History Matters Project: a compendium of evidence

Third Edition

Introduction

This is the third edition of our rolling compendium, which attempts to draw together a range of recent developments that turn on the place of history in the public square – including the removal of certain statues on public display, the renaming of buildings and places, and changes to the way history is taught in educational curricula. In cataloguing these examples, we do not offer any judgment on the actions of the individual or institution in question, today or in the past. Our aim is simply to provide a clear documentary record of what is happening – which can help inform public debate on these issues. At present, the evidence confirms that history is the most active front in a new culture war, and that action is being taken widely and quickly in a way that does not reflect public opinion or growing concern over our treatment of the past.

Policy Exchange renews a call for evidence asking museum directors, curators, teachers and the wider public to share their experiences and concerns about the ways in which history is being politicised, and sometimes distorted, sending their evidence to callforevidence@policyexchange.org.uk.

 

See the First Edition here

See the Second Edition here

See the Fourth Edition here

Museums, Galleries and Institutions

1. British Museum – Sir Hans Sloane

The British Museum has moved a bust of its founding father in an attempt to confront its links to colonialism. Sir Hans Sloane was a physician, naturalist and collector noted for bequeathing his collection of 71,000 items to the British nation. This provided the foundation of the British Museum, the British Library and the Natural History Museum in London. The museum has also announced it is “developing plans for new displays and programmes to address questions around collecting, empire and the transatlantic slave trade”.

Sir Hans Sloane’s statue has been placed in a secure cabinet alongside artefacts that explain his work in the “exploitative context of the British Empire”.

Other artefacts, including those taken by Captain James Cook on his voyages, will be given new labels explaining how they were acquired by the museum through “colonial conquest and military looting”. Mr Fischer, the museum director, said: “Dedication to truthfulness when it comes to history is absolutely crucial, with the aim to rewrite our shared, complicated and, at times, very painful history.

“The case dedicated to Hans Sloane and his relationship to slavery is a very important step in this.

“We have pushed him off the pedestal where nobody looked at him, and placed him in the limelight.

“The British Museum has done a lot of work – accelerated and enlarged its work on its own history, the history of empire, the history of colonialism, and also of slavery. These are subjects which need to be addressed, and to be addressed properly. We need to understand our own history.”

Neal Spencer, keeper of Nile and Mediterranean objects and the curator behind the new Sloane display, said: “We want to be upfront about Sloane’s collection being at the root of the British Museum. And we want to put it in a wider context, which is obviously a very difficult context.

“It happened in the exploitative context of the British Empire. I wouldn’t describe it as an imperialist organisation, but it is a museum that was founded within the context of Empire.

“Eventually we’re going to be redisplaying the whole British Museum. We want to tell more of these stories.
“We want to talk more about the context of how the museum was founded.”

A panel beside Sloane’s bust explains that this collection was “enabled by the wealth and networks that grew out of European imperialism”.

New labels also state that this bequeathed hoard contained “anatomical specimens relating to skin colour and theories of racial difference”.

While the origins of the foundational collection are being examined, a new “trail” for visitors will allow them to move through the museum on a themed tour of 16 objects unjustly taken from far-flung places in the days of Empire.

Mr Fischer is determined that in the coming years the long-term commitment of the museum to being open about its imperial heritage will lead to an overhaul in the information available to members of the public visiting in future.

He said: “This is not just about empire and colonialism, and European expansion across the world in the last 500 years.

“It is also setting this in the wider context of human history.” 

In addition, a podcast to explore the life, legacy and collection of Sir Hans Sloane has been published by the museum. Guests Miranda Lowe and James Delbourgo join Hartwig Fischer and Sushma Jansari to examine the role of slavery and enslaved people in his collecting practices and consider how museums should respond to these histories.

Hartwig Fischer and Sushma Jansari were also joined by Olivette Otele and Bonnie Greer. In this podcast, they discuss the legacies of slavery, its impact on today’s society, and how museums should respond to these histories both now and in the future.

Sources: 
Telegraph
Twitter
Twitter
Soundcloud
Soundcloud

2. Rhodes House to be revamped and keeps name

Located in Oxford city centre, Rhodes House, a Grade II listed building, will be re-modelled and have its basement converted into a conference hall for 300 people after plans were approved. The Rhodes Trust, which administers a scholarship funding international students to study at Oxford University and is based at the site, said the redevelopment will help the charity increase its number of scholars from 260 to 325 by 2028 and give better access to visitors.

