Biting the hand

: at one time, a desire to denigrate Wilberforce was a sign of liking slavery. Now it is the latest thing in politically-correct chic. “In Search of Wilberforce” (BBC2, 21:00 – 22:00, Friday 15th March) was actually in search of ways to belittle him. His memorial states that

… his name will ever be specially identified with those exertions which, by the blessing of God, removed from England the guilt of the African slave trade, and prepared the way for the abolition of slavery in every colony of the empire: in the prosecution of these objects he relied, not in vain, on God; but in the progress he was called to endure great obloquy and great opposition: he outlived, however, all enmity … [1]

but he has not, it would seem, outlived the enmity of presenter Moira Stewart and suchlike politically-correct BBCers.

The belittling was pursued by the usual PC techniques of demeaning emphases and questions (“He is called …”, “But did he actually …) and the setting up of straw men to be demolished. One of these was the fact that Wilberforce began by devoting himself to abolishing the slave trade. The presenter’s attitude to this reminded me of Kipling’s lines

Lesser men feign greater goals

Failing whereof they may sit

Scholarly to judge the souls

That go down into the pit

And despite its certain clay

Heave a new world towards the day

Lesser women too; the presenter was “much puzzled” at the distinction. The idea that you have to start somewhere seemed beyond her. The great difference in death rate and physical misery between the slave ships and the colonies was beneath her politically-correct notice. Wilberforce, like anyone who means to do real good, not just strike a pose, pursued a strategy that would work; that meant attacking the greatest evil – the trade – first.

Repeated absurdities supported this straw man:

  • “In Britain most people don’t realise that Wilberforce bill only made the trade illegal. Slavery continued in Britain’s colonies.” This was repeated over and over. Most people, if you ask them sensibly, can tell you that the trade was abolished first, slavery later, and that Wilberforce campaigned against both, which does seem the main point.
  • “Wilberforce believed the abolition would improve the lot of Africans in the plantations” but “it has been proved to me that it did not”. The so-called proof consisted of the presenter’s visiting the Caribbean and discovering that after the trade was prohibited slavery was still slavery, which was still bad. Wilberforce knew that; that’s why he campaigned for abolition. (See also footnote [2] below.)
  • Wilberforce died shortly after learning that the bill abolishing slavery had passed its third reading, usually seen as a fitting moment for the close of his life, but not by the presenter, to whom it was just a demonstration of how irrelevant he had become: “Wilberforce did not have the driving role”, “he was a figurehead” was her attitude to the anti-slavery speeches of his final years. The implication seemed to be that several decades campaigning in parliament and out simply wasn’t good enough for the reputation he had; he shouldn’t have grown old and died before all was done.

A second straw man was made out of the famous Wedgewood cameo, in which a kneeling slave pleads, ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’ The presenter “had great difficulties” with this image, both the original and a copy in a stained glass window; it was “a travesty of the Africans who have fought for their freedom” since it shows them “as only a supplicant.” If she had been more observant she might have noticed a kneeling white man, as well as a kneeling black man, in the stained glass window example that particularly aroused her ire. A better historical sense (or a look at other kneeling figures in churches) might have reminded her that Wilberforce must have knelt every evening and every Sunday, and that the posture was not then seen as her narrowly modern mind sees it. Finally her knowledge of slavery might have told her that slaves are people deprived of power, people who must plead for compassion; that the image (as well as being very effective propaganda for its cause) expresses a simple truth about the overwhelming majority.

Another straw man was that, “For Wilberforce, the slave trade was a sin for which Britain had to repent, but he was not alone.” The presenter complained several times that he was but one of many in the movement. Oh yes, we all imagined that Wilberforce fought slavery without the help of anyone else, just as we imagined that Churchill fought the Nazis alone while the rest of the nation just watched! Anyone who knows the history knows about Clarkson and others she mentioned. Wilberforce is simply the name you remember first and forget last.

Listing all the programme’s follies would make this already long post gargantuan. Let us turn to the question why. Why does a politically-correct BBCer want to demean a man who in his day was sneered at by slavers? Whence comes the visceral dislike that was so plain under the urbane commentary, from the very first questioning sentence to the final grudging partial admission of his deeds? I thought I saw two reasons.

