And the Beeb is so very often at fault: so when it lives gloriously up to its Charter the trumpets should be sounded. But before that, a reminder of its venality. They are re-running David Olusoga's A House Through Time, and I must have missed the relevant episode of the Liverpool House, or I'd have mentioned it then. Olusoga is of course a revisionist historian with an impressively "rational" demeanour - oh, he knows so many facts - and needless to say the Bristol House was that of a slave-trader etc etc ad nauseam. The Liverpool example was near the docks, and in the episode that covers WW2 he delivers the following line. Thanks to the untiring efforts of the two heroic dock workers he's lauding,
"the Port of Liverpool remained operational throughout the War, ensuring that Britain was fed, equipped and armed"Except, of course, when it wasn't. The Liverpool dockers have always been notorious for their propensity for striking, and WW2 was no exception. As well as a load of small strikes in the period before Hitler invaded Russia (i.e. when Russia was Hitler's ally and the Communist Party opposed the war), there was what even trade unionists accept was a "major" dock strike in Liverpool in 1943; and a big seaman's strike there in 1942. Londoners of my father's generation would bitterly recall the Liverpool dockers being out at the height of the Blitz. Time to revise the revisionist account, then.
BUT (*fanfare*) the Beeb has redeemed itself, and all is not lost. For they have seen fit to publish a no-holds-barred account of how the Atlantic slave trade had its origins in a pre-existing, and utterly unrepentent native African slave trade. We all knew this, but I wasn't expecting to see it aired quite so fully as it is here.
'My Nigerian great-grandfather sold slaves' - Nigerian journalist and novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani writes that one of her ancestors sold slaves, but argues that he should not be judged by today's standards or values.
My great-grandfather, Nwaubani Ogogo Oriaku, was what I prefer to call a businessman, from the Igbo ethnic group of south-eastern Nigeria. He dealt in a number of goods, including tobacco and palm produce. He also sold human beings. "He had agents who captured slaves from different places and brought them to him," my father told me...It further contains some highly relevant cultural commentary by this bravely outspoken lady.
The successful sale of adults was considered an exploit for which a man was hailed by praise singers, akin to exploits in wrestling, war, or in hunting animals like the lion. Slavery was so ingrained in the culture that a number of popular Igbo proverbs make reference to it: [e.g.] Anyone who has no slave is his own slave ... The concept of "all men are created equal" was completely alien to traditional religion and law in his society. It would be unfair to judge a 19th Century man by 21st Century principles. Assessing the people of Africa's past by today's standards would compel us to cast the majority of our heroes as villains [my emphasis].Can this article survive for long in the Beeb's website before being taken down? I've recommended elsewhere that we all cache it as a gem of accurate, thorough historical reporting and intelligent commentary. It deserves to go viral - and if it did, the resultant woke-wailing would be wondrous to behold.