Oxford city councillors only marginally passed the proposals, which include improved office spaces and new accommodation, as concerns around the number of bicycle parking spaces were expressed.
Rhodes Must Fall, which led protests to remove the monument in the city’s High Street, have called for the trust and its headquarters in South Parks Road to be reformed and renamed.

In reference to the re-development plans, a spokesperson for the group in Oxford said Rhodes House continues to be a “contested and violent blight” on the city.

They said: “A structure such as Rhodes House was not included in the will of Cecil Rhodes. It is another example of the University venerating perpetrators of genocide and anti-Black racism.” 

“Rhodes House continues its mission to sanitize the name of Cecil Rhodes, without confronting his violent and exploitative legacy.” 

“Until there is a reckoning with the legacy and genocide perpetuated by Rhodes, the Rhodes House will continue to be a contested and violent blight on the name of the University and the City of Oxford more specifically.” 

Rhodes Trust said regular open days and an “explanation of its architecture and the work [to] critically engage contested legacies of the Trust” would take place following the two-year building development.

Sources:
Rhodes House
Telegraph
BBC News
Oxford Mail
Building.co.uk 

3. Rhodes Art Complex – Bishop’s Stortford

The Rhodes Arts Complex will change its name to South Mill Arts. The complex includes the house in which Cecil Rhodes was born. The name change follows a petition signed by residents, as well as emails and calls protesting the name and pressure from campaign group ‘Stortford Against Rhodes’.

Trustees will change the name of their group from the Rhodes Birthplace Trust to the Bishop’s Stortford Museum and Arts Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

However the body says it will not eradicate Rhodes from the town’s history, instead promising to educate school children about his legacy.

In a statement the Stortford Against Rhodes group said: ‘The Rhodes Arts Complex is primarily funded by the citizens of Bishop’s Stortford through taxes and donations and as such should be inclusive of all members of the community.

‘The renaming is long overdue and whilst we appreciate their swiftness in meeting to discuss this issue, we would like to see immediate action to remove the name as well as commitment to further change.’

They added: ‘Rhodes was a white supremacist and not someone the signatories would like celebrated in this town. We need to educate the community on Cecil Rhodes, not exalt him.’      

In a statement issued today the trust said: ‘In line with its strategy to relaunch the Rhodes Arts Complex, to better fulfil its anticipated future role in the cultural life of Bishop’s Stortford and district, the Rhodes Birthplace Trust has announced that the new name for the complex will be South Mill Arts.

‘Whilst the trust originally indicated that it would consult the local community about a new name, the lively debate in the press, on social media and in unsolicited emails to the complex has more than adequately expressed the community’s views and the trustees now feel that such a consultation is not necessary.

‘The rationale behind the chosen name is based upon the location of the complex and an examination of the town’s industrial heritage, as themed by the museum.’

The trust’s chairwoman Deirdre Glasgow added: ‘We have kept our promise to the town and chosen a name that does not honour any person, living or dead, but does have a historical link to the town and its wider history.    

Source: 
South Mill Arts

4. V&A Dundee

The V&A Dundee has begun work to decolonise its galleries.

Statement:
“Crucial aspects of ​Scotland’s history, and therefore design history, are underpinned by the exploitation of enslaved and colonised people around the world.

At V&A Dundee we know we must do more in our galleries and programme to acknowledge this, and to continually and critically re-examine the stories we tell about the objects in our care.

In summer 2019 we hosted a workshop with the Transnational Scotland Network that brought together academics, designers and artists to critique the Scottish Design Galleries at V&A Dundee, and particularly the way they address (or do not address) Scotland’s role in imperialism and slavery. We wanted to interrogate the narratives of the gallery, to expose what was missing from the story, and to work together to forge a path towards change.

From these conversations we learned that the galleries leave many stories untold, insufficiently represent and misrepresent several objects, and in some cases even perpetuate a sense of historical amnesia about the brutal realities of the British empire and Scotland’s role in the slave trade.

Here are some examples:
Photo of a fine linen napkin from 1762. It’s white and is detailed with thistles and lions embroidered into it.

Fine linen napkin, 1762. (Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.)
 