The first could be seen underneath several remarks. “It’s been proved to me – they were not mere supplicants grateful for a morsel of pity.” A statue of a Jamaican slave who led a slave strike crushed in January 1831 was a “monument to people the Jamaicans regard as the true abolitionists.” The unstated implication seemed to be that Wilberforce real crime was to be white and to be British. His actions deprived the African tribes of the dignity of someday ceasing for themselves to sell the losers in their wars, and deprived the slaves of the dignity of someday freeing themselves by revolt. Put another way, his crime was to be part of the real history of the victory over slavery, not of a more emotionally-satisfying myth history.

The second arises from the ugly necessities of modern politically-correct ‘multiculturalism’, committed in theory to the equality of cultures but in practice to despising the culture to which Wilberforce belonged. This prompted some minor distortions of details [3]. But more fundamentally, with this mindset the real achievement of the anti-slavery movement, which went far beyond ending specific cruelties of British traders and British colonists, simply cannot be faced. “During three to four hundred years the entire world saw the slave trade as legal.” No, during 6000 years of recorded history, every culture, every race, every continent, saw slavery, and the trade in slaves, as legal. Some tried to mitigate it: the Old Testament proclaims laws that try to restrain the worst horrors; so did the Indian king Asoka. Some personified callousness: “Sell old and sick slaves”, wrote Cato. Always, slavery was legal. “The strong do what they can; the weak endure what they must”, said the Athenian general to the Melosians before enslaving them. Over two thousand years later, the African chief Comoro said much the same to explorer Samuel Baker: “The good people are all weak: they are good because they are not strong enough to be bad.” [4] Sometimes slaves rebelled or escaped. Rarely, they were successful: the Messenian helots eventually drove out the Spartans; the slaves in Haiti triumphed; some in Surinam escaped. More often they failed, sometimes after victories like Spartacus, but usually by being swiftly crushed. Either way, the idea of slavery went on.

The anti-slavery movement, born of a society that had eliminated first slavery and then its lesser cousin serfdom centuries earlier in its homeland, taught that slavery was wrong, not just for citizens or for people like them but for absolutely everyone. They made this conviction a practical reality, backed by preaching, by the force of law and above all by their power, especially their navy. “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”, said Lincoln. It is an obvious thought to us; who would deny it? Answer: most of the past. Wilberforce and the movement he led stand at the fulcrum of that change. Our minds inherit their achievement. “I cannot understand why for so many centuries mankind allowed such a trade”, said the presenter (“for so many millennia”, she should have said). We share her feelings, if not her limited timespan, easily, without needing a trace of Wilberforce’ moral grandeur because she and we live after Wilberforce, not before. But to the politically-correct mind, that origin of this knowledge is unwelcome; better to sneer at him.


[1] The ‘great obloquy’ included threats and even physical attacks so that at one time Wilberforce had to travel with a bodyguard.

[2] For what it is worth, the claim that abolishing the trade offered no benefits to existing slaves in the Americas can easily be seen to be false, even in its own irrelevant terms, by comparing survival of the main groups.

