Public engagement in Slave and Maritime History

Submitting Institution

Liverpool Hope University

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

This case study rests on research in the transatlantic slave trade and abolition in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries undertaken by Professor Suzanne Schwarz. The impacts are threefold. Firstly, the research contributes to community memory and identity through impact on public discourse in an area with significant and arguably "unresolved" cultural legacy. Secondly, it has direct and indirect pedagogical impact through sustained engagement in CPD, teacher and school-related activities in partnership with National Museums Liverpool (NML), in the sensitive and contested parts of History and Citizenship areas of National Curriculum and finally, the pedagogical partnership with NML itself has reciprocal impact in relation to the professional activities of museum staff.

Underpinning research

This maritime history impact case study centres upon the work of Prof. Suzanne Schwarz, who was at Liverpool Hope from September 1998-March 2011. Schwarz's expertise lies in the transatlantic slave trade and abolition in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Her research whilst at Hope was funded by the university as well as by external bodies such as the Huntington Library in California, British Academy and Scouloudi Foundation.

The findings are recognised as path-breaking by many specialists in her field. She examined the life stories of key figures, such as James Irving, a Liverpool slave ship captain who was himself enslaved following shipwreck; and in transcribing and editing Irving's personal journal and letters, Schwarz ([1995] 2008a; 2008b) offered a rare insight into the first-hand pre-abolition reflections of a slave captain and shed light on cultural attitudes sustaining the eighteenth century transatlantic slave trade. Schwarz's Hope-based research also focused on an analysis of the policy and practice of the Sierra Leone Company (SLC) and strategies developed by abolitionists to undermine the slave trade from within Africa. Sierra Leone was a significant site of early abolitionist activity in Africa in the late eighteenth-century, with the SLC anticipating Thomas Fowell Buxton's `New Africa' policy (1839). Schwarz (2007a) traced the history of the Company, examining its social and economic strategies and the factors that led to its failure as a private company.

Within the census period, Schwarz also utilised the register of 12,000 liberated Africans from Sierra Leone to explore transatlantic slavery through the life-histories of individuals upon release (see Schwarz 2010), writing and applying for a Leverhulme Fellowship at Hope to pursue this project further (awarded 2011; taken up in subsequent employment). She also collaborated with Professor Paul Lovejoy (York University Canada) who was awarded funding from the British Library Endangered Archives to preserve through digital technology historically significant holdings in the Sierra Leone Public Archives (pilot 2009, also in partnership with the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull).1

The maritime research trajectory is still active at Hope and will contribute towards future impact activity in 2020. Bryce Evans (at Hope 2012-present) and Prof. Eric Grove (recently appointed) join John Appleby in furthering this area. Appleby's work, disseminated to local historical groups during the census period, explored the darker side of the maritime trade in the 15th and 16th centuries (Under the Bloody Flag: Pirates of the Tudor Age (The History Press, 2009). Recent appointee Bryce Evans has published on the economic history of the modern Irish merchant fleet (`A Semi-State Archipelago without Ships: Seán Lemass, Economic Policy and the Absence of an Irish Mercantile Marine', Working Papers in History and Policy No. 6, 2012 (University College Dublin, 2012), based on research undertaken at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in early 2012. It was published to complement an Irish government briefing document (see outlining the economic and environmental potential of Ireland's maritime sector in February 2012. Finally, the maritime research and impact strand will be strengthened following the strategic recruitment of Prof. Eric Grove who was formerly Professor of Naval History and Director of the Centre for International Security and War Studies, University of Salford. His recent major works include The Price of Disobedience: The Battle of the River Plate Reconsidered (US Naval Institute, 2000) and The Royal Navy Since 1815: A New Short History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).Grove appears frequently on radio and television, having made major contributions to BBC2's Timewatch series, the award winning `Deep Wreck Mysteries', Channel 4's `Hunt for The Hood and the Bismarck' and the series `The Battleships and The Airships'. His research and impact activities in maritime history provide future leadership for this research agenda within the Hope History unit.

References to the research

1. Schwarz, "Commerce, Civilization and Christianity: The Development of the Sierra Leone Company," in David Richardson, Suzanne Schwarz and Anthony J. Tibbles, eds., Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery (Liverpool University Press/University of Chicago Press, 2007a), pp. 252-276. ISBN: 9781846310669.

2. Schwarz , Slave Captain: The Career of James Irving in the Liverpool Slave Trade (Liverpool University Press/University of Chicago Press, original 1995, revised and extended ed. 2008a). 203 pp. ISBN 9781846310676.