Scotland’s role in the Caribbean colonies and the transatlantic slave trade is largely absent from our galleries. We show this fine linen napkin made in 1762 for the domestic market, but we don’t show the much more prevalent coarse linen produced on the East Coast of Scotland around this time, which was sold in huge quantities to American and Caribbean plantations for clothing enslaved people.
Photo of a Scottish glengarry cap decorated with Indian embroidery in reds and pinks with floral and Paisley motifs.
Scottish glengarry cap decorated with Indian embroidery. (Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.)
 
Scottish regiments were deployed all across India in the 19th century to forcefully maintain British rule. On display we have this cap which takes the form of a Scottish glengarry decorated with Indian embroidery. It might have been made by an Indian craftsperson to sell to Scottish soldiers. An Indian regiment of the British army later adopted the glengarry as their uniform cap – is this a sign of cultural exchange or subjugation?
Drawing of architectural plans of a cathedral in Khartoum.
 

This cathedral in Khartoum (Sudan) was designed by Scottish architect Robert Weir Schultz. In our gallery we say he created a blend of European and Middle Eastern architecture. What we don’t say is that the cathedral was built only two years after Khartoum’s violent conquest by British-led armed forces in 1898. The cathedral symbolised a new era of British Christian rule in an Arab Muslim city, so Schultz’s hybrid design had political purpose.

Photo of Turkey Red fabric. it’s bright red with an exquisitely embroidered yellow and blue peacock on it, as well as flowers and the Paisley pattern.

Turkey Red fabric. (Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.)
 

Scottish design firms used powerful wider trade networks to push Scottish exports in the British colonies, undercutting local economies and craftspeople. Turkey Red fabrics were produced in Scotland but many appropriated Indian motifs such as peacocks and ‘butas’ (which became known in the West as ‘Paisley’ patterns). This was so they could be sold cheaply in India for saris.

The Scottish Design Galleries are not a definitive statement about Scotland’s design history, and nor should they be. They can only ever be a snapshot of a much broader picture. It is our job as a museum to bring in new objects, themes, perspectives and voices that continually challenge interpretations of the past and present, widening and providing a platform for debate and helping us interrogate preconceptions and world views.

We know that we must do more to decolonise the way we present Scotland’s design history in our galleries and programme, and that this needs to go further than rewriting our labels. We also know that BAME academics, writers and designers must be at the forefront in this process, so please watch for more updates, and tell us your views.”

Source:
V&A Dundee

5. Guildford Museum

Guildford Borough Council has revealed it is going to be reviewing the historical artefacts at the Guildford Museum and establish whether some of them should be returned to their place of origin.

In a statement, Guildford Borough Council said: “As a local authority we are fortunate to hold our own collection of historic artefacts and objects within our Heritage Service. As part of a refreshed strategy and following many museums nationally, we had planned on reviewing the origins of our collections held in our museum. We have possessions from all over the world and we want to tell their whole story.

Part of the review plan was to begin to ‘decolonise’ our collection. This means we will consider each piece with particular awareness to any links to our country’s colonial past, including in the context of any racial bias.

Auditing the collection in this way will involve considering where we received the object from, how we obtained it and whether we should return it to its place of origin to be displayed there.

Having this information will allow us to give the full background of the object and explain in more depth to our residents and visitors any links to our colonial history. Although we have made great strides in the equality agenda in this country, and transformative progress has unquestionably been made over the last two decades, it is important that we recognise prejudice still exists and we still have some way to go.

We need to have all the facts so that we can be clear when we explain the history in context. For example, this may mean some items came here as part of the slave trade, have family connections to plantations or seafarers involved in slavery. When we start to review the collection in this way with the renewed interest in discovering these connections with the past we will have a better understanding of the full history.”

[…]

Sources: 
Guildford Borough Council 
Surrey Live 

6. Christie’s

Christie’s has said there has been a rise in “unfounded accusations” from academics and the general public who, it says, are increasingly questioning the provenance of “legitimate” historical objects on ideological grounds. This came as concerns were raised over the provenance of a 15th Century Persian Quran manuscript sold this summer.

In a statement, the company told the Telegraph: “We are mindful that there are nuanced and complex debates around cultural property and wish to listen and engage appropriately.”

“However, we are also concerned that there has been a rise in unfounded accusations, spread far and fast on social media, that question the legitimate and legal exchange of these objects and collecting areas.”

“As a marketplace we should all be concerned and ensure that the debate is balanced.”

