We've published our report into colonialism and historic slavery

Penrhyn Castle in Wales, Clandon Park gardens in Surrey, Speke Hall in Liverpool and Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire
Published : 16 Sep 2020 Last update : 21 Sep 2020

Today we released our 'Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery'. It details the connections between 93 of the historic places in our care and colonialism and historic slavery. The report, commissioned last September, is part of our commitment to ensuring links to colonialism and historic slavery are properly represented, shared and interpreted as part of a broader narrative.

Data in the report includes the historic sources of wealth linked to the global slave trades, goods and products of enslaved labour and the East India Company for significant buildings and estates in our care. It also documents the historic houses linked to the abolition of slavery and campaigns against colonial oppression.

" This report is the fullest account to date of the links between places now in the care of the National Trust and colonialism and historic slavery."

Dr Tarnya Cooper, Curatorial and Collections Director says: 'A significant number of the places in our care have links to the colonisation of different parts of the world, and some to historic slavery. Colonialism and slavery were central to the national economy from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Around a third of the places now in our care have direct connections to wider colonial histories, often in a way that’s reflected in collections, materials and records that are visible at those places.'

The report has been edited by Dr Sally-Anne Huxtable (National Trust Head Curator), Professor Corinne Fowler of the University of Leicester, Dr Christo Kefalas (National Trust World Cultures Curator) and Emma Slocombe (National Trust Textiles Curator), with contributions from other National Trust curators and researchers around the country.

What's in the report?

Drawing on recent evidence, including the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project as well as our own sources, the report includes sections on the following:

  • The global slave trades, goods and products of enslaved labour

  • Compensation for slave ownership

  • Abolition and protest

  • The East India Company

  • The British Raj

  • A factual gazetteer listing 93 individual places and collections that have strong links to Britain's colonial past.

Why is the report important?

As a heritage charity, it’s our responsibility to make sure we tell inclusive, honest histories about our places and collections. The report provides the basis for a broader approach, to help contextualise the history of the places in our care. Dr Tarnya Cooper, Curatorial and Collections Director says:

‘It’s our job to research, interpret and openly share full and up-to-date information about our places. This includes information about colonialism and slavery where it is relevant. This is part of caring for our properties in a historically responsible and academically robust way. The work helps us all understand what's gone before; now and for future generations.'

‘This report is the fullest account to date of the links between places now in the care of the National Trust and colonialism and historic slavery.'

John Orna-Ornstein, Director of Culture and Engagement adds: 'These histories are sometimes very painful and difficult to consider. They make us question our assumptions about the past, and yet they can also deepen and enrich our understanding of our economic status, our remarkable built heritage and the art, objects, places and spaces we have today and look after for future generations.'

" These histories are sometimes very painful and difficult to consider. "

What's next?

Some of the research from the report has already been used to update our digital content and is supporting a review of visitor information and interpretation at relevant properties.

Research will continue as part of our commitment to include histories of colonialism and slavery in our interpretation, presentation, digital content and records. As Tarnya Cooper says: ‘[The report] is not exhaustive and we will be adding to it as we do more work and research. But it is an important foundation to share what we already know to form the basis of our own future research and interpretation at the places and collections that have links to colonialism or slavery and for other researchers. We have much more work to do to explore the wider histories at our places.’

A working group of external specialists, chaired by museums and heritage consultant Rita McLean, will be advising and steering us in this work in the coming months. We'll also be working with other National Trust organisations around the world to connect these histories globally.

Details of three portraits

Addressing our histories of colonialism and historic slavery 

Take a closer look at our places and collections with direct and indirect links to colonialism and historic slavery, and read our report in full.