3. Schwarz, "Narrative of the Shipwreck of the Ann" 1789-90' The Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. 82, No. 3/4 (April 2008b), pp. 155-176

4. Schwarz, "Extending the African Names Database: New Evidence from Sierra Leone", African Economic History Vol. 38 No. 1 (2010), pp. 137 -163 [ISSN 0145-2258]

5. Schwarz , "Our Mad Methodists": Methodism, Missions and Abolitionism in Sierra Leone in the Late Eighteenth Century', Journal of Wesley and Methodist Studies, Vol. 3 (2011), pp. 121-133

The body of Schwarz's scholarship culminated in a Leverhulme Research Fellowship award in 2011 (taken up in post-Hope employment). Her research was also recognized through an Honorary Fellowship at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (University of Hull, 2010).Praise for Schwarz's Slave Captain includes Anthony J. Barker, International Journal of African Historical Studies 32.1 (1999), calling the book "remarkable" and deeming Schwarz's scholarship "exemplary." David Starkey (International Journal of Maritime History (2008) judged the second edition "thoroughly revised" and "very worthwhile", with primary material rendered meaningful by Schwarz's "excellent introductory chapters." James Walvin (Slavery and Abolition, December 2010) deemed that "[s]he has presented us with some remarkable primary data of a kind we rarely fb01nd." A review in the American Historical Review (2008) by Joseph Inikori (University of Rochester, USA) praised Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery for its "excellent historical scholarship". Renaud Horcaude considered the book as a whole to offer "valuable and timely testimony" and Schwarz's chapter to give a "convincing account" of the SLC's failure (Business History Review, 2011).

Details of the impact

As detailed in the summary, Schwarz's research on transatlantic slavery and abolition has informed learners, educators and public discourse in museum, school and media contexts. The impact of Schwarz's work is illuminated by the context in which it was achieved. The Labour Party came to power in 1997 and, following the Stephen Lawrence case in 1999, amended the Race Relations Act in 2000 and introduced the Equalities Act in 2010. This was part of a drive to inclusivity after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report identified areas of "institutional racism" within the British state infrastructure. In 2006, changes were also announced to the National Curriculum, with sensitive subjects such as slavery to be addressed in Citizenship and History classes at Key Stage 3. At this time, the Labour Party also announced plans to commemorate the Abolition of Slavery Bill in 2007. Against this backdrop, Schwarz was appointed as an external consultant and Member of the International Advisory Board for the development of the International Slavery Museum (ISM), which opened in August 2007, on the 200th anniversary of the 1807 Slave Trade Act. The ISM is a centre of excellence in the history of Transatlantic slavery. It had 1.4m visitors in 2012 and developed an education programme in consultation with local, national and international partners which was delivered to over 8,000 pupils from 150 schools in UK and beyond.2 Schwarz had already worked closely with NML due to her research expertise in slavery and maritime history and this led to a wider formal strategic partnership between Hope and NML from 2008 onwards.3 As noted above, mandatory changes to the History and Citizenship components of the Key Stage 3 National Curriculum since 2008 provided opportunities for teachers to tackle the wider social legacies of slavery, in the context of diversifying demographic profiles. Both cultural sensitivities and lack of subject expertise led to a desire for CPD on the part of the teachers. Museum educators, since the 1990s, have become increasingly significant players in the teaching of the slave trade. This case study, then, charts the involvement of Schwarz (and fellow Hope academic David Cumberland) in a pedagogical partnership with museum staff and school teachers to meet this need for CPD. Schwarz's experience and expertise in this area led to her participation by invitation at an international UNESCO-sponsored workshop for pedagogues on `Teaching African History and African Diaspora History", concerning revisions to educational curricula around the world in relation to the slave trade (hosted by the Harriet Tubman Institute, Toronto, 2010). As Schwarz herself commented in an ensuing collection of papers: "Whilst the wider 2007 commemoration across Britain received much attention in its own right, its impact was short lived. The educational initiatives, in contrast have the potential for producing permanent, long term change in Britain in terms of mutual respect and lowering social tensions" (Schwarz in Lovejoy and Bowser, 2012, pp.118-119). The volume was launched in Paris by the Director-General of UNESCO in 2013, who commented on the "deep importance" of "transmitting the history of the transatlantic slavery and its abolition, as being essential to the struggle against racism, for the observance of human rights, of human dignity and for building peace."4

