British government to publish profits from slave trade

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The British government will embark on an in-depth study to measure how monies accrued from the slave trade were spent. The government announced recently that it will set up an online database of all slave owners in the country during the abolition of slavery in 1833 and will trace how the wealth was spent.

The study will look into those British companies and institutions established from the profits of slavery and this, the government say will also highlight how the owners were involved and contributed to the provision of social services such as building the railways.

The Church of England is noted as having particularly benefited from the slave trade.

Indeed, at a synod in February 2006, the Church of England decided to issue an apology for their involvement in the slave trade. The Right Reverend Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, United Kingdom, also at the same time noted that “The profits from the slave trade were part of the bedrock of our country’s (Great Britain) industrial development…” and “no one who was involved in running the business, financing it or benefiting from its products can say they had clean hands.”

Mixed reactions

There have been mixed reactions towards such study. Mark who lives in London writes in the morning Metro criticising the initiative saying: “British companies founded using the profits of slavery are to be exposed. What a pointless exercise. What will this achieve? Slavery was abolished almost 200 years ago and that is a good thing but it should be left in the past.”

But Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 2006 said : “To speak here of repentance and apology is not words alone; it is part of our witness to the Gospel, to a world that needs to hear that the past must be faced and healed and cannot be ignored … by doing so we are actually discharging our responsibility to preach good news, not simply to look backwards in awkwardness and embarrassment, but to speak of the freedom we are given to face ourselves, including the unacceptable regions of … our history.”

The study which is financed by the Economic and Social Research Centre will cost over £600,000 pounds and people are concerned what the benefits of such study will bring. “Such an amount is just too much for a mere study that will only look into how the gains from slavery were used. Are there no other causes the money can serve? That money could serve African students wanting to study on such related courses,” said Saheed Muyanga.

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