David Alston's Slaves & Highlanders
Sharing my research on Highland Scots and the slave plantations of Guyana
Radio Scotland 17 February 2019: Scotland and Guyana documentary with David Alston, Nick Draper, David Dabydeen and others - and feauring the poetry of Sorley Maclean. Available online until 16 March at Good Morning Scotland.
The item begins 1h 32m into the programme and lasts for 30m. Thanks to Dan Harris-Vajda, Arlen Harris and the team.
November 2018: David is a contributor to BBC2 Scotland's two-part documentary Slavery: Scotland's Hidden Shame.
Also in 2018 . . .
I contributed an entry for Harriet Balfour, a freed slave from Suriname, to the New Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (EUP, 2018).
October 2018: read my Guest Blog 'Museums of Forgetting and Remembering' on the Antislavery Usable Past Project
May 2018 - New publication: 'Scottish Slave-owners in Suriname: 1651–1863' in Northern Scotland, Volume 9.
Simple but subversive
Cait Gillespie's master's thesis The end of amnesia? Scotland's response to the 2007 bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade and the quest for social justice can be read online at Leiden University Repository. Cait considers Scotland's response to the 2007 bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, in the context of memory and museum studies, and includes a detailed study of Cromarty Courthouse Museum's 'Slaves & Highlanders' exhibition of 2007/08.
From Cait's conclusions: 'The impact and originality of Alston's seemingly simple but subversive exhibition, [Stephen] Mullen's commitment to furthering public knowledge of Glasgow's slavery-funded cityscape through walks and talks, and the success of the website created by [Katherine] Prior for Aberdeen City Council . . . reveal high quality pieces of work that engage with public audiences in diverse and important ways . . . The onus now lies on Scotland's major national institutions to follow suit and bring forth new creative responses.'
Ullapool Book Festival 2017: The Highlands and Slavery
'Essential listening for those in the Highlands . . . and Scotland in general.'
David Robinson reviewing the Ullapool Book Festival (Scotsman, 9 May 2017):
I’ll end, though, with an event featuring a historian – and a history – who and which are far less well known. Before going in to David Alston’s talk about the involvement of Scots in the slave trade, I had thought that it was all so long ago that the question of reparations no longer arises. Quietly, dispassionately, and concentrating on Highlanders’ involvement in the slave plantations in Guyana, Alston picked apart that certainty. Tracing the reparations paid to compensate slave owners in 1834 – proportionately a bigger sum even than the 2008 banks’ bail out – he showed how Scots at all levels benefited from slavery, but how we still collectively ignore this, perhaps even more so than in England, “because it doesn’t fit with the narrative of our own victimhood”.
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