Slave Wales – the Welsh and Atlantic Slavery

Submitting Institution

University of South Wales

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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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 within Wales.

Underpinning research

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 ( 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. 118-34


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 widely.

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 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 February 2012: 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. 107-112.)
  • `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 audience:

  • `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, October 2007

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