Slavery expert to unravel Glasgow's uncomfortable past

Glasgow has hired an expert to tell the story of how the city’s wealth was partly built on the back of slavery.
Miles Greenwood, Glasgow's new curator for slavery and empire.Miles Greenwood, Glasgow's new curator for slavery and empire.
Miles Greenwood, Glasgow's new curator for slavery and empire.

Miles Greenwood has been appointed as a curator who will focus directly on the legacies of slavery and empire in the city.

He will connect the city’s built environment and material culture to the extraordinary wealth forged by Glasgow merchants in the tobacco and sugar plantations of the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The appointment is the latest step taken by Glasgow to recognise its past with an investigation earlier commissioned by the city council to establish the full scale of its links to plantation wealth.

Meanwhile, Glasgow University has announced it will pay £20 million in reparative justice over the next two decades to make amends for the financial support it received from benefactors who profited from the transatlantic slave trade.

Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life, which runs museums and galleries, said: “Miles’ appointment will enable a step change in the way we are able to address the history of slavery and empire in Glasgow.

"By creating the post of Curator Legacies of Slavery and Empire we hope to send a powerful message about the city’s commitment to acknowledging our difficult past.

“We have already carried out a considerable amount of work in the area of slavery and empire, but having Miles lead our efforts will provide a sense of unity and make it easier for local communities to meaningfully engage.

“We understand Glasgow participated fully in the slavery economy, yet the journey of re-discovery and coming to terms with that participation is still in its infancy. There is still much to do and this appointment today will assist us in that vital journey.”

Read More
Glasgow University to pay £20m in slave trade reparations

Mr Greenwood is due to develop new displays to demonstrate the impact slavery and empire had on all aspects of the city. A programme of talks, tours and handling sessions will also be devised to illustrate the slave trade and its contemporary legacies.

Glasgow became the starting point for many ships involved in the triangular trade, where ships left Glasgow carrying goods that were exchanged for slaves in Africa. The ships then took the slave to the New World to be sold, and then returned to Glasgow laden with slave- produced commodities.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Several streets are named after the 18th Century ‘Tobacco Lords’ who changed the face of the city with extreme wealth forged in this trade.

Mr Greenwood said: “It’s an honour to take on what is a dream job for me. I’m looking forward to getting to know the collection, while enabling people to connect with their own histories and share their stories.”

“Having a role in addressing the legacies of the British Empire and the trade in enslaved African people is incredibly important for me personally, but I also know these legacies impact a lot of people’s lives today, in Glasgow and around the world, so I hope I can do them justice.

“So many of our social, political and economic realities today are tied to the history of colonialism and the tradein enslaved African people. I hope this project will help people understand that connection in an interesting, often challenging, and even empowering way.”

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director

Related topics: