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      ‘Hidden in plain sight’: the European city tours of slavery and colonialism / TheGuardian · Tuesday, 2 April - 15:30

    From Puerta del Sol plaza in Madrid to Place du Trocadéro in Paris, guides reshape stories continent tells about itself

    Dodging between throngs of tourists and workers on their lunch breaks in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol plaza, we stop in front of the nearly 3-tonne statue depicting King Carlos III on a horse. Playfully nicknamed Madrid’s best mayor, Carlos III is credited with modernising the city’s lighting, sewage systems and rubbish removal.

    Kwame Ondo, the tour guide behind AfroIbérica Tours, offers up another, albeit lesser-known tidbit about the monarch. “He was one of the biggest slave owners of his time,” says Ondo, citing the 1,500 enslaved people he kept on the Iberian peninsula and the 18,500 others held in Spain’s colonies in the Americas. As aristocratic families sought to keep up with the monarch, the proportion of enslaved people in Madrid swelled to an estimated 4% of the population in the 1780s.

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      The monumental shame of Britain’s role in the slave trade before, during and after abolition | Letters / TheGuardian · Monday, 1 April - 16:49 · 1 minute

    Dr Richard Carter says London was at the heart of the system, Austen Lynch points out the shame cast on our history and Gary Cornwell argues that the trade only ended because capitalism found it inefficient

    Ella Sinclair is of course right to point out the damage done by our participation in the slave trade even after abolition ( It’s not unpatriotic to tell the whole truth about Britain and the end of slavery, 27 March ), although mention should have been made of the scandal of compensation paid to slave owners for the loss of their “property” and the vicious enforcement of enslaved people to undergo “apprenticeships” for four to six years after being freed.

    But it is before abolition that is the real lacuna here: far from Penny Mordaunt’s ludicrous claim that “our biggest contribution to the evil trade was to end it”, there is the fact that we actually dominated it for the two and a half centuries before abolition. As our own parliament’s heritage collections points out : “British involvement in the transatlantic slave trade began in 1562, and by the 1730s Britain was the world’s biggest slave-trading nation. The triangular route … was highly lucrative. London was the financial heart of the system.” Not much to be proud of there.
    Dr Richard Carter
    Putney, London

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      Conservatism’s biggest failure is the despair it has created about Britain’s future | Will Hutton / TheGuardian · Monday, 1 April - 08:59 · 1 minute

    Fantasies about British exceptionalism have brought the UK to the brink of collapse. We need a new, realistic vision

    Britain’s economic and social challenges are now so monumental that they require a response on a transformational scale. Addressing a failing capitalism and a society grossly disfigured by inequality and collapsing public services rests, above all, on a repudiation of the laissez-faire economics of the past 45 years. But the most serious failure of Conservatism is the despair it has created about Britain’s future. Without a feasible, inspiring vision of our future, we cannot reach first base – a revival of sustained growth.

    The prerequisite for growth is investment that drives productivity. That is a truism. Britain does not invest sufficiently. But no business invests in a wider economic, social and political vacuum. Nor, indeed, does government. The heart of the right’s failure is that it has no plausible story to fill this gaping vacuum. The right, with its vision of Britain’s exceptionalism, rooted in lost 19th-century glories of free trade, empire and victory in two world wars, is grotesquely out of kilter with what Britain now is, how contemporary capitalism works and what vision might inspire most of our entrepreneurs and people.

    Will Hutton writes for the Observer and is co-chair of the Purposeful Company

    This Time No Mistakes by Will Hutton is published by Head of Zeus (£25). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at . Delivery charges may apply

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      ‘You can see it as a revenge fantasy’: The new book arguing that enslaved people co-authored the Bible / TheGuardian · Thursday, 28 March - 16:07

    God’s Ghostwriters by Candida Moss aims to shine a light on the contributions to Christianity by imprisoned workers

    Enslaved people wrote the Bible, carried the messages of the apostles and spread the word of Jesus around the Roman empire, according to a shocking new book by the theology professor Candida Moss. God’s Ghostwriters: Enslaved Christians and the Making of the Bible argues that apostles and early Christians used enslaved scribes, secretaries and messengers to write the New Testament and shape the very foundations of Christianity.

    “The overwhelming literary and archeological evidence shows that this kind of work was done by enslaved or formerly enslaved people,” says Moss, the Edward Cadbury professor of theology at the University of Birmingham. Scholars think only about 5-10% of Romans were literate: the very wealthy – and the people they enslaved.

