Canals and transatlantic slavery

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In spring 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement spurred CRT into commissioning Dr Jodie Matthews, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Huddersfield, to undertake literature research into people who had made their wealth through the slave trade and invested the profits in canal building. She also investigated canals that were built specifically to carry goods derived from the exploitation of slaves – especially tobacco, cotton and sugar – and how these canals led to the development of cities such as Liverpool, Bristol and Manchester. Examples cited in the review are: 1) Moses Benson, a Liverpool slave-trader, who owned a ‘palace mansion’ in the city and invested in canals, leaving 230 shares in the Lancaster Canal in his will; 2) Lowbridge Bright was a wealthy Bristol West India merchant who sat on the Committee of the Thames and Severn Canal Company; 3) George Hyde Clarke, who inherited a sugar estate and 220 enslaved people, was a promoter, shareholder and committee member of the Peak Forest Canal Company; 4) Robert Milligan was a prominent Scottish merchant and slave-owner, who was the driving force behind the construction of the West India Docks in London.

The review can be found at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk > search ‘transatlantic slavery’.

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