“If organisations who only work within the law turn away from this area, the trade would continue away from public view, objects would not be re-examined, catalogues published or exhibitions held, all of which provide access and provide opportunity for engagement and celebration of important cultures across the world.”

Source:
Telegraph 

7. Museums Association

The Museums Association, a membership organisation that campaigns for socially engaged museums and a representative workforce, has released a Statement on Decolonisation:

“The Museums Association (MA) unreservedly supports initiatives to decolonise museums and their collections.

Decolonisation is not simply the relocation of a statue or an object; it is a long-term process that seeks to recognise the integral role of empire in British museums – from their creation to the present day. Decolonisation requires a reappraisal of our institutions and their history and an effort to address colonial structures and approaches to all areas of museum work.

This work has already started. Over the past decades museums have begun to recognise the trauma and suffering caused by the display and representation of objects that were obtained during or made as a result of the British Empire.

Many museum people have worked with consultants and volunteers in the UK and internationally to re-examine collections and explore the different stories they can tell. This vital work allows museums to provide additional information and context to the items they hold; to enter into meaningful dialogue with source communities and those in the diaspora relevant to these collections; and, in some cases, to explore options for restitution. Museums have also recognised the need for structural change, through a more diverse workforce and leadership. While some progress has been made on this front, there is still much to do.

The MA considers decolonising work to be ethically the right thing to do. Last year we established a Decolonisation Guidance Working Group at the request of our Ethics Committee. This was in response to recommendations in our Empowering Collections report. The publication recommended that: “Sector support organisations, the MA Ethics Committee and museums should work together to establish new guidance for the sector and ensure that museums take a proactive approach in the reinterpretation and decolonising of collections.”

We recognise the lack of support and guidance for museums undertaking work to decolonise their collections and practice and seek to bridge the current gap between theory and practice in this area.
We will continue this work and we will carry on supporting those that are striving to create an open and honest appraisal of the origin and meaning of our collections and buildings.”

Source:
Museums Association 

8. BBC – Last Night of The Proms

Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory will be sung at the Last Night of the Proms after a U-turn by the BBC. The broadcaster had previously announced the anthems would feature as instrumentals, following controversy over their perceived historical links with colonialism and slavery. Rule Britannia! originates from a poem written by the Scottish playwright James Thomson and was set to music by Thomas Arne, an English composer, in 1740. Modern critics have balked at the anthem’s line “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves” in light of the nation’s role in the slave trade. Other lyrics refer to Britain as the “dread” of other nations.Edward Elgar wrote the music to Land of Hope and Glory and Arthur Benson added the lyrics in 1902, extolling the virtues of empire. The traditional anthems are hugely popular but organisers fear a backlash because of their perceived association with colonialism and slavery.

In a statement, the BBC said:

“The pandemic means a different Proms this year and one of the consequences, under COVID-19 restrictions, is we are not able to bring together massed voices. For that reason we took the artistic decision not to sing Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory in the Hall.

We have been looking hard at what else might be possible and we have a solution. Both pieces will now include a select group of BBC Singers. This means the words will be sung in the Hall, and as we have always made clear, audiences will be free to sing along at home. While it can’t be a full choir, and we are unable to have audiences in the Hall, we are doing everything possible to make it special and want a Last Night truly to remember.

We hope everyone will welcome this solution. We think the night itself will be a very special moment for the country – and one that is much needed after a difficult period for everyone. It will not be a usual Last Night, but it will be a night not just to look forward to, but to remember.”

Boris Johnson had said the UK needed to stop the “wetness” and “cringing embarrassment” about its colonial history:

“I was going to tweet about this, but I just want to say… if it is correct, which I cannot believe that it really is, but if it is correct, that the BBC is saying that they will not sing the words of Land Of Hope And Glory or Rule Britannia! as they traditionally do at the end of The Last Night of The Proms.

“I think it’s time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions, and about our culture, and we stopped this general bout of self-recrimination and wetness. 

“I wanted to get that off my chest.”

He also said “I do think this country is going through an orgy of national embarrassment about some of the things that other people around the world love most about us”

“People love our traditions and our history with all its imperfections.

“It’s crazy for us to go around trying to censor it. It’s absolutely absurd and I think we should speak out loud and proud for the UK and our history.”

Before the U-turn, the Prime Minister’s spokesman had said: “The specific decision on this case is a matter for the organisers of the Proms and the BBC.

