« Whoops nearly forgot! Postal shoot results. | Main | Yesterday's walk »

Bristol Slavery Apology

With local passions running high about the Bristol Slavery Apology question I note that sometime ago The Gray Monk alerted me to why the people of the Bristol area deserve a slavery apology -
The Bristol Channel - Shipping and Pirates

The Bristol Channel towns were once targets for pirates slavers and the dreaded corsairs from Algeria
While Bristol pirates were off plundering Spanish treasure ships, other freebooters were turning the tables by raiding the Bristol Channel.
The feared Algerian corsairs sailed up from the Barbary Coast ( North Africa ) to harass ships and even attack coastal towns. In 1630, for instance, corsairs landed near Weston-super-Mare and carried off men and women from a village.
They joined the 30,000 slaves from Britain, France, Spain and as far north as Iceland, who were used as slave labour in Algeria and Morocco. They got much better treatment, and sometimes freedom and honoured positions, if they agreed to become Muslims...

There is even a book available about it:
Amazon.co.uk: White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa's One Million European Slaves: Books

So how about an apology from the Arabs?
And of course the dreadful slave trade in Africa went two ways, with probably more slaves going east to Arabia then went west, but they didn't leave descendants who are looking for compensation...


And in Stan Boardman style, they burned down Newlyn.

I always thought I was owed an apology from the English nobility for the treatment of my English peasant ancestors who were slaves in all but name.

While we are apologizing; the Danes and Norwegians owe the British and Irish an apology for kidnapping many of their citizens and selling them into slavery around the world during the early Middle Ages.

The Irish owe the British an apology for their slaving during the Dark Ages when Britons like St. Patrick were used as slaves in Ireland.

The Italians owe every nationality an apology for the ancient Romans. Rome, while not built in a day, was built in by slaves of every race the Romans encountered.

The problem of course, is that we are all descended from both the slaves and the slave masters. Anyone in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, or Africa who could accurately trace their ancestry back 100 generations (give or take 2,000 years), would find many slaves and slave owners in their bloodline. Those who claim a monopoly on being descended from oppressed people are con artists; those who feel historical guilt are ignorant.

I want an apology off my wife for burning the toast in November 1983 when she also threw a bacon butty at me which was still on the plate. I feel ....violated...and at least 2.8 million should make me feel better about myself and my adversion to bacon.

Bristol was sending English slaves to Ireland in the 11th century. The great St Wulfstan, then Bishop of Worcester, preached in Bristol against the practice, and on one occasion a slave merchant had his eyes put out by an angry mob.

Unfortunately the Arabs and Moors won't have to pay much compo for the descendants of the black African slaves sold at the great markets in Marrakesh and Cairo. As the males were all castrated (killing about 1 out of 3) and the females were all used for service of every kind (their male children also being castrated), after a few generations there were no recognisibly 'black African' people descended from the original slaves.

As late as 1960 Denis Healey was being served tea by a black slave in Abu Dhabi - and he seemed fine with it.

"When I visited Prince Sultan in his palace, I sat on a low cushion and was served with fragrant tea by a negro slave. Then the Prince leaned forward and asked for the latest news of Nye Bevan's illness."

The main legacy of slavery is not the massive profits made by the slave owners - but racism. Most anthropologists agree that prior to the trans-atlantic slave trade, it never existed. This form of slavery, quite different to coastal raiding parties between racially-similar groups, altered the actual understanding of the state of slavery within human history.

Barbary pirates raiding Bristol or Ireland in 1630 and finding black residents in a village - as they well might - would have enslaved them along with everyone else. Bristolian slave traders, finding white people in 1730 Guinea would have set them free and enslaved only the black population. It was the first instance in which slavery was tied to phenotype, a practice unheard of in the Old World. It brought about much greater "barbarity" (ha ha) than anything here described.

It was also commonly invested in by quite modestly incomed individuals. A few shillings given to a slave trading operation would yield you a few pounds - safer bet than the gee-gees. Gives a lie to the idea that only the upper-class benefited. They became upper-class through participation.

Why all this matters is that we now face the persistent problem of racism, possibly the worst social evil of all because it is a virus of the psyche. I can "hear" mental back flips being performed right now, rather than admit the truth. And by racism, I don't mean disliking people, name-calling, denying opportunities etc.. It's simply a belief in any inherent set of attributes and abilities being distributed according to someone's "race".

I could go on but perhaps it won't help. When you can point to anything like the scale of global cultural change being instanced by any of the above-mentioned forms of slavery and kidnap, you might have grounds for debate. Anything less is a rather forlorn form of denial. Go on, admit it. Be the white man.

The following appears in all your favourite newspaper, the Guardian! Enjoy!

"Danes say sorry for Viking raids on Ireland

· We are not proud of the massacres, says minister
· Apology marks arrival of replica longboat in Dublin

Owen Bowcott, Ireland correspondent
Thursday August 16, 2007
The Guardian

More than 1,200 years ago hordes of bloodthirsty Viking raiders descended on Ireland, pillaging monasteries and massacring the inhabitants. Yesterday, one of their more mild-mannered descendants stepped ashore to apologise.
The Danish culture minister, Brian Mikkelson, who was in Dublin to participate in celebrations marking the arrival of a replica Norse longboat, apologised for the invasion and destruction inflicted. "In Denmark we are certainly proud of this ship, but we are not proud of the damages to the people of Ireland that followed in the footsteps of the Vikings," Mr Mikkelson declared in his welcoming speech delivered on the dockside at the river Liffey. "But the warmth and friendliness with which you greet us today and the Viking ship show us that, luckily, it has all been forgiven."

Article continues



The Havhingsten (Sea Stallion) sailed more than 1,000 miles across the North Sea this summer with a crew of 65 men and women in what was described as a "living archaeological experiment".
The reconstructed longboat was based on a ship found at the bottom of the Roskilde Fjord, south of Copenhagen. The original vessel was believed to have been built in Dublin - then a Viking city - in 1042 and to have sunk 30 years later.

The wreck was discovered in 1962 and tests on the timbers enabled archaeologists to trace the wood to trees from Glendalough, County Wicklow.

The first Viking raiding parties arrived in Ireland in 795, targeting wealthy monasteries on outlying islands such as Rathlin, County Antrim and Inishmurray, County Sligo. By 841, Vikings were over-wintering in fortified settlements such as Dublin, Wexford and Waterford and over the next two centuries these cities were gradually absorbed into local Irish kingdoms.

The replica ship - built using tools of the era - is 30 metres long and the largest reconstructed longboat ever built.

Guile rather than brute strength was needed to ensure that the Sea Stallion completed its voyage from Roskilde to Dublin in time for the celebrations. The Vikings relied upon sail and rowing power. When the winds failed this summer, the longboat was towed for 345 miles. However, archaeologists advising the project insisted that the experiment had proved the seaworthiness of Viking vessels.

Diarmuid Murphy, 34, from Bantry, Co Cork, one of the sailors on the ship, admitted he almost gave up at the outset.

"About 18 hours into it I was just so cold and wet and I said there's no way I'll do this," he said. The crew survived on a diet of dried food and had to sleep in the exposed and cramped conditions of an open boat for six weeks - with occasional respite on a support vessel.

"There was cold, lashing rain on some days from the morning until the following morning," the ship's project manager, Prieben Rather Sorensen, said. "We did not have the time that the Vikings had as we had to be here today. That was one of the challenges." The longboat is due to make the return voyage next summer."

Post a comment