The BBC documentary ‘Britain’s Forgotten Slave-Owners’ is based on thorough academic research, written and presented by David Olusoga. Olusoga reveals aspects of Britain’s spectacular industrialisation and how London's wealth, urban plan, political and economic infrastructures all have links to slave-derived wealth. Follow the money: Ultimately, we discover that the country’s debt to slavery is far greater than previously thought, shaping everything from the nation’s property landscape to its ideas about race. A legacy that can still be felt today. A documentary that makes you think about our Amsterdam. Join this special WeMakethe.City screening from Rethink Amsterdam.
Follow the money
Nearly £17bn in today’s money was paid to the British slave owners to compensate them for the loss of their human property when slavery was abolished in 1834. A 10-man committee divvied up nearly £17bn in today’s money among 46,000 claimants stretching across the entire British empire. Not a penny, of course, was paid to the slaves themselves. An interesting detail, more than 40 per cent of all slave owners were women. The documentary investigates who owned what and what happened to the wealth generated by the slave-system and compensation pay-out.
The compensation money was drawn largely from taxes, which effectively meant the poor paid for it. The slave owners who had already grown fat on the profits of slave labor were able to diversify, investing in industry, insurance and institutions whose income streams would balance each others’ fluctuations out and keep flowing down the generations. This useful injection of taxpayer cash enabled its recipients to concentrate on building country piles, grooming their sons for government and ensuring that no more than seven families actually matter in Britain at any one time.
Rethink Amsterdam screens this documentary because it offers tools to rethink about our city, Amsterdam, and how it relates to slavery. How many billions were paid in the Netherlands, to whom, and how is that process and history still shaping our current life? Questions we will tackle in the next events.
The documentary was originally broadcasted in July 2015 on BBC2. The program won the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) TV award for 2016 in the ‘Specialist factual’ category and it also won the Royal Historical Society Public History Prize Winner for Broadcasting. English, no subtitles. This one hour documentary is the first part of 2 parts.