View all news

Transatlantic collaboration examines the legacies of slavery

Press release issued: 13 December 2017

Bristol has become the first university in England to join Universities Studying Slavery (USS), a multi-institutional collaboration based at University of Virginia dedicated to furthering the study of slavery’s legacy and wider historical and contemporary race inequalities.

The University of Bristol team, from the newly formed Centre for Black Humanities, based within the Faculty of Arts, will work with more than 30 institutions across America – as well as the University of Glasgow – to help develop a fuller picture of the Atlantic slave economy and its legacies.

Dr Andrea Livesey, a lecturer from the Department of History who specialises in slavery, race and memory in the United States, said: “The city of Bristol was extensively involved in the early years of the Atlantic slave economy. 

“Like so many other local institutions, the University of Bristol carries the legacy of slavery with us in complex ways. 

“As a starting point, the University is currently going through a process of actively researching and confronting the contributions made to the institution by local slave traders and other slave economy beneficiaries. 

“We see dialogue with local, national and international partners as key to this process.”

Professor Tim Cole, also from the Department of History and Director of the University’s Brigstow Institute, added: “Joining the University Studying Slavery network will allow us to discuss, learn from, and share best practice with other Atlantic-wide universities as we consider what it means to live well with the past - including a past intimately involved with the transatlantic slave economy.”

The University has recently developed a new short course called ‘Ways into History’ that considers the history of slavery, with a particular focus on the city of Bristol and its role in the slave trade.

The course considers the nature of Atlantic slavery, how the experiences of enslaved people on  Caribbean, Latin American and North American plantations compared to those in other historic slave systems, and the long-term consequences for Africa and the rest of the Atlantic World.

It examines the impact that slavery had on the English landscape, especially through the links between the slave economy and the English country house.  Importantly, it reflects on how the slave trade has been remembered in Bristol and elsewhere, thinking about how commemoration has become intertwined with modern day political concerns.

Dr Livesey added: “Throughout, the aim is to tackle difficult questions about both the historic realities of slavery and the slave trade, its continuing impact, and the ways in which it has been remembered.”

USS is dedicated to organising multi-institutional collaboration as part of an effort to facilitate mutual support in the pursuit of common goals around the core theme of “Universities Studying Slavery.”

It additionally allows participating institutions to work together as they address both historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality in higher education and in university communities as well as the complicated legacies of slavery in modern American society.

USS also host bi-annual meetings to discuss strategies, collaborate on research, allowing contributing institutions to learn from one another.

Edit this page