At the Exeter workshop on the 14 November 2015, the contributions included the following. (Click on the links to download the papers):
Gillian Allen talked about ‘Three enslaved girls: Joan, Jane and Caroline’ who were living on a Jamaican cattle farm in the early nineteenth century. Lucy MacKeith spoke on ‘Unravelling Devon involvement in Slave-Ownership’. Joanna Traynor gave a paper on ‘The Slave codes and Devon men: a significant contribution’. Peter Wingfield-Digby prepared papers on ‘My family connections with slavery and anti-slavery’ and ‘Which Phillpotts was the Slave-owner?’.
An exhibition on Devon’s connections to slavery formed part of the workshop. See our exhibitions page to download pdfs of the exhibition panels. Peter Wingfield-Digby also produced material to accompany a poster exhibition held as part of the workshop and some notes on monuments in Exeter Cathedral which had a direct link to slave-ownership.
Apart from the intrinsic interest of this research we hope that these contributions will stimulate others to undertake the kinds of local historical work which these papers represent.
Notes on the speakers:
As a volunteer with VSO on leaving school I taught the nineteenth- and twentieth-century history of West Africa at Mayflower School in Nigeria. My students challenged me and probably gave me the best history lessons of my life.
Like most members of the Exeter LBS group I studied sociology and then went on to teach – English to speakers of other languages, at the first London Free School and as Museum Education Officer at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) in Exeter for over a decade. There I organised the 1989 conference to celebrate the bicentenary of the publication of Olaudah Equiano’s Narrative and first discovered links between Devonians and Slave-ownership in the Caribbean.
I worked with the redisplay of the World Cultures Galleries at RAMM; as a trainer in Equalities with the Devon Racial Equality Council and as a Humanist Celebrant for weddings, namings and funerals.
I keep returning to the complexities of the history of Africans in British history, especially in local Devon history.
I left school to work, first of all, as a trainee nurse. I studied psychology and spent many years in the ICT industry. In 1997, my first novel was published and I was bemused to be applauded as a ‘black’ writer rather a British writer. My interest and concerns about race, racism, separatism etc. was fuelled. As 2007 approached, I was keen to create some multimedia assets for schools in Devon, to help them learn about Devon’s involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. To refute the argument ‘Devon didn’t have that much involvement’, I researched some of the connections for myself and embarked on deeper study into the Baring banking family. As a result I won a Winston Churchill Fellowship funding my travel to the American South to complete my research to support the writing of a historical novel about the UK’s involvement in the American Civil War. As part of my work, I have joined with others in Exeter to discover and discuss the wider context of the impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and specifically the West Country contributions that formed the roots of racism and powered the engine of exploitation which in turn financed the British Empire.
After graduating from Exeter University in sociology and statistics, Peter spent most of his working life abroad, as a statistical adviser to governments in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. He is now retired and living in Exeter. Amongst his activities, he is an official guide at the Cathedral. As part of this current project on Devon’s link to slave-ownership, he has been keen to discover whether the family of Henry Phillpotts – the famous Bishop of Exeter in the mid-19th century – had any links with slave ownership.