  • More than twice as many African slaves travelled the short, ocean-current-assisted route to Brazil and South America than went the long passage to North America. The route was easier and in use longer, only finally being shut down when the Royal Navy raided into Brazilian harbours in the 1850s. Yet while there is a population of mixed race there, the purely African descendants of these slaves are rare. Their treatment seems not to have been good enough to favour forming families and raising children. Cultural differences may have played a role but the fact that it was so much cheaper to buy a new slave off the dock is surely relevant.
  • More African slaves were sent to the Arab world than went to the whole western hemisphere. The trade (often straightforward capture by Arab slavers, not ‘trade’ in any sense) began even earlier and lasted even longer. Only in the second half of the 19th century did the Royal Navy mount effective blockade of the key Zanzibar depot and stifle the sea-borne trade; intercepting small Arab dhows in the shorter passages of Africa’s east coast was a harder task than interdicting the west coast trade. Effective action against the land route to the near east had to await imperial annexations (archeology can still trace the routes by the clusters of skeletons around water holes, perhaps representing a last desperate effort by the captives to reach water). Yet the near east today has almost no descendants of these slaves. Their treatment – obviously so for the thousands who were made harem guards but apparently also for the rest – seems not to have been of a kind to favour it. The much greater ease of obtaining fresh slaves, relative to any part of the western hemisphere, seems highly pertinent to this.
  • (The majority of African slaves never left the continent of their birth. There is no immediate way of assessing the survival of those who lived and died in Africa. Treatment appears to have been harsh in the plantations in the eastern part of the central axis, and of course those chosen by the king of Dahomey for his annual execution spectacles did not survive. Estimates of overall numbers enslaved and numbers shipped to other continents can be found in e.g. ‘Conquests and Cultures’ by Thomas Sowell. Alternatively, the reader can verify that the above ratios are generally correct simply by checking the durations of the various slave-taking activities, looking at the relative distances on a map, and reflecting on the difficulties of transport in a pre-industrial society.)

Thus Wilberforce’ opinion that ending the supply of new slaves might also be of some benefit to those already enslaved was obvious common sense with support from the evidence. However his main motivation for campaigning against the trade was disgust at its cruelty and injustice. He then campaigned for abolition, clearly not thinking the possible collateral benefit to slaves of ending the trade was remotely sufficient in itself.

[3] Examples include the following tendentious descriptions:

  • “Merchants came here to buy or capture people”, she stated as though ‘buy’ were not the overwhelmingly standard mode of operation. I know of no historical instance in which a British slave trader obtained slaves from Africa by capture. Capture by Portuguese traders was extremely rare but in their longer – four centuries – history in the trade one or two instances are known.
  • “This African complicity is hard to accept” said the presenter about the selling of slaves, which doubtless helped her accept the claim that the tribal wars in which winners sold losers were fermented by the British; as though such events were not endemic before and after the period.

[4] Alan Moorehead, “The White Nile”.

Quotations from the programme are from notes made while watching it.

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117 Responses to Biting the hand

  1. dave t says:

    They sneer and claim to know what they are talking about and thus do the Beeb spread their lies and untruths throughout the world. No mention of the CURRENT slave trade (predominantly in Africa) then or the fact that around a million WHITE people from Cornwall etc were enslaved by the Beeb’s best friends, the Islamic Empire?

    No many brains so little common sense at the Beeb!


  2. Jon says:

    “The Arab or Middle Eastern slave trade or trans-Saharan slavery was mostly centered around settlements and ports in East Africa, though it is estimated that the Arab Barbary Pirates of North Africa took over 1 million white slaves from Europe between 1530 and 1780. It is one of the oldest known slave trades, predating the European transatlantic slave trade by hundreds of years. Male slaves, after being transported and sold, were employed as servants, soldiers, or labourers by their owners. Female slaves, mostly from Africa, were long traded to Middle Eastern countries and kingdoms by Arab, Indian, or Oriental traders, some as female servants, others as sexual slaves. Arab, Indian, and Asian traders were often involved in the capture or purchase and transport of African slaves northward across the Sahara desert and the Indian Ocean region into Arabia and the Middle East, Persia, and the Indian subcontinent.

    More African slaves may have crossed the Sahara Desert, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean than crossed the Atlantic. Some sources estimate that between 11 and 17 million slaves crossed the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara Desert from 650 to 1900 (1250 years), compared to perhaps 11-12 million transported across the Atlantic from 1500 to the late 1860s (~360 years) [citation needed]. The Arab or Middle Eastern slave trade continued in some areas into the early 1900s.”

    “In the Ottoman Empire after battles, winners often castrated their captives as a display of power. Castrated men — eunuchs — were often admitted to special social classes and were used to guard harems. Ottoman tradition relied on slave concubines for the “royalty” along with legal marriage for reproduction. Slave concubines were used for sexual reproduction to emphasize the patriarchal nature of power (power being “hereditary” through sons only). Slave concubines, unlike wives, had no recognized lineage.

