Slave Wales – the Welsh and Atlantic Slavery
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of South Wales
Unit of AssessmentHistory
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
This case study concerns advances in public understanding of Wales's
involvement with the Atlantic slave system between the seventeenth and
nineteenth centuries associated with the research of Chris Evans. The
research has enhanced cultural capital within Wales (and more widely) on
this issue, expanded the range and quality of evidence available for
public debate, and influenced the memorialisation of Atlantic slavery
The underpinning research has been in progress since 2006 when the
impending commemoration of the bicentenary of the abolition of the British
slave trade prompted a reassessment of Britain's role in the rise and
dissolution of the Atlantic slave system. It drew upon an earlier phase of
research on the role of Baltic iron in the eighteenth-century Atlantic
economy that, amongst other things, examined the mechanisms that joined
the transatlantic slave trade, the British Isles, and northern Europe more
widely [Evans & Rydén 2007].
Research by Evans examined: the role of Welsh products (such as Swansea
copper or woollen fabric) as trade goods in West Africa or as matériel
supplied to Caribbean slave labour camps (in the form of processing and
distilling equipment, slave apparel, etc); the significance of profits
generated in the Atlantic world for Welsh industrial development; the
extent of Wales's contribution to abolitionism in Britain (which was
curiously muted); and continuing links between Welsh industry and the
slave Atlantic after 1807 (which uncovered hitherto unknown connections
with Cuban slavery). The research revealed for the first time the precise
ways in which Wales articulated with Atlantic slavery.
The first results of this research, which drew upon sources in Britain
and the USA, were announced in Evans's book Slave Wales: the Welsh and
Atlantic Slavery 1660-1850 (2010), which was commissioned by the
University of Wales Press in 2007.
The research continues, most recently in association with the ESRC-funded
Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project at UCL (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/).
Evans has used the project's data on compensation paid to slave owners at
the moment of abolition in 1834 to discuss the impact of slave-derived
wealth on Wales [Evans forthcoming].
References to the research
Chris Evans and Göran Rydén (2007), Baltic Iron in the Atlantic world
in the Eighteenth Century (Leiden: Brill), xvi, 359
Chris Evans (2010), Slave Wales: the Welsh and Atlantic Slavery
1660-1850 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press), viii, 160
Chris Evans (2013), `Brazilian gold, Cuban copper and the final frontier
of British anti-slavery', Slavery & Abolition, 34: 1, pp.
Chris Evans (forthcoming), `Slavery and Welsh industrialisation: before
and after emancipation', in Catherine Hall, Keith McCelland and Nick
Draper (eds), Emancipation, Slave Ownership and the Remaking of the
British Imperial World (Manchester University Press)
Details of the impact
The research was from the outset intertwined with questions of public
debate. It arose from Evans being approached in 2006 to act as the
historical consultant for a BBC2 Wales documentary Wales and Slavery:
The Untold Story. The broadcast of Wales and Slavery in 2007
led directly to Evans being commissioned by the University of Wales Press
to write a book-length study on the same theme. This initiated a programme
of research designed to collect fresh data on the relationship between
Wales and slavery, and to construe that data in the light of new
theoretical approaches to the history of Atlantic slavery more widely.
The results were as far as was possible disseminated to a lay audience
via the press, through broadcast media and at events designed to expand
popular understanding of slavery and abolition in Wales and Britain more
Broadcast media appearances by Chris Evans:
Wales and Slavery: The Untold Story (2007) was first broadcast
on 22 March 2007 on BBC2 Wales (clip available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00kqzjh).
Evans made supporting appearance on BBC Radio Wales shows.
- Evans was consulted by the production team ahead of Time Team
excavations at the White Rock copper works (July 2011, broadcast
The White Rock works supplied copper and brass wares for use in the
African slave trade and were established by one of Bristol's prominent
slave traders of the 1730s.
Print journalism by Chris Evans:
- `Sir Thomas Picton: hero or villain?', Western Mail, 31 March
2011. (Reprinted in Huw Bowen (ed.), Heroes and villains in Welsh
history (Llandysul, 2012), pp. 85-92.)
- `The British slaves of Latin America', BBC History Magazine,
12: 4 (April 2011), 56-59
- `Was Wales really opposed to the slave trade?', Western Mail,
29 September 2010. (Reprinted in Huw Bowen (ed.), A new history of
Wales: myths and realities in Welsh history (Llandysul, 2011), pp.
- `No escape... Wales's part in the business of slavery', Western
Mail, 22 March 2008
Public events at which research findings were presented for a lay
- `Swansea Copper and Atlantic Slavery', National Waterfront Museum,
Swansea, October 2011
- `Copper, the Costers and the slave trade', at Hidden Industry: The
Industrial Past of the Wye Valley, Chepstow, September 2011 (part
of `Overlooking the Wye', the £2.8 million landscape partnership scheme
funded by the HLF).
- `Wales and Atlantic slavery', National Museum of Wales, Cardiff,
Consultancy arising from this public profile:
- Evans was engaged as a consultant to the Heritage Lottery Fund project
"Bittersweet", run by charity The Gateway Gardens Trust between
2007 and 2009. "Bittersweet" was a programme aimed at disadvantaged
urban groups which sought to explain the impact of slavery on British
culture through New World plant species and foodstuffs that had made
their way into British gardens and the British diet. Evans advised on
the touring exhibition produced by the project and the accompanying DVD:
Bittersweet: Sugar, Tea and Slavery. A Story of Wales and Slavery
(The Gateway Gardens Trust, 2009).
- Evans also advised on the drafting of another, this time unsuccessful,
bid for HLF funding by Learning Links International CIC, an educational
trust, and the North Wales Jamaica Society: "Atlantic Links — the North
Wales Connection" in 2012.
- Evans was engaged by Green Bay Media, working on behalf of the Welsh
Government's Department of Education & Skills to produce educational
materials as a spin-off from the 2012 BBC series The Story of Wales
The results are mounted on iTunes U and the Welsh Government's virtual
learning environment (the HWB). Evans advised on and appeared in the
segment `Wales and Slavery' which can be found at iTunes U > Addysg
Cymru-Education Wales > The Story of Wales. The script was based
directly, if not always accurately, on Evans 2010.
Sources to corroborate the impact
(1) Wales and Slavery: The Untold Story (BBC2 Wales, 2007)
(2) The Gateway Gardens Trust
(3) Green Bay Media / The Story of Wales