National Railway Museum to investigate STEAM TRAINS for slavery links

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The National Railway Museum and the universities of Yorkshire and the North of England will study possible links between railways and the global slave trade in a £ 9,000 research project.

The project – supported by York, Leeds and Sheffield Universities – “will examine the economic, social and infrastructural legacy of steam and slavery in the late 19th and 20th centuries.”

He will examine whether the steam aided Imperial expansion and also assess the trains for their role in facilitating the expansion.

The £ 9,000 research project – titled Slavery and Steam: steam power, railways and colonialism – was developed by curators from the National Railway Museum, the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester and the Leeds Industrial Museum, as well as research centers. research from the three universities.

The National Railway Museum and the universities of Yorkshire and the North of England will study possible links between railways and the global slave trade in a £ 9,000 research project. Pictured: Chinese government railway KF7 locomotive

Professor Jonathan Finch, from the University of York, who is leading the project, said there had been little research into the history and development of the railways.

Describing the relationship between steam power and world trade as “complex”, he added: “Steam engines have replaced wind power in plantations and water power in British cotton mills, ships. steamers transported raw materials and goods around the world.

“Railways were essential to the expansion of colonial power in Asia and Africa, as well as to the opening up of the interior of North America.

“The wealth generated in the colonies was a stimulus for industrialization long after the abolition of slavery in the United Kingdom and the United States.”

The coffin of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill loaded onto a train at Weterloo station in January 1965. Museum staff had previously raised concerns about the train due to Churchill's ties to

The coffin of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill loaded onto a train at Weterloo station in January 1965. Museum staff had previously raised concerns about the train due to Churchill’s ties to “colonialism and empire”

The Science Museum Group, of which the National Railway Museum is a part, has reassessed the legacy of rail travel and colonialism after last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, the Telegraph reports.

The newspaper said internal museum documents showed staff found “few interpretations regarding the role of railways in the empire” in its collection of nearly 300 locomotives.

Objects highlighted by staff include an 1896 Cape Government Railway locomotive, the Chinese Government Railway KF7 locomotive and a quarter-scale model of a Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway locomotive, according to documents from the Museum.

Museum staff have also previously voiced concerns about the train carrying Winston Churchill’s coffin in 1965, which they say could become the subject of protests due to its links to “colonialism and the empire”.

Concerns were also expressed over George and Robert Stephenson’s Rocket Steam Engine which staff believed could attract protests because the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, Robert’s benefactor, had ties to profits from the slave trade.

The rocket was designed by George (1781-1848) and Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) and built by Robert Stephenson & Co in Newcastle in 1829. Concerns were raised about this particular model because Liverpool and Manchester Railway had links to profits made from the slave trade

The rocket was designed by George (1781-1848) and Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) and built by Robert Stephenson & Co in Newcastle in 1829. Concerns were raised about this particular model because Liverpool and Manchester Railway had links to profits made from the slave trade

The National Railway Museum and the universities of Yorkshire and the North of England will study possible links between railways and the global slave trade in a £ 9,000 research project.  Pictured: The National Railway Museum reopens in August 2020 after the lockdown was eased

The National Railway Museum and the universities of Yorkshire and the North of England will study possible links between railways and the global slave trade in a £ 9,000 research project. Pictured: The National Railway Museum reopens in August 2020 after the lockdown was eased

The project received one-year funding from the White Rose University Consortium, a partnership of the universities of York, Leeds and Sheffield.

The Consortium hopes the project “will raise awareness of the links between slavery, steam and the development of railways in Europe and the colonies.”

Announcing the project, the White Rose University Consortium said, “The relationship between the power of steam and global trade is complex, from the adoption of steam power in plantations to the global distribution of materials. and products, and the adoption of new business models to finance project capital.

“Moreover, the wealth generated in the colonial economy was a stimulus to industrialization long after the abolition of slavery in the United Kingdom and the United States.

“Academic interest in the subject is uneven and distributed across various disciplines, but there have been few dedicated interdisciplinary studies in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when commercial, political, legal and human networks and frameworks Established slavery fueled the emerging steam and rail infrastructure systems.

“This project will examine the economic, social and infrastructural legacy of steam and slavery in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Dr Oliver Betts, Senior Researcher at the National Railway Museum, added: “Across the Science Museum Group, through projects like this, we are examining Britain’s colonial past to revisit the stories we tell the story, the voices we represent and the challenges we face in presenting complex and untold stories to the public.


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