The Partnership with NML

In 2005, Schwarz collaborated with NML to organize a major international conference on Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery', which resulted in participation by members of the community; then in 2007, she was appointed external consultant for the ISM. In May 2008, Schwarz was charged with helping NML deliver CPD programmes for educators and students in secondary education. As a result of this collaborative initiative, a number of Education staff from NML attended Schwarz's lectures on her Hope final year course on `The Atlantic Slave Trade, Slavery and Abolition' in 2008-2009. Schwarz sought to make a history of slaves, slavery and slave owners come alive, working closely with NML to introduce CPD courses on the slave trade for teachers, building upon her earlier work with schools. In March 2009, Schwarz was formally invited to become a member of NML's International Teachers' Institute, after playing a leading role in its development and then Schwarz, with other partners from America (Yale University), UK (Liverpool University) and Ghana, was invited and funded by the NML to become involved in training 31 teachers from Ghana.5 Khan's NML letter thanked Schwarz for her "invaluable role" in developing NML's International Teachers' Institute and he considered particularly important that "the development of this ground breaking Institute is informed by specialist research".6 This was followed in 2010 by a joint NML/Hope 8 day National Teachers' Institute event on "Teaching Transatlantic Slavery: History, Issues and Legacies" which involved more than 20 teachers and youth workers from England, Wales and Scotland.7 Schwarz, drawing on her research, focused on attitudes to the slave trade whilst another Hope specialist in Education, Cumberland, contributed his expertise in the design of PdP for teachers and teaching history in schools. The NML Teachers' Institute also commissioned a dramatic reconstruction and performance of `Slave Captain', a play based on Schwarz's book (1995, rev. ed. 2008) as part of its "Theatre in Education" programme, through which NML has undertaken innovative work with schoolchildren. The book dealt with the life of Liverpool slaver James Irving and brought the key themes of her research to museum staff and audiences of teachers and youth workers; it was a controversial performance exploring the attitudes which sustained the transatlantic slave trade. Thirty educators attended this NML/Hope CPD event from across the North West (see Schwarz in Lovejoy 2012, 127-128). Data supplied by NML shows there was a clear demand from government, on the one hand, and teachers, on the other, to improve their academic knowledge of slavery and maritime history and the pedagogical skills at the same time, after 2006.8 The NML with its specialist collections, and Hope academics — Schwarz in History and David Cumberland in Education — combined their knowledge, skills and experience to develop CPD courses on the slave trade for teachers from 2008-2010.

Thus this impact case study demonstrates that Schwarz whilst at Hope helped bridge the knowledge gap and provided training among Liverpool secondary school teachers and youth and community workers regarding the slave trade, abolition and Liverpool's role in this transatlantic phenomenon (Schwarz 2007a) and thus in collaboration with the NML effectively responded to government policy changes in education and successfully responded to the Labour government's view after 2007 that "education was a crucial role for museums" (Hooper-Greenhill 2007, 2).

Media Engagement

Whilst teachers trained by Schwarz, Cumberland and the NML staff transferred this knowledge to their colleagues, Schwarz's work in the public education field was also widely publicised in the media throughout 2008 (see below), generating public discussion of these issues beyond academia. Thus, Schwarz sought to encourage not only museum staff and teachers to rethink their knowledge of the slave trade and abolition and their practice based learning but also to engage the general public via media outlets: the Today Programme — Radio 4; World Today (World Service); BBC Scotland — as well as building a major profile in the regional press.9 As the BBC Local News reported in March 2007, Schwarz's research helps `address the legacy of transatlantic slavery and issues such as freedom, identity, human rights, reparations, racial discrimination and cultural change' and she continued to do that between 2008-11.

In conclusion, therefore, it is evident that Schwarz's academic input helped to inform teachers and museum staff of the latest research on the slave trade and its impact on Liverpool. This has assisted in encouraging a sensitive and balanced approach to the difficult topic of slavery and its contemporary legacy in a multi-cultural Britain and, as one teacher stated in an NML report (2010), such training and new approaches led to a "rethink of my practice and subject knowledge".

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. On the British Library Endangered Archives project see;r=491.
  2. NML statistics taken from (Accessed 24 July 2012).
  3. See Liverpool cultural Sector and HE mapping report June 2009 (available at which highlights Hope-ISM partnership to help PGCE students develop approaches to teaching slavery (p. 5), joint publications (2007a edited collection) (p. 7) and acknowledgement of Schwarz's role in creation of international teachers institute (p. 8).
  5. On Ghana event see On the National Teachers' Institute see Rachel Hayward, `CPD for teachers: Teaching the Transatlantic Slave Trade'
    20 May 2010 available at as well as (accessed 5 July 2011). On UNESCO workshop on "Defining New Approaches for Teaching the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery", November 2010 , see
  6. Khan NML letter acknowledging Schwarz's role in NML Teacher's Institute work
  7. See (Accessed 1 November 2010).
  8. NML Evaluation questionnaires, completed (August 2010) and NML, Preliminary Results of consultation Exercise (July-September 2010). Hope are grateful to NML for this information.
  9. Suzanne Schwarz interviewed throughout 2008 e.g. on BBC Radio 4's `Today' programme (6,000,000 average weekly listenership); Nick Ravenscroft, `Dark irony of a slaver enslaved', BBC News Magazine, 23 May 2008 ( Suzanne Schwarz interviewed by Lancashire Evening post about Slave Captain book (30 May 2008) ( Suzanne Schwarz-1-73399); Suzanne Schwarz interviewed on BBC World Service's `The World Today'; Suzanne Schwarz interviewed on BBC Scotland Radio and BBC Scotland — Television News: `Reporting Scotland'; Suzanne Schwarz interviewed on BBC Lancashire Radio and Suzanne Schwarz interviewed on Manx radio's bilingual `Shaight Laa' programme.

Other sources cited

  • Eileen Hooper-Greenhill, Museums and Education: Purpose, Pedagogy, Performance (Routledge, 2007)
  • Nicholas J. Evans and Suzanne Schwarz, "Pedagogical Responses to the Teaching of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its Diasporic Legacies in British Schools," Paul Lovejoy and Benjamin Bowser, The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery (UNESCO/Africa World Press, 2012), pp. 117-148.