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      Sites of resistance: threatened African burial grounds around the world / TheGuardian · Thursday, 28 March - 11:00

    Too often cemeteries for enslaved people have been all but erased from history but how we remember matters

    For archeologists, what defines people as human is how we bury our dead. Imagine, then, a society that relegates a whole community as legally inhuman, enslaved with no rights. In spite of slavery, African burial grounds are tangible reminders of the enslaved and free – defying oppressive circumstances by reclaiming people’s humanity through acts of remembrance.

    When I first visited the British overseas territory of St Helena in 2018 and saw the burial ground in Rupert’s Valley, I was astounded by its size and significance. It unambiguously placed the island at the centre of the Middle Passage – tying the British empire to the institution of slavery in the US, the Caribbean, and globally.

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      It’s not unpatriotic to tell the whole truth about Britain and the end of slavery | Ella Sinclair / TheGuardian · Wednesday, 27 March - 14:25

    The mooted memorial to the navy’s West Africa Squadron seems to be an attempt to rewrite history in a more favourable light

    Until very recently, most people in Britain would have said that this country’s most significant involvement in the transatlantic slave trade was our heroic decision to abolish it. In the past few years, this culturally ingrained consensus has been challenged by a renewed attention to Britain’s long-lasting legacy of slavery – and to the many families and institutions that profited from the enslavement of Africans. In the ongoing struggle to determine the meaning of this history, individuals and institutions across Britain’s political spectrum are grappling with the same pivotal question: how do we remember our past?

    For the campaigners seeking to build a new monument in Portsmouth commemorating Britain’s West Africa Squadron – the Royal Navy unit tasked with intercepting slave ships after Britain outlawed the trade in 1807 – the answer is simple.

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      St Helena urged to return remains of 325 formerly enslaved people to Africa / TheGuardian · Wednesday, 27 March - 11:00

    British overseas territory may face legal action over alleged failure to honour reburial plan after remains found during airport project

    A British overseas territory is being urged to return the remains of 325 formerly enslaved people to their ancestral kingdoms in Africa, or potentially face legal action.

    The remains were excavated in 2008 when an access road to a new airport was being built on the remote South Atlantic Ocean island of St Helena. They were held in storage for 14 years before being reburied.

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      Scraping away generations of forgetting: my fight to honour the Africans buried on St Helena / TheGuardian · Wednesday, 27 March - 11:00

    A braid from a formerly enslaved African buried on the island was the catalyst for Annina van Neel’s work to preserve and share these histories

    At the end of January 2012, I arrived on St Helena after a six-day journey by ship from Cape Town. After being surrounded by water for nearly a week, the sight of land on the midnight-blue horizon was overwhelming. It was as though someone had forgotten their piece of land in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. 47 square miles of volcanic rock, 2,810 miles from the coast of Brazil and 1,610 miles from Angola – an oasis in a desert, an enigma.

    I arrived on the island as part of the project team constructing St Helena’s first airport. Previously accessible only by sea, this incredible community, which had been defined by its isolation as an outpost and a place of exile for 500 years, would for the first time be easily reached by the rest of the world.

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      Pompeii tomb reveals formerly enslaved man’s rise to wealth and power

      Kiona N. Smith · / ArsTechnica · Monday, 30 August, 2021 - 19:00 · 1 minute

    Pompeii tomb reveals formerly enslaved man’s rise to wealth and power

    Enlarge (credit: Pompeii Archaeological Park)

    Archaeologists working in Pompeii recently unearthed the tomb and partially mummified remains of a man who died a few decades before the eruption. The man, Marcus Venerius Secundio, according to his epitaph, had once been enslaved, but by the end of his life he’d obtained enough wealth and status to sponsor four days of theater performances in Pompeii.

    Rags to riches in Imperial Rome

    Archaeologists rediscovered Marcus Venerius Secundio’s tomb in the ancient cemetery, or necropolis, of Porta Sarno in the eastern part of Pompeii, where tourists aren’t allowed. His tomb was large and imposing, with a colorfully painted facade depicting green plants on a blue background; traces of the paint still cling to the stone even after 2,000 years. It was also sealed so well that its occupant’s remains had partially mummified, preserving some soft tissue and a few tufts of white hair, along with some scraps of fabric.

    Because Pompeii is both amazingly well-preserved and extensively studied, archaeologists were able to match the name inscribed over the tomb’s entrance to a name on wax tablets in the house of a banker named Lucius Caecilius Jucundus, across the city from the necropolis. The banker’s tablets recorded Marcus as a “public slave” who worked as a custodian in the Temple of Venus, which once stood at the western end of town (that’s almost certainly where the second part of his name, Venerius, comes from). But at some point he became a libertus, or freedman, and began to build a new life for himself.

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