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Scotland’s Links To Chattel Slavery, Empire & Colonialism: Social Media Resource

Context

As part of the Empire, Slavery & Scotland's Museums (ESSM) webpage resources we have developed this resource. This resource is for the museum sector to use when answering questions on social media about Scotland’s connections with transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans, empire and colonialism. The document was based on:   

  • comments and questions MGS have received about the ESSM project in recent months;   
  • comments and questions which museums in Scotland have received when discussing their work investigating the links with the legacies of empire and chattel slavery in their collections.  

The principles for responding to comments that we have used to underpin this document are:  

  • Phrase responses in a way that is sensitive and respectful.  
  • Taking the essence of disrespectful comments and interpret them in connection to wider themes. 
  • Be sure to link to more information to get around Twitter’s small character limit.

FAQs

Q1. How was Scotland involved in chattel slavery? Isn’t this just an American problem? 

To find out more about Scotland’s links with chattel slavery please take a look at this resources page https://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/advice/empire-slavery-scotlands-museums-resources/collections-research-empire-slavery-scotlands-museums/, in particular this resource http://empiremuseum.scot/migration-timeline/  

Q2. Is this history still relevant to Scotland? 

Recent research has revealed a number of ways in which chattel slavery and the Scottish involvement in empire and colonialism have shaped modern Scotland and the legacies are still with us today. Knowing more about these legacies expands on our existing knowledge about Scotland’s relationship to the rest of the world. To find out more about please look at this resources page https://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/advice/empire-slavery-scotlands-museums-resources/collections-research-empire-slavery-scotlands-museums/.  

Twitter length answer: 

Research shows how chattel slavery & Scottish involvement in empire and colonialism have shaped modern Scotland. The legacies are still with us today. Knowing about these legacies expands our existing knowledge about Scotland’s relationship to the world. More info: https://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/advice/empire-slavery-scotlands-museums-resources/collections-research-empire-slavery-scotlands-museums/

Q3. Is this history relevant for people who live outside of Scotland’s major cities? 

For more than 200 years, Scotland's economy was closely tied to imperial trade and conquest. People from all over Scotland, were participants in and drivers of the Empire, both at home and overseas as politicians, businesspeople, traders, settlers, colonial administrators, soldiers, missionaries and forced migrants. The wealth generated from the systems of chattel slavery and colonialism enriched Scotland at the expense of the places which were colonised. Today, the legacies and links remain between Scotland and its international diaspora. To find out more please look at this resources page https://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/advice/empire-slavery-scotlands-museums-resources/collections-research-empire-slavery-scotlands-museums/ 

Twitter length answer 

  1. For 200+ years, Scotland's economy was tied to imperial trade & conquest. Scots were participants in + drivers of the Empire, both at home + overseas as politicians, traders, settlers, colonial administrators, soldiers, missionaries and forced migrants. https://bit.ly/3jHjLLF 
  1. The wealth generated from the systems of chattel slavery and colonialism enriched Scotland at the expense of the places which were colonised. Today, the legacies and links remain between Scotland and its international diaspora. More info: https://bit.ly/3jHjLLF   

Q4. People in Scotland have been persecuted and colonised. Why are we not looking at this history? 

The histories of oppression are frequently intertwined and exploring the depth and breadth of our history will help to explore some of those connections. For example, there are connections between the Highland Clearances, the Scottish people involved in the management of empire, and the ownership of enslaved Africans. To find out more, please look at this resources page https://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/advice/empire-slavery-scotlands-museums-resources/collections-research-empire-slavery-scotlands-museums/  

You can further explore an example of this here: http://thescottishdiaspora.net/sir-hector-munro-of-novar 

Twitter length answer 

  1. Histories of oppression are frequently intertwined. Exploring the breadth of our history helps to uncover some of those connections. Info: https://bit.ly/37tclpI 
  1. Histories of oppression are frequently intertwined. E.g. there are connections between the Highland Clearances, the Scottish people involved in the management of empire + the ownership of enslaved Africans. Explore examples at: https://bit.ly/3lTwKfU  

Q5. Why is the history of Scotland’s involvement in chattel slavery, empire and colonialism relevant for people with a working class heritage?  