“But the PM has set out his views on like issues previously and has been clear while he understands the strong emotion involved in these discussions, we need to tackle the substance of problems, not the symbols.

“The PM’s words on like issues previously stand.”

Asked whether he was referring to statues, the spokesperson said: “Yes. You have his words on similar issues previously.”

Oliver Dowden also shared his concerns on Twitter:

Following the BBC announcement, Oliver Dowden tweeted:

‘Pleased to see common sense has prevailed on the BBC Proms’

Alok Sharma said the anthems should be played “with the lyrics sung”.

He also said they bring “a huge amount of pleasure to millions of people” and that if singing is not possible, “the BBC should put up subtitles” for people to join in at home.

Sources:
BBC
The Times
Twitter
Twitter
YouTube
Huffington Post

Education

9. Newcastle University – Armstrong Building

78% of current Newcastle students want to retain the current name of the Armstrong Building but add extra information on the industrialist’s legacy, a vote by the Students’ Union has revealed. William George Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong CB FRS was an engineer and industrialist, an eminent scientist, inventor and philanthropist. In collaboration with the architect Richard Norman Shaw, he built Cragside in Northumberland, the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. He is regarded as the inventor of modern artillery.

Statement by the Newcastle University Student’s Union:

“In response to the recent protests across the world, following the death of George Floyd, students have been vocal in their desire to see us at NUSU and the University take action, in addition to statements and social media posts, that demonstrates our commitment to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

Following the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston on 7 June 2020 in Bristol, Lord Armstrong’s history as an arms trader and links to the US Civil War came to light. Therefore, between 5pm Friday 19 June and 5pm on Monday 22 June, we held an indicative student vote to gather your opinion on whether you thought that the Armstrong Building should be renamed.

2,380 votes were cast and we can now reveal that the results are as follows:

  • 78% voted to retain the current name but to provide further information on Armstrong’s history
  • 18% voted to rename the building
  • 4% voted to abstain

Following the results, at NUSU we will now present the position that the Armstrong Building should retain its name, but further information on Lord Armstrong’s background should be provided by the University.

Since the vote closed on Monday at 5pm, we have delivered these results to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Chris Day and Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Julie Sanders to assist the University in their decision making on this matter and we have received the following response:

“Please thank all students who took part in this process for engaging. This outcome will be fed into the work and considerations of a working group – the name tbc.”

It was great to see how many students were engaged in this debate, thank you to everyone who voted. The incoming Sabbs will provide further updates in coming months.

For more information on how NUSU stands in solidarity with its Black and BAME Student Community & how we are urging all Non-Black Students to do more, head to our website.”

Sources:
Newcastle University Student’s Union
The Courier 

10. University of Warwick – Radcliffe Conference Centre

Warwick Anti-Racism Society has launched a campaign to rename the Radcliffe Conference Centre. The centre is named after Cyril Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe, GBEPCQC, a British lawyer and Law Lord best known for his role in the partition of British India. He served as the first chancellor of the University of Warwick from its foundation in 1965 to 1977.

“As a global institution, the University of Warwick has a duty to confront its colonial past and acknowledge the violent colonial legacies of figures that are celebrated on campus. Radcliffe Conference Centre is named after Cyril Radcliffe, the first Chancellor of Warwick University, who was also responsible for drawing up the borders in 1947. The new borders that were imposed led to the death and displacement of up to 16 million people.

The SU is therefore launching a #RenameRadcliffe campaign to rename this building, and show that the University is committed to understanding and acknowledging its own past. Students can show their support by adding the Twibbon to their social media profile pictures and posting about the campaign using the #RenameRadcliffe hashtag.”

Sources: 
Warwick Student Union
The Tab

 

11. University of Warwick – Decolonisation Initiatives

Warwick University has pledged support for decolonisation initiatives.

A joint statement from the Race Equality Taskforce and the University Executive Board said “We have funded several student-led initiatives, including the SU’s Warwick Decolonise Project, which works with different departments across the university on their curriculums.”

Separately, the University has recently received an update report from the SU regarding the process of decolonisation. Recommended changes will be implemented once the University has “had an opportunity to review them”.  

“We are already in the process of organising workshops to share the best practice that has come out of this work to develop an approach that embeds decolonisation into curriculum design and classroom culture across all faculties.”

