Enfilade

Addressing Colonialism and Historic Slavery at the National Trust

Posted in books, on site, teaching resources, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on August 25, 2021

Illustration by Michael Kennedy for Sam Knight’s article in The New Yorker (23 August 2021), p. 31

The National Trust released its Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties Now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery in September 2020. Sam Knight’s recent article, “Britain’s Idyllic Country Houses Reveal a Darker History” from The New Yorker (23 August 2021), pp. 30–41, explores the wider context of the report along with its British reception.*

The article is, to my thinking, immensely instructive, usefully framing the scale of the problem (historically) and the magnitude of work now to be done (both professionally and societally). As Knight writes, “The National Trust, more than any other institution, helped to create the idealized version of the English country house. Almost every historian I spoke to supported the charity’s decision to reinterpret its properties, but many also observed that it did not have a choice. . . . Given Britain’s changing demographics and the weight of recent decades of colonial history, the elisions of the past were no longer tenable. The National Trust has been forced to explode a myth of its own making. But many English people preferred the myth as it was” (34).

As for the report itself, much of the attention has been directed to its listing of National Trust properties. In fact, taken as a whole, it provides an excellent guide to crucial historic institutions—with essays ranging from compensation for slave-ownership to the East India Company—along with relevant bibliographies (I can imagine lots of useful teaching applications). CH

* In the same issue of The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik writes of ‘What the French Make of Lafayette,” pp. 66–70, observations occasioned by two recent biographies Mike Duncan’s Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution (Public Affairs, 2021) and Laurent Zecchini’s Lafayette: héraut de la liberté (Fayard, 2019).

Penrhyn Castle in Wales, Clandon Park Gardens in Surrey, Speke Hall in Liverpool, and Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire (National Trust); all four properties are included in the report’s “Gazetteer.”

◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊

From the NT:

The National Trust cares for places and collections on behalf of the nation, and many have direct and indirect links to colonialism and historic slavery. We’ve released a report examining these connections as part of our broader commitment to ensure that these links are properly represented, shared and interpreted.

The buildings in our care reflect many different periods and a range of British and global histories—social, industrial, political and cultural. As a heritage charity, it’s our responsibility to make sure we are historically accurate and academically robust when we communicate about the places and collections in our care.

The Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties Now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery details the connections 93 historic places in our care have with colonialism and historic slavery. This includes the global slave trades, goods and products of enslaved labour, abolition and protest, and the East India Company.

It draws on recent evidence including the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project and the Trust’s own sources. It also documents the way that significant Trust buildings are linked to the abolition of slavery and campaigns against colonial oppression.

It has been edited by Dr Sally-Anne Huxtable (National Trust Head Curator), Professor Corinne Fowler (University of Leicester), Dr Christo Kefalas (National Trust World Cultures Curator), and Emma Slocombe (National Trust Textiles Curator), with contributions from other National Trust curators and researchers around the country. Some of the research has already been used to update our digital content and supports visitor information and interpretation at relevant places.

Sally-Anne Huxtable, Corinne Fowler, Christo Kefalas, and Emma Slocombe, eds., Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties Now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery (Swindon: National Trust, 2020).

C O N T E N T S

Authorship and Acknowledgements
Foreword, Gus Casely-Hayford

Introduction — Sally-Anne Huxtable, Tarnya Cooper, and John Orna-Ornstein
1. Wealth, Power, and the Global Country House — Sally-Anne Huxtable
2  Trade in Enslaved People — Jane Gallagher
3  Abolition, Resistance and Protest — Christo Kefalas
4  Compensation for Slave-ownership — Elizabeth Green, Christo Kefalas, and Emma Slocombe
5  Merchant Companies — Rupert Goulding
6  The East India Company — Lucy Porten
7  Banking and Bankers — Frances Bailey
8  The British Raj in India after 1857 — Rachel Conroy
9  Industrialisation and the Import of Cotton — Emma Slocombe
10  Research — Sophie Chessum

Gazetteer of National Trust Properties

Appendix: Next Steps
Bibliography
Further Reading

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s