Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Archivists in Shackles

The benighted county archivist of Loamshire, Garth Bland, dreaded the year 2007 and its anniversaries. Yet another year of anniversaries, this time the abolition of the slave trade in parts of the British Empire.

However, not for Garth the usual, tired communist inspired fad with exhibitions marking the abolition of the African slave trade to the West Indies and some other parts of the Empire. Instead the far-right administration of Loamshire County Council has entered into partnership with the eminent anthropologist Dr. J. Pochin Sturge of Wigston Hall, Leicestershire, to commemorate the barbarities of the white slave trade and the scourge of the Barbary Pirates.

Muslim slave masters savagely beating white slaves

This is not to say Garth had not received blandishments from the socialist or quasi-communist members in the authority to mount an exhibition on the demise of black slavery. It was simply he didn’t have anything on the subject, or quite the subject. Dr. Sturge meanwhile was also making his own more persuasive approaches, based on the plentiful mentions in local parish registers of the seizure of the good people of Loamshire and neighbouring parts by the fiendish Turks and Barbary Pirates, who enslaved them in north Africa. Horrid tales abounded. Families torn asunder, torture, starvation, large ransoms demanded, in some cases actually paid, thanks to the churches organising a collection. Not to mention fair complexioned women ravaged by swarthier races.

And so it came to pass: Setting the Record Straight: the Scourge of White Slavery.

Dr. Sturge was kind enough to draft a press release to mark the launch of the exhibition. He has kindly allowed us to publish it in full.

Loamshire recognises the irrelevance of the current communist inspired commemorations of the abolition of slavery in many parts of the British Empire in 1807. Many of the Africans in Britain are actually recent immigrants direct from the African continent rather than the West Indies. Consequently, they are unlikely to be concerned with the heritage of their lighter skinned relations from the West Indies. The direct African immigrants are descended from the African tribes and chieftains responsible for selling their fellow countrymen into slavery in the first place.

We also feel it is inappropriate to use the anniversary as a sop to West Indian immigrants as they are just as likely to be descended from white slave owners and slave masters as black slaves. Here in Loamshire we gave much consideration instead to commemorating the generations of Britons enslaved by the Romans, the generations of Romano-British enslaved by the English, and the generations of British (or Welsh) and English enslaved by the Normans. However, our hearts went out to the slaves of the Barbary Pirates who, after all, were far from their home island.

Christian clergy negotiating the freeing of white slaves

SQA asked Garth for his own views.

There is something to be said for Sturge’s position. In the past, no-one’s colour defined him as material ripe for enslavement. Nowadays we benefit from a growth in conscience, a luxury associated with the disposable income of modern society. Critics of a so-called perverse British morality who besides conveniently ignoring the achievements of the British Empire, accountable government, the rule of law, the spread of Christianity, tea drinking and technological innovation, fail to recognise the great majority of our own ancestors mainly lived in abject poverty, destitution and lacked the vote.

It is not all about 1807. In 1772 slavery was abolished in England. Lagging a little behind as always, slavery was abolished in Scotland in 1778.

The only very gradual abolition of slavery was surely directly associated with the correspondingly gradual economic and political empowerment of indigenous Britons. Decent people though our ancestors were and though probably they sympathised with tales of barbarity towards African salves and the white slaves of the Barbary Pirates alike, they were first and foremost concerned with the alleviation of their own condition.

We must exercise caution with crypto-Communist intrigues and ensure future generations are alerted to the misleading exclusive association of the darker races with slavery as a tactic in disparaging and undermining the achievements of the British Empire.

Further reading

When Europeans Were Slaves

The Rhodesian perspective click here

Muslim enslavement of Black Africans click here

The Guardian click here

Auntie Beeb click here

When Arabs Enslaved Europeans And Africans click here

Still waiting for an apology from the shores of Tripoli

. .