Sources:
Warwick University
The Boar 

Public Space

12. Sir Hans Sloane, Duke of York Square

petition calling for the removal of the statue of Sir Hans Sloane on Duke of York Square has been launched. A counter-petition named ‘Save the Statue of Sir Hans Sloane’ has also been launched, and has attracted a greater number of signatures. Cadogan Estates, the landlord of the area in which the Sir Hans Sloane statue stands, issued the following statement in response to the British Museum’s decision to reposition the bust of its founder:

“Sir Hans Sloane achieved many great things in his life, being a noted intellectual, benefactor and philanthropist, he helped found the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Foundling Hospital, the Chelsea Physic Garden and promoting an early form of vaccination for smallpox – all of which helped advance our understanding of the wider world. But we recognise that he benefited from profits made from enslaved people, which we do not condone or excuse. We are aware of the British Museum’s decision to reposition his bust. We do not believe that removing the statue from Duke of York Square will help our understanding of the past or improve the area and believe that Sir Hans should be assessed in his proper historical context and are actively considering how to contextualise the statue. We are also engaging with the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm and will await their recommendations.”

The petition to remove the statue says: “it is a time to put an end to glorification of pain and suffering, I can assure you this statue is causing pain and suffering, and will continue to cause pain and suffering. Much of Britain’s wealth was built on Slavery, Many of our iconic buildings are a testament to the British slave trade and empire (The British Museum) we do not need statues as constant reminders pushed in our face, I believe the statue should be put in the British Museum with his beloved fossils. It is time for the council to take full responsibility to it’s residents and to it’s visitors and to it’s shoppers. This is an insult, this statue sends chills down my spine. Sir Hans Sloane married Elizabeth Langley Rose, widow of the planter Fulke Rose, whose plantations brought his family substantial income. In 1707 and 1725, Sloane published his lavishly illustrated two-volume Natural history of Jamaica, and he enjoyed extensive correspondence with Caribbean planters and merchants throughout his life. The time is now for change.”

Sources: 
Change.org
Change.org

 


13. Birmingham Statues

Birmingham is ‘littered’ with the statues of men with ‘murderous links with slavery’, an online petition has claimed as it calls for them to be removed and buildings to be renamed. Organisers the Birmingham Anti-Racist Campaign (BARC) have called for such statues to be taken from display and put into museums, while also asking the council to rename the buildings across the city with links to Britain’s colonial past.

The petition calls for the removal or renaming of several iconic Birmingham statues and buildings, including:

  • The Boer War memorial in Canon Hill Park
  • Horatio Nelson’s statue outside the Bullring
  • James Watt memorials (including James Watt school)
  • Matthew Boulton memorials (Including Oasis Boulton School)
  • Birmingham Curzon Street Station and the Curzon Building (BCU)
  • Memorials named after Joseph Chamberlain (Six Form College, Square and Clock Tower)

“We would like to see them placed in a museum similar to the Liverpool’s ‘Slavery Museum’, where people and in particular the next generation can learn the horrors of slavery and colonialism so that we never make the same mistakes.

“We know that young people in our city are also questioning the history taught to them and last week a letter was sent from current and former students to the Headteacher of Camp Hill School for Girls.
The petition also asks that the council work with schools to “ensure school children in Birmingham are taught history from an anti-colonial perspective”

Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias C is a local historian of philosophy, and has been a member of the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign since 2015.

Reflecting on the petition, he said it is time Birmingham stopped teaching its history through the lens of ‘dead white men’.

“Birmingham has a habit of telling its own history through the prism of the life of an individual ‘Dead White Man’,” he said.

In response to the petition Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities, said: “We will listen to and work with local communities to review the appropriateness of local monuments and statues on public land and council property. We will also ensure that the plaques accompanying our monuments properly and fully explain their historical context, where appropriate.”

Birmingham Council also plans to discuss the following points:

“We will review the displays of art in our civic buildings to ensure they also tell the full story of Birmingham, including the renaming of a room in the Council House to properly mark the contribution of BAME civic leaders.”

“We will review the appropriateness of local monuments and statues on public land and council property. We will also ensure that the plaques accompanying our monuments properly and fully explain their historical context, where appropriate.”

“We will review our street and public space naming protocols to ensure that potential names properly reflect and respect the city’s history and communities, together with our wider Heritage Strategy.”

