'Slavery and the City' Tour Sheds Light on London's Dark PastHistorians in the News
tags: slavery, London, urban history, public history
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A tour showing London’s links to the slave trade aims to shed light on how British institutions - from megabanks to the state church - prospered on the backs of Black lives.
“Slavery and the City” takes in the financial centre’s quaint cobbled yards, grand statues and statuesque buildings, highlighting its oft-hidden links to colonialism.
“Slavery is something where there has been a conspiracy of silence for almost 200 years,” said tour guide Ildiko Bita.
“Without a doubt, a large proportion of the wealth of the City during the 18th century was dependent on slave labour and the trafficking of enslaved people,” said Bita as she led a group of 11 through some of the capital’s oldest streets.
The tour comes as the world grapples with race after George Floyd, an unarmed Black American, died in police custody in May. His death sparked worldwide protests and triggered a re-evaluation of the legacy of colonialism.
“Walking tours such as these are crucial, to address and unveil elements of history that still play a key role in our current society,” said Lavinya Stennett, founder of The Black Curriculum, a social enterprise that promotes the teaching of Black history in British schools.
“Tours offer a key insight and memory, making the lesson tangible,” she added.
Along with the church, the tour puts financial institutions and banks – central to London’s economy - under close scrutiny as it probes the roots of British establishment.
“Venerable City institutions with us today, such as Barclays, Rothschild, Lloyd’s of London and Freshfields, profited from the slave trade and the wealth obtained from slavery bought influence,” Bita said.
“For example, at least 25 governors and directors of the Bank of England (central bank) had links to slavery, as did many lord mayors (of the City of London),” she said.