    Slaves in the Ottoman empire in general were brought from Eastern Europe and parts of Southern Russia. In the Islamic world slavery had religious rather than racial connotations, with most of the slaves in Ottoman history being Christians. The Ottomans had many European and Central Asian “Mameluk” slaves and the elite Janissary troops of the Ottoman army were all Christian-born slaves taken mostly from the Balkans.”


  3. Jon says:

    Could it be what really annoys the PC BBC line was that William Wiberforce was a devout Christian and English. He was also an independent Tory – the type of person that they now castigate day after day.


  4. Paul says:

    Maybe the reason the programme was as it was had something to do with the presenter being herself the descendant of slaves.

    It’s all very well looking at the subject with the detachment of the historian.

    If it touches your life, you get a different perspective.

    It’s significant how every comment before mine seeks to minimize the issue – either by raising the small number of slaves from Cornwall or by bringing up slavery in other parts of the world.

    I’ve seen this before – among people who try to make out that the Holocaust wasn’t aimed at Jews because a relatively small number of gypsies and gays were killed too.


  5. Jon says:

    “If it touches your life, you get a different perspective.”

    Slavery was abolished on 25th March, 1807. Can you really say that something that happened to someone in your family tree over 200 years ago can still effect your personel life today?

    If you want to be a victim it is easy to find an excuse to become one.

    Does everyone know who their ancestors were? Maybe mine were serfs – how far do we go back in time before we can accept that we cannot be responsible for the failings in the past.

    That William Wiberforce played a leading role in the abolition of slavery is a fact.


  6. Kulibar Tree says:

    NiallKilmartin – jolly well done on a terrific post.

    But, honestly, what did you expect? There’s an old joke – maybe it’s a real quote – that no good deed goes unpunished, and seemingly the BBC are taking it literally. For example, last year there was an equally sneering Archive Hour (R4) on the Marshall Plan, one of the greatest acts of altruism – in modern times, at least – but you can work out for yourselves the spin the BBC put on it.



  7. Richard says:


    “It’s significant how every comment before mine seeks to minimize the issue – either by raising the small number of slaves from Cornwall or by bringing up slavery in other parts of the world.”

    No. You just made that up, in your arrogance deciding that other people meant something moe than they had written. In fact it is you and the BBC that is minimizing the issue, by not accepting that the slave trade was far wider than the part that Britain was involved on the wrong side of.

    Of course “every post before [yours]” can’t possibly right, not if they disagree with you, eh?

    “If it touches your life, you get a different perspective.”

    So my ancestor a little later than that who,reputed to have been a sheep rustler who was hanged is still affecting my perspective? If your suggestion were not so silly I would suggest that it disqualifies the presenter from giving a balanced account, and might explain some of the lies and distortions.

    Do I see the blind arrogance of BBC personnel about you? Or just someone who can’t be bothered to think independently so gets the left-wing media to do so for you?


  8. Hettie says:

    “It’s significant how every comment before mine seeks to minimize the issue – either by raising the small number of slaves from Cornwall or by bringing up slavery in other parts of the world.”

    Minimising by putting it in perspective? How odd.

    Maybe the programme was into maximising British involvement and chose to ignore slavery as it has existed since the earliest times of human history.

    It was not a British specific thing, it’s what humans did in a lot of parts of the world. By omitting facts like this the BBC tries to rewrite history.

    You can still be very supportive of the descendants of slaves and present history as it happened. Sure people wouldn’t take offence. Wish someone tried that out for a change.


  9. jgm says:

    Excellent post. The movie might be pretty good too.


  10. Will Jones says:

    “If it touches your life, you get a different perspective.

    How true.

    Ever since the Romans put down Queen Boudica’s revolt I’ve gotten heartburn from eating Italian food.

    What the world really needs is a statute of limitations on victimhood.


  11. IngSoc Is Doublethink says:

    Good Morning……

    I must say I agree, and excellent post exposing “English Socialism” in action.

    Will made an excellent point:

    “Ever since the Romans put down Queen Boudica’s revolt I’ve gotten heartburn from eating Italian food.”

    According to the Beeboid world view, the British Empire, that “evil” imperialist expression of war-mongering Westerners should now apologise for slavery?