“We will review the displays of art in our civic buildings to ensure they also tell the full story of Birmingham, including the renaming of a room in the Council House to properly mark the contribution of BAME civic leaders.”

“We will work with schools and local historians to develop a new curriculum and resources that tell the
“Birmingham Story” – fully exploring its diversity, challenges and its meaning for the Birmingham of the 2020s and beyond.”

Sources: 
Birmingham City Council
Birmingham City Council
Birmingham Mail
Change.org

 


14. Liverpool Streets

Liverpool council has revealed the first 20 streets that could have plaques explaining their links to the slave trade. To mark Slavery Remembrance Day today, the local authority has listed the well-known streets which are being considered. This comes after the council passed a motion in January to commit to placing plaques and other public notices to explain the city’s past and its links to slavery. The streets being considered are in some way linked with slavery, such as being named after slavers or places connected with the trade. They have also been chosen because they are in areas that regularly feature in walking tours of the city, meaning visitors exploring the streets will learn about the past.

The move comes after Mayor Joe Anderson asked National Museums Liverpool and a number of community organisations to advise on how the city’s history is explained and contextualised for both visitors and residents.

The next step is to identify if a suitable location can be found to place a plaque in each street.

The streets are:
· Falkner Square
· Falkner Street
· Blackburne Place
· Bold Street
· Seel Street
· Slater Street
· Colquitt Street
· Parr Street
· Tarleton Street
· Clayton Square
· Brooks Alley
· Campbell Square
· Hardman Street
· Cases Street
· Cleveland Square
· Goree
· Houghton Street
· Knight Street
· Oldham Street
· Renshaw Street
· Sir Thomas Street

The partners involved in the project are:

· Liverpool City Council
· National Museums Liverpool
· Liverpool Black History Research Group
· Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre
· Mandela 8
· The family of Eric Lynch

Mayor Anderson said: “I am grateful to the street names advisory panel for their work over the last few months. We have to be led by our communities on how to do this and do it in a way that is sensitive to both our past and our present.

“I do not believe that changing street names is the answer – it would be wrong to try and airbrush out our past.

“It’s important that we have a sensible and informed discussion about these issues. We need to judge the past with a historical perspective, taking into account today’s higher ethical standards and, most importantly, how everyone, from every community in the city feels about it. As we understand our past we can also focus on our future for the black and BAME communities in our city.”

Minutes from Council meeting (01/20):

“Council notes that Liverpool is rightly proud of its rich history, its maritime past and its connections with all parts of the world, which can be seen in the numerous monuments and fixings that adorn the public realm.

Statues of monarchs, prime ministers, war heroes, merchant philanthropists, botanists, explorers and a whole host of other notables can be seen from our city centre streets to our suburban green spaces and public parks.

Council recognises, however, that a significant part of the City’s history has been shaped by the slave trade. Many notable figures in the City have their origins in wealth accrued through slavery, while others played an honourable role in the abolition of slavery movement.

Council notes that the physical infrastructure of the City; paintings, monuments, street names and buildings are all an important part of the historical record which should not be concealed, ignored or secreted away.

Council recognises that its own democratic history includes many individuals who were associated with slavery, both as abolitionists and slave traders.  Within the Town Hall there are many paintings that depict men who became fabulously wealthy from the slave trade, yet, there is no mention of their role in their description plaques.

Council also notes the number of street and place names in city which are named after prominent individuals, some of whom had a role in the slave trade.

Council abhors slavery, modern and historic, and notes the City’s apology for its role in the enslavement of millions of Africans and the destruction of the communities they were taken from.  Council also notes how confronting the city’s past role in slavery signals to existing communities that Liverpool is a tolerant, welcoming city with respect for all.

Council therefore agrees that the City should accurately reflect how some of the wealth and prestige accumulated for the benefit of Liverpool was gained through the business of slavery.  It is important to ensure that City visitors and residents are given an honest account of the historical role which our City and such figures played in history.

Council therefore calls:

  • On the Chief Executive to commission additional information plaques to accompany the relevant portraits in the Town Hall with information about the true history of some of Liverpool’s merchants and notables.
  • On the Highways Department to commission information plaques to accompany street and place names explaining the origin of their names and their relevance to Liverpool’s historical slave trade.
  • On the Highways Department to identify new streets which can be named after Liverpool-based abolitionists and BAME figures of note in order to celebrate our city’s rich history of fighting for justice for diversity.”