The histories of oppression are frequently intertwined and expanding our knowledge about Scotland’s global reach will help to explore some of those connections, for example between mill workers and unions who campaigned for the abolition of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans. However, the reliance on the labour of enslaved people was throughout society, including shipbuilders on the Clyde who were building boats to run the blockades of the US so that they could get their cotton to keep local industries going. To find out more about please look at this resources page https://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/advice/empire-slavery-scotlands-museums-resources/collections-research-empire-slavery-scotlands-museums/ in particular this link https://glasgowmuseumsslavery.co.uk/2018/09/06/david-dale-an-abolitionist-cotton-magnate/ and this link https://www.glasgowlive.co.uk/news/history/running-blockade-how-clyde-shipyards-18722461  

Twitter length answer: 

  1. Histories of oppression are frequently intertwined and expanding our knowledge about Scotland’s global reach will help to explore some of those connections. Find examples of these connections at https://bit.ly/3izN4R3 and https://bit.ly/2Uafgk6 

2 (thread) 

Histories of oppression are frequently intertwined and expanding our knowledge about Scotland’s global reach will help to explore some of those connections. E.g. mill workers, unions and abolition. 1/2 

2/2 However, reliance on labour of enslaved people was throughout society, incld shipbuilders on the Clyde who built boats to run the blockades of the US so they could get their cotton to keep local industries going. Info: https://bit.ly/3izN4R3 + https://bit.ly/2Uafgk6  

Q6. Should we focus on modern day slavery instead? 

It is important to place modern slavery in the context of the long history of human slavery from ancient times, through all societies, to the present. There are distinctive features and legacies of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans (historic chattel slavery) and this is explained at the following link https://impact-now.org/why-colonial-slavery-should-not-be-equated-with-human-trafficking-modern-slavery-two-wrongdoings-that-need-recognition-in-their-own-right/ and reading this article https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/apr/20/the-invention-of-whiteness-long-history-dangerous-idea . 

Twitter length answer: 

It is important to place modern slavery in context of the history of human slavery through all societies, to the present. There are distinctive features + legacies of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans (historic chattel slavery), explained at https://bit.ly/3xz12XG 

Q7. Why is it important for museums to explore Scotland’s links with chattel slavery, empire and colonialism? 

Scottish museum collections, and sometimes their founding stories, have significant connections to chattel slavery, empire and colonialism. More knowledge about this area of history will allow greater insight into Scotland’s past as well as the ongoing legacies of this history, in the form of buildings, institutions, social change and collections. To find out more about please visit this resources page https://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/advice/empire-slavery-scotlands-museums-resources/collections-research-empire-slavery-scotlands-museums/, in particular these blogs https://glasgowmuseumsslavery.co.uk/2020/09/23/1042/ and http://hunterian.academicblogs.co.uk/curating-discomfort/. 

Twitter length answer: 

Scottish museums have significant connections to chattel slavery, empire & colonialism. Knowledge about this area of history will allow greater insight into Scotland’s past + the ongoing legacies of this history. More info: https://bit.ly/3g8Dtz9 and https://bit.ly/3iBHFck. 

Q8. Museums are for fun, relaxation or inspiration. Why do we want to tell challenging histories in these spaces? Will this ruin spending time in them? 