    What they seem to omit is that slave-owning and trading is as old as mankind, and has been carried out by all cultures since the first organized settlements between the Tigris and Euphrates.

    By there logic, the Irish should be apologising to the English or the Arabs to the Spanish, and the Zulu’s to every other Southern African tribe. The case that somehow Britain is at fault for a time a place in history is foolish to say the least.

    How intellectually weak to apply 21st century values to the 17th Centaury when ideas about property, religion and morality were very different to our own. That is a blatant bias that any historian worth his salt tries to avoid.

    How typically short-sighted to overlook the fact that, for an example, Martin Luther King and his ideals would not have existed without slavery, because although abhorrent the slave trade established the Afro-American culture that we see today. And this is just one on many thousands of examples.

    But I suspect this “public awareness” exercise is more to do with highlighting the “evil white men who colonised America which lead to GWB” narration of doublethink, and I’m sure there will be some angle to fit Israel in this (then again…..slave owning Egyptians over oppressed Jews doesn’t quite fit the picture).

    Slightly OT-anybody catch Thompson on Andrew Marr yesterday morning?

    Although not a savaging (heaven forbid that), there are cracks starting to show in Al Beebs glacier.

    Yes, I think the viewers would like to know about the “cultural bias” with Al Beeb.

    Not forgetting fleecing kids and ordinary folk on your “quality programming”.

    I smell blood in the water-where is JR and Andy (ex BBC) because the whispers are getting louder.


  12. crossbow says:

    Perhaps the real reason why Moira Stuart is miffed about the British abolition of the slave trade, and then of slavery istelf, is because African tribes were accustomed, for many centuries, to slaughter or enslave other tribes, within Africa itself. They were eventually prevented from doing so by British and European colonization.

    Now that colonization has ended, many African countries have reverted to their previous habits. Perhaps the BBC could give us a programme on that subject?


  13. Paul says:

    Jon | 19.03.07 – 12:09 am + IngSoc Is Doublethink | 19.03.07 – 8:25 am

    Maybe you should get your facts straight before presuming to lecture about slavery.

    Only a complete ignoramus could write the sentence:

    Slavery was abolished on 25th March, 1807.

    It wasn’t. The emancipation of slaves in British colonies took place on 1st August 1834 pursuant to the Abolition of Slavery Act passed on 23rd August 1833. In the southern states of the US slavery continued until 1865.

    Ingsoc is doublethink writes:

    How intellectually weak to apply 21st century values to the 17th Century when ideas about property, religion and morality were very different to our own.

    Those who are outraged about slavery in the 18th/19th century century are not being a-historical or trying to impose modern morality on a past age.

    The evil nature of slavery was well known by then. Slavery was outlawed in England in 1102. The Christian churches • the Catholic Church especially • had long condemned slavery.

    Pope Eugene IV threatened excommunication against slave owners in 1435.

    Papal condemnations of slavery were repeated by Popes Gregory XIV (1591), Urban VIII (1639), Innocent XI (1686), Benedict XIV (1741), and Piux VII (1815).


  14. Michael says:

    The finest post I’ve ever read on this site. Thank you.


  15. Rueful Red says:

    Good post.
    One minor point that could be added is that the programme made the claim that British prosperity was in large part founded on slavery. The fact is that the trade was limited to sugar and tobacco, and while particular cities – Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow spring to mind – made a lot of money out of the trade, the money they made was a good deal less significant than the annual investment in new agricultural techniques and crops which lowered the price of food (failed harvests excepted) in England throughout the 18th century and provided the surpluses, both in food and finance, necessary for the development of the canal, rail and steam age. By the time slavery was abolished in 1833 the Caribbean traders had had their influence greatly reduced when compared with the great industrial manufacturers, which of course hastened abolition.
    The same claim is sometimes made in the USA. The simple fact is that US history absolutely demonstrates the superiority of free over slave labour, and the Confederates saw this at the time. The attempt at emotional blackmail – “Whitey’d be poor but for our ancestors, give us a handout” – is a typical bit of Leftoid fantasy.


