The transatlantic slave trade and plantation slavery in the Americas: Exploring Scottish connections

A symposium held at the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh, 12-13 March 2010. This event was made possible by a generous grant by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and through the support of the Andrew Hook Centre for American Studies at the University of Glasgow, the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, and the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Edinburgh. We are also grateful to the US Embassy for their support of this event.

Speaking during the bicentennial commemoration of the abolition of the slave trade in 2007, the UK Culture Minister stated that ‘Understanding the slave trade and its legacy is vital to broadening our history and recognition of the The transatlantic slave trade and plantation slavery in the Americas: Exploring Scottish connectionschallenges we still face as a society today.’ In Edinburgh the Scottish Executive’s Communities and Sports Minister acknowledged that ‘we should not forget the role that Scotland played’ in the slave trade in general, and the management of plantations in particular. Yet, as pointed out in the Scottish Executive’s pamphlet Scotland and the Slave Trade (Edinburgh, March 2007), ‘the detailed history of the transatlantic slave trade is unfamiliar to the majority of the Scottish public.’ The pamphlet concludes with the observation that ‘the legacy of the slave trade is still very much in evidence today’, and with the hope that the new awareness triggered by the bicentennial commemoration will provide ‘an opportunity to continue’ the work initiated by abolitionists ‘whilst remembering the past.’

A great many Scots served as factors, agents and plantation managers in the Caribbean and mainland North America, and these links created what historian Douglas J. Hamilton has described as ‘a lattice of connections that enmeshed Scotland, the Caribbean and Britain’. Such activities have created a rich archive of records in Scottish libraries and archives, both private and public, many of them little-studied, but which may yield a great deal of information about the role of Scots in creating and maintaining plantation slavery in the Americas.

This symposium brought together archivists, librarians, representatives of the heritage sector and historians and archaeologists, all interested in developing awareness of the role that Scots played in the slave trade and plantation slavery, as well as the impact these people (and the wealth they generated) had on Scotland.

This webpage includes digitized film recordings of the symposium presentations (PowerPoint presentations are not included, in order to avoid copyright infringement). The webpage also includes links to other websites with information about Scotland and slavery, and about archives and materials held in Scotland.