Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group needs to consider the opinions of historians like Tom Devine – John McLellan

In establishing the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group, the council aimed to raise awareness of the city’s historic links with slavery to help tackle racism, and crucial to the success of any examination is the credibility of the group doing the review.

Thursday, 27th January 2022, 12:30 pm
Professor Sir Tom Devine's expertise in Scottish history cannot be dismissed (Picture: Greg Macvean)
Professor Sir Tom Devine's expertise in Scottish history cannot be dismissed (Picture: Greg Macvean)

The chair, Sir Geoff Palmer CBE, is widely respected and was an ideal choice to lead the work, and as the only publicly identified member of the group the focus will inevitably fall on him.

Given there is virtually no community the United Kingdom ─ or indeed France, Spain and Portugal – with a history going back to the 18th century without some connection to wealth generated through slave labour, it’s a massive and unavoidably controversial subject.

It’s important that Sir Geoff takes people with him, so to dismiss Edinburgh University historians who disagree with the assessment of Sir Henry Dundas as a defender of slavery as members of “an academic racist gang” has done nothing to strengthen the work of his group.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Read More

Read More
Fresh plea to public for views on how Edinburgh should address its links with sl...

One of those he attacked, Sir Tom Devine, has written extensively about the slave-based business interests of Scottish companies in Georgian times, most notably that of William Cunninghame, the tobacco lord who built what is now Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art.

No-one except the group knows how the work is going, but the work of people like Sir Tom should be an integral part of the research, and I would respectfully suggest that insulting those whose knowledge of the history of the time is deep will only undermine its aims.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.