  16. Nick Reynolds (BBC) says:

    Links to BBC website on abolition:

    “At first this trafficking only supplemented a trade in human beings that already existed within Europe, in which Europeans had enslaved each other. Some enslaved Africans had also reached Europe, the Middle East and other parts of the world before the mid-15th century, as a result of a trade in human beings that had also long existed in Africa.”

    Wilberforce article:


  17. tom atkins says:

    Great post.

    My Encylopedia Britannica says that the Arabs were far and away the biggest slavers.
    Because of the custom of sterilsation and castration, there is little evidence of this trade today and the trade, as you say, was ended by a little known Royal Navy blockade.

    Indeed, the BBC can carry on telling us how enlightened the Arab culture was and is (they “invented zero”, after all)


  18. la marquise says:

    I don’t watch BBC TV but I heard part of a Radio 4 documentary recently(last week I think) devoted to Wilberforce. It was presented by Melvyn Bragg and allowed William Hague, who has written a Wilberforce biography, a lot of time to defend (!!) W.W. from politically correct and Marxisant abuse. It ended with Bragg saying that when one looked at the life of Wilberforce, the study of history through the lives of great men seemed worthy of resurrection.


  19. deegee says:

    The BBC writes about Slavery in Today’s Africa No return for Sudan’s forgotten slaves

    There is a whole BBC section on Modern Day slavery

    Of course, this being the BBC they have to have an anti American article. Florida Tomato Picker Guadalupe Gonzalez, an Hispanic migrant, Checked his papers? I thought not. arived with nothing but the shirt on his back; plans to stay another two years; gets paid $3.50 an hour for a 12 hour day. This is less than the minimum but the reporter thoughtfully notes “In recent years, a number of cases of involuntary servitude have been prosecuted successfully in Florida”. Despite high rents he sends $600 to $800 home to his family. At night he ‘suffers’ a warm meal, a game of billiards or a film!

    Slavery? Still let’s give the BBC a B for effort


  20. Fabio P.Barbieri says:

    a trade in human beings that already existed within Europe

    Are the BBC out of what little mind they ever had, or are they deliberately lying? Slavery in Europe had been abolished by about 1100, and only came back in marginal areas such as Russia (the earliest Russian laws do not have slavery, which was slowly imposed with the rise of Muscovite tyranny after the Tartar age) and the New World colonies. Long before any European ever started trying to horn in the Arab slave trade routes, Roman-age slavery had been reduced to serfdom, and serfdom to tenancy. The BBC is deliberately lying.


  21. Umbongo says:

    In the words of Churchill about a later incident (although one devoted, unfortunately for the BBC, to an act of the US) the abolition of the slave trade must be viewed as one of the most unsordid acts in history. Moreover, it was one that was not due to a defeat in war or the moral obloquoy conferred by a supra-national organisation. Abolition of the trade – and, subsequently, the institution – was almost entirely due to the efforts and active morality of white Christian gentlemen in Britain.

    Unfortunately, the BBC and others – including descendants of those who benefitted from this act – insist on conflating the abolition of the trade with the evils of slavery thus smearing the abolitionists with a responsibility for and acceptance of the institution they sought to expunge. Such tactics are explicable only by a hatred of this country and contempt for its history on the part of the BBC (not uniquely confined to this particular subject) and pernicious racial politics on the part of the rest.


  22. Nick Reynolds (BBC) says:

    Another link to Wilberforce in the BBC’s abolition season:

    Listen again to Melvyn Bragg’s Wilberforce programme:

    Wilberforce’s diaries are being broadcast across BBC local radio.


  23. Tim says:

    They must have heard someone saying that only the slavery of balcks by whites was covered.

    Of course I must have misread the latter article because to read these blogs it would never be printed on the bbc if they knew it was Arabs Millitias responsible.


  24. Tim says:

    Sorry deegee was way ahead of me.

    Agree not sure not sure the Florida Tomato Picker Guadalupe Gonzalez is a slave as such. Could certainly find the same in examples in the UK with Eastern Europeans if you looked hard enough.


  25. Umbongo says:

    Nick Reynolds

    Thanks for those references which provide fascinating reading and listening.

