Edinburgh slavery map offers glimpse into city’s dark past

Slaves working on an American plantation. Picture. Wikimedia/CC
Slaves working on an American plantation. Picture. Wikimedia/CC
5
Have your say

A new interactive map offers a glimpse into Edinburgh’s murky, slave trading past.

The map, which was created by a trio of Edinburgh architects, reveals the addresses of capital residents who applied for compensation following the British Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.

The Edinburgh Slavery Map maps the addresses of Edinburgh citizens who sought reimbursal from the government after slavery was abolished. Picture: ScotlandSlaveryMap.com

The Edinburgh Slavery Map maps the addresses of Edinburgh citizens who sought reimbursal from the government after slavery was abolished. Picture: ScotlandSlaveryMap.com

In 1833, the British government paid £20 million pounds to compensate 3,000 Caribbean slaveholders for the emancipation of their slaves, the equivalent to around £17bn today and a staggering 40 percent of the government’s annual budget

Slave trading was abolished across the British Empire in 1807 but the condition of slavery itself wasn’t outlawed in Britain till 1838.

READ MORE: Scotland’s slave trade and Montrose’s key role

Using data from University College London’s Legacy of British Slave-Ownership database, the Edinburgh Slavery Map gives a snapshot into the life of slave owners of the time.

The Edinburgh Slavery Map. Picture: ScotlandSlaveryMap.com

The Edinburgh Slavery Map. Picture: ScotlandSlaveryMap.com

The map’s creators, Nathan Ozga, Vsevolod Kondratiev-Popov and Jamie Henry - all alumni of the University of Edinburgh - wanted to create a physical manifestation of slavery in Scotland after learning more about the topic.

“I found it very unsettling that the people who owned and sold slaves lived in the very buildings that surround you in Edinburgh, “ explains Nathan Ozga.

He continued: “On the map it is not just slave owners that are shown, it is people who were involved in the slave trade at the time: lawyers, plantation owners, trustees of slave owners or those who inherited a stake in slave plantations.

READ MORE: The history of Scotland in 9 maps

“We aren’t at a point yet where we can compare Edinburgh with other cities but the map is a starting point that we hope can give people a glimpse into a darker chapter in the city’s history, “

The map details the number of slaves each claimant was seeking reimbursal for and how much money they wanted back from the government.

Among the many New Town addresses on the map is a home two doors down from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Bute House residence which belonged to a slave owner.

One of the biggest single payments went to Peter McClagan of Great King Street who, as an awardee, received £21480 10S 10D in 1836 for the “407 enslaved” at a plantation in British Guiana, approximately £1.7million in today’s money.

A slave owner, John Blackburn of Queen Street, submitted three claims for 638 slaves in Jamaica.

Scotland played a significant role in developing - and profiting from - the transatlantic slave trade.

Recent research has shown Scottish slave ownership was higher than in any other part of the UK.

Between 1760 and 1830 the Scottish economy grew from one of the weakest in Europe to become one of the most powerful.

Profits were made from vast amounts of Jamaican sugar, as the old sugar sheds that still exist in Greenock today testify.

David Pott, a campaigner for Flag Up Scotland, has called on the Scottish Government to recognise its “moral obligation” to the island.

He said: “Jamaica does not call for financial reparations which it would be perfectly entitled to do, instead it sensibly calls for a change in focus in the relationship between our two countries.

“The people of Scotland seem to be very open acknowledging that slavery did indeed benefit Scotland and damaged Jamaica.

“We are fortunate in Scotland that there appears to be little resentment from Jamaicans and the bond between our countries remains strong.

To view the fully interactive map visit the Scotland Slavery Map website.

’Like’ The Scotsman on Facebook for regular updates

DOWNLOAD THE SCOTSMAN APP ON ITUNES OR GOOGLE PLAY