This is sensitive history, but more knowledge is better than less knowledge, and many popular museums already deal with sensitive histories in ways that educate and sometimes inspire. Knowledge about Scotland’s links to chattel slavery, empire and colonialism connects to aspects of everyday life, including the foods we consume (sugar, chocolate, tea, etc.). There are many inspiring stories, too, of incredible acts of resistance, including the Haitian revolution, in which a small group of enslaved people defeated French and British colonial armies. To find out more please look at this resources page. https://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/advice/empire-slavery-scotlands-museums-resources/collections-research-empire-slavery-scotlands-museums/  

Twitter length answer: 

  1. (thread)  

This is sensitive history, but more knowledge is better than less knowledge, and many popular museums already deal with sensitive histories in ways that educate and sometimes inspire. 1/2 

2/2 Knowledge about Scotland’s links to chattel slavery, empire & colonialism connects to aspects of everyday life. There are many inspiring stories too of incredible acts of resistance. More info: https://bit.ly/37tclpI 

 2. Many popular museums deal with sensitive histories in ways that educate + sometimes inspire. Knowledge about Scotland’s links to chattel slavery, empire & colonialism connects to aspects of everyday life + there are many inspiring stories too of incredible acts of resistance.  

Q9. Do museums want to make people feel guilty about their heritage? What good will it do? 

It is important to acknowledge that sensitive histories do bring powerful emotions to the surface. However, more knowledge about this area of history will allow greater insight into Scotland’s past as well as the ongoing legacies of this history, in the form of buildings, institutions, social change and collections. To find out more about please look at this resources page https://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/advice/empire-slavery-scotlands-museums-resources/collections-research-empire-slavery-scotlands-museums/ and in particular this blog https://curatorialresearch.com/good-curating/curatorial-thoughts-on-decolonisation/  

Twitter length answer: 

It is important to acknowledge that sensitive histories do bring powerful emotions to the surface. However, more knowledge about this area of history will allow greater insight into Scotland’s past as well as the ongoing legacies of this history. Info: https://bit.ly/3iABc1e  

Q10. Why are museums getting involved in a political debate/ left agenda? 

Scotland's historical and contemporary connections with empire, slavery and racism are integral to the stories museum audiences discover. This project is essential to Scotland expanding and deepening our understanding of history in all its complexity. To find out more about please look at this resources page https://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/advice/empire-slavery-scotlands-museums-resources/collections-research-empire-slavery-scotlands-museums/, in particular these blogs https://glasgowmuseumsslavery.co.uk/2020/09/23/1042/ and http://hunterian.academicblogs.co.uk/curating-discomfort/. 

Twitter length answer: 

Scotland's historical & contemporary connections with empire, slavery & colonialism are integral to the stories museum audiences discover. This project is essential to Scotland expanding and deepening our understanding of history in all its complexity. These blogs have more info: https://bit.ly/3g8Dtz9 and https://bit.ly/3iBHFck 

Q11. Are museums in Scotland working to diversify the sector? 

The Empire, Slavery & Scotland's Museums public consultation will be looking at issues regarding the diversity of the Scottish museums sector. Please follow this link to have your say on the consultation https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ESSM1 . 

Q12. Why would I want to participate in/visit a racist museum? 

The Empire, Slavery & Scotland's Museums public consultation recognises that for many people museums have been places that they have found to be traumatising and harmful as the stories they tell are shaped by the racist legacies of chattel slavery, empire and colonialism. We are keen for you to have your say about how museums should address such legacies. https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ESSM1   

Twitter length answer: 

This consultation recognises that for many people museums have been places that they've found to be traumatising + harmful as they are shaped by racist legacies of chattel slavery, empire & colonialism. Voice how museums address such legacies at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ESSM1  

 

Book with text "Prayer Book The description inside says the book was ‘Obtained’ by Lieutenant Thomas Turner of the 26th Cameronians Regiment from an unnamed Abyssinian leader during the Abyssinian Campaign of 1867-68.From the Low Parks Museum Collection.Known as ‘The rape of Magdala’, the capital city of Magdala in Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia) was looted and then destroyed by British forces. There was a mass auction afterwards where the looters could sell their pieces to the highest bidders.
Related guide

Glossary And Sector Terms For Empire And Slavery

This page contains resources that look at the language of chattel slavery, empire, and colonialism and how it has been used in museums and galleries.

Find out more