    However, my point is not that the BBC is not covering the whole issue or not providing context, it’s that the context implies that (1) the abolitionists and the slavers are all part of the same morally polluted pot (specifically West Yorkshire and generally Britain), (2) the generality of the population of West Yorkshire (and the rest of the UK) profited (and is still profiting) greatly from slavery, and (3) in some way slavery was integral to the industrial revolution.

    The goodness in the works of Wilberforce, Clarkson and others are never divorced by the BBC from the evils of slavery but, rather, the good works are treated as an aspect of those evils. Abolition is never portrayed as wonderful in itself but is always portrayed as a “yes, but” event.

    Compare the BBC treatment of, say, contemporary terrorism with that of abolition. The BBC not only allows the apologists for terrorism to weep crocodile tears over its victims but the BBC acquiesces in and fails to challenge seriously any assertion which implies that terrorism is a legitimate response to the foreign policy (or any other aspect) of Britain. OTOH, whenever discussion of abolition arises, the BBC always manages to haul in a “commentator” (eg Moira Stuart or Lee Jasper) to pontificate to the effect that abolition of the trade was OK • as far as it went and that wasn’t very far • but the British (and that included Wilberforce himself) were guilty of never doing enough and, more to the point, are still guilty of heinous crimes connected with slavery (or anything else where the non-indigenous population is “victimised”).


  26. Michael in America says:

    Nick Reynolds,

    Glad to see your concern for history of slavery and Wilberforce Nick. Glad to see the BBC so enthused for honest reporting. Truly admirable of you Sir.

    I wonder if you can say the same for Iraqi freedom? You know, freedom today in modern times, for Iraqis?

    Could you explain the biased BBC anti-freedom ‘reporting’ that I see daily on the BBC website regarding progress in Iraq? Is the BBC against freeing Iraqi’s from over 30 years of brutal oppression, torture, genocide, and barbaric acts of a Tyrant?

    I realize history is important. I wonder 50yrs hence, how will BBC’s performance look? Will the BBC be on the wrong side of reporting the truth in Iraq? While Blogs and the internet were reporting facts that are omitted by the BBC. I wonder if the omission of such facts are done on purpose Sir?

    I’d hope the BBC being ever so mindful of history, might look into the future and consider Iraqi’s want freedom from tyrants as much as Europeans did from Nazi’s.

    But then, what do I know? I am just an uncouth, uneducated American who believes that Bush is not Hitler. And would question how any news organization can have a picture of Bush as Hitler in their office and not be Biased. Simple thinker that I am.

    Two Iraqi brothers who cherish freedom and disagree with BBC.


  27. Nick Reynolds (BBC) says:

    I am not an expert on history, the history of slavery or abolition.

    I can’t see anything on the BBC site that implies that “the slavers and abolitionists were part of the same morally polluted pot”. The evidence that the website presents for slavery supporting the economy of Britain seems compelling.

    If you think it is wrong could you provide links that support your case.


  28. Ron Todd says:

    The Blacks who’s ancestors were removed from Africa to the west are generaly better off than those whoes ancestors remained in Africa.

    I do not know what my ancestors of two humdred years ago were doing but I am sure that I am far less likely to have a slave trader or owner as an ancestor than Ms Stewart or any other Black person in this country

    (given their behaviour with female slaves most of their decendants will be black)


  29. Rob says:

    The really terrifying part of this is that the proportion of the population educated enough to even feel in their bones that this programme was a pack of lies from start to finish, let alone be able to refute it, is tiny and diminishing by the year. Such is the effect of modern education – the drive to create ignorant drones who will swallow any leftist propaganda shoved down their throats.


  30. Ultraviolence says:

    Rob – I agree.

    Ron – That won’t go down well with some people. “Yeah well we civilised you” and other nasty crap.

    And what’s with the title “Biting the hand?”

    Biting the hand that feeds you?

    Sounds like a case of “you should be grateful your ancestors were kidnapped in the past”?


