Catherine Hall

Catherine Hall is Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History at University College London. Her work has focused on the relation between Britain and its empire. Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain will be published by Yale University Press in September 2012. She is the Principal Investigator on the ESRC funded project Legacies of British Slave Ownership. Civilising Subjects: metropole and colony in the English imagination was published in 2002 and a collection edited with Sonya O. Rose, At Home with the Empire: metropolitan culture and the imperial world in 2006. More information

Abstract

Legacies of Colonial Slavery: the British case

This presentation will draw on the work of the project on Legacies of British Slave Ownership which has been based in the History Department at University College London since 2009. The project is focused on the significance of slave ownership as one of the ways in which the fruits of the slave trade and slavery were transmitted to Britain and contributed to the development of a modern industrial capitalist society. A group of wealthy absentee owners, West Indians proprietors as they were called, based in the metropole, were able to invest the profits from their plantations in a variety of different ways – in merchant banking and shipping, in railways and insurance, in country houses and collections of art, and in imperial enterprises. They influenced the terms of emancipation, protected the interests of West Indian planters and merchants for two decades after the abolition of slavery, and contributed to the ways in which race was reconfigured once the figure of ‘the African’ could no longer be defined by enslavement. These legacies – economic, political and cultural – need to be documented and remembered.