an independent nation. On neither occasion was slavery an issue in the conflict. There were abolitionist movements in both sides of the Atlantic.
Yes, Britain played a role in the abolition of slavery and the Royal Navy disrupted slave traffic from the 1830s onwards. I don’t know of any university course that denies that nor which claims that Britain “invented” slavery. Nor do I know of any history courses which elide the role of Barbara Corsairs nor of African slave traders in the mix.
Chris Turner is tilting at windmills. I suggests he goes back to Google, The Encyclopedia Britannica, RJ Unstead, Ladybird books or whatever sources he uses and he’d find that: Britain remained neutral in the US Civil War, that we never took up arms against America to stop the slave trade and that the UK’s track record when it came to slavery was pretty mixed. We did the right thing in the end but it took us a long time to get there.
I don’t know of any university student body or department, which would claim otherwise. — Yours faithfully,
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