Black Industrial Revolution

Black Industrial Revolution explores narratives of Black labourers and innovators in the British Caribbean to reveal the long history of Black contributions to British innovation.

Black Industrial Revolution deploys new historical research on the Black innovations that powered the industrial revolution to address the persistent under-representation of Black and minority ethnic students and researchers in History and STEM subjects in the Caribbean and UK.

The project enhances teaching on British technological history in schools by showcasing new UCL research on Black technological innovations in the British Caribbean that illuminates developments absent from dominant narratives of the first industrial revolution (c. 1750s-1850s) taught in schools today. By recognising the central role played in British economic growth not only of slavery as an economic system but of the enslaved as industrial innovators, this project creates new, inclusive learning contexts for pupils, enhancing Black and minority ethnic pupils’ sense of belonging and encouraging their study of History and STEM subjects.

The project leverages newly discovered historical narratives of Black labourers and innovators in the British Caribbean to reveal the very long (and also long-neglected) histories of Black contributions to British industry and technological innovation. It does so by illuminating the lives and labour of the enslaved in new narratives of technological innovation made accessible by innovative digital humanities research. 

Funded by an impact and policy grant from UCL, the CSLBS team has developed teaching materials and resources for building new partnerships to facilitate the use of these materials by schools, cultural organisations, learned societies, and subject associations to foster race equality and inclusion. These resources have the needs of both Caribbean and British pupils in mind. By offering school pupils and those who teach and engage with them access to cutting-edge research in the history of science and the history of slavery, the project enriches the portfolio of resources upon which schools, museums and learned societies can draw in their efforts to redress longstanding disparities in Black representation in both History and STEM.

Project dates: From 2023
Project team: Matthew J. Smith, Matthew Stallard, Margot Finn, Jess Hannah, Ashley Jones, and Rohan Shah.