Stowe features in colonialism and slavery report

Stowe gets a mention in a new National Trust report showing connections between 93 of its historic places and colonialism and historic slavery.

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 11:29 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 11:32 am
Stowe features in new National Trust report
Stowe features in new National Trust report

The survey, published today, Tuesday September 22, was commissioned in September as part of the trust's commitment to ensuring links to colonialism and historic slavery "are properly represented, shared and interpreted as part of a broader narrative at relevant National Trust places," said a spokesman.

The conservation charity has to date explored histories of colonialism and slavery at some of its places, including projects such as Colonial Countryside, which has worked with schoolchildren at selected trust houses.

Drawing on recent evidence including the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project and the trust’s own sources, the report aims to provide greater clarity about the relationship between the historic sources of wealth linked to colonialism and historic slavery, and buildings and collections in the care of the National Trust.

It also documents the way that significant National Trust buildings - including Stowe - are linked to the abolition of slavery and campaigns against colonial oppression.

Dr Tarnya Cooper, the National Trust’s Curatorial and Collections Director said: “The buildings in the care of the National Trust reflect many different periods and a range of British and global histories - social, industrial, political and cultural.

“A significant number of those in our care have links to the colonisation of different parts of the world, and some to historic slavery.

"Colonialism and slavery were central to the national economy from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Around a third of the properties now in our care have direct connections to wider colonial histories, often in a way that’s reflected in collections, materials and records that are visible at those places.

“As a heritage charity, it’s our job to research, interpret and openly share full and up-to-date information about our places. This includes information about colonialism and slavery where it is relevant.

"This is part of caring for our properties in a historically responsible and academically robust way. The work helps us all understand what's gone before; now and for future generations.”

She added: “This report is the fullest account to date of the links between places now in the care of the National Trust and colonialism and historic slavery.

“This work is in no way exhaustive and we will be adding to it as we do more research. But it is an important foundation to share what we already know to form the basis of our own future research and interpretation at the places and collections that have links to colonialism or slavery and for other researchers.

"We have much more work to do to explore the wider histories at our places.”

The report begins with thematic sections including the global slave trades, goods and products of enslaved labour; compensation for slave ownership; abolition and protest; the East India Company; and the British Raj.

A factual gazetteer lists 93 individual places and collections, including Stowe, that have strong historical links to Britain’s colonial past.

It has been edited by the National Trust's head curator Dr Sally Anne Huxtable, along with Prof Corinne Fowler of the University of Leicester and other National Trust curators.

Some of the research from the report has already been used to update the trust’s digital content and is supporting a review of visitor information and interpretation at relevant properties.

A working group of external specialists, chaired by museums and heritage consultant Rita McLean, will be advising and steering the trust in this work in the coming months, and the trust will also be working with other National Trust organisations around the world to connect these histories globally.

To download the Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk