Bristol was one of England’s most important and prosperous cities, right up until the Industrial Revolution, when it was overshadowed by the rapid booms experienced in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.
Bristol’s wealth and fame came from its port, which was starting point of various voyages of exploration to the New World. It was also instrumental in transatlantic trade, including the slave trade – it’s estimated that around half a million African slaves were traded by Bristolian merchants. Many of these slaves were eventually transported to the Americas and the Caribbean.
This is a darker side to Bristol’s history that the city is starting to confront. As you walk around Bristol, you’ll notice that many of the street names and public buildings have names that are linked to the slave trade – many buildings, for example, are named after Edward Colston, the slave trader whose statue was thrown into Bristol Harbour by protestors. Several of these have already been renamed and more can be expected to follow. But all this makes a school trip to Bristol a fantastic opportunity to discuss the slave trade and Britain’s role in it with your students, to help them understand some of the roots of racism in British society.
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