  31. Umbongo says:

    In its celebrations of the abolition of the slave trade the BBC uses extensively research undertaken by the Wilberforce Institute of Slavery and Emancipation – WISE – a part of the University of Hull. WISE tells us that “in addition to examining the history of the slave trade and telling the stories of the millions of enslaved Africans who were take across the Atlantic 200 years ago, WISE will also act as a platform to look at the wider context of modern social justice and human rights.” In other words, WISE – whose research underpins much of BBC’s 2007 abolition anniversary programming and websites – is not so much a research outfit but is a part of the human-rights lobby. BTW one of the celebrity attendees at the inauguration of WISE last July was none other than . . Moira Stuart. What a small world!

    In a site put up by the BBC (reached from one of the sites recommended by Nick Reynolds) and written by WISE employees we have the following quote from a discussion on pre-abolition imports of sugar etc from the Caribbean – “These are what we might call the non-necessities of life, nevertheless they are the things which create this huge slavery regime. Sugar and tea • sweetened tea • define Englishness, it’s all part of our Empire and it is all underpinned by slaves.” [my bold] The gratuitous conflation of “Englishness”, “slavery regime”, and “our Empire” is, of course, meat and drink to the human rights lobby of which WISE and the BBC form such conspicuous parts.

    I don’t believe that anyone is saying that England’s part in profiting from the institution and the trade of slavery is praiseworthy in the slightest. What is praiseworthy is that we actually did something about it of our own volition and prompted by our own moral stance. Moreover, in the vanguard of that effort was Wilberforce: a white, Christian and – horror – deeply conservative Englishman. That the BBC chooses a minor celebrity to denigrate a great man’s reputation on the 200th anniversary of his greatest contribution to mankind is both predictable and disgraceful.


  32. Jon says:

    Only a complete ignoramus could write the sentence:
    “It’s significant how every comment before mine seeks to minimize the issue – either by raising the small number of slaves from Cornwall or by bringing up slavery in other parts of the world.”

    “350 years ago “…the justices of Cornwall complained to the Lord Lieutenant that in one year the Turks had taken no less than a thousand Cornish Mariners, while Looe alone, in the ten days before the letter was written, had lost 80 men.” [quote from St Keverne Local History Society pages]


  33. Jon says:

    “In the 18th century the line ‘Britons never shall be slaves’ would be very much a particular hope for the future. For over the preceding century, thousands of Britons had been snatched from the coast, taken to the slave markets of “haughty tyrants” to suffer ‘foreign strokes’ as they spent the rest of their lives under the lash as galley slaves of the Barbary corsairs. It was a situation that would only change in the next century when Britain built herself up into a world-class naval power • partly in response to this threat.”

    “Altogether, an estimated 20,000 people would be snatched from the south coast – men, women and children. Most simply vanished, with no word as to their fate, but a few were ransomed by missionaries and returned to tell their tales. The men and boys were used mainly as galley slaves, around 200 per ship, chained to their oars till they died”

    A few Cornish…?


  34. Richard says:

    Nick Reynolds

    ‘I can’t see anything on the BBC site that implies that “the slavers and abolitionists were part of the same morally polluted pot”‘

    That is irrelevant. If you actually read what is being said then you will realise that teh discussion relates to a programme on BBC2 (one I did not see so cannot comment on), not the website. The vast majority of people seeing the biased programme will not have seen the “balance” on the website, if there is such.

    “The evidence that the website presents for slavery supporting the economy of Britain seems compelling.”

    The whole point of this site, and specifically this thread, is that we cannot trust the BBC to be impartial, so you cannot put forward their “evidence” to support the case.


    It is interesting the way you respond to people cahllenging your arguments. You make a few pickings at the edge, point out errors they have made in their wording. You cannot actually answer the points made, can you?


  35. Jon says:

    “Slavery was abolished on 25th March, 1807” – yes it was a mistake – it should have read “The Slave Trade was abolished in the British empire on 25th March, 1807”

    Even though slavery was still widespread does not make this staement wrong. The act made it illegal to sell slaves.

    But that does not ditract from the point I was making – which was how can someone be personally affected today from the fact that one of their ancestors was sold into slavery 200 years earlier?


  36. Jon says:

    “..point out errors they have made in their wording”

    People do make mistakes in their wording it is true – but to be lableled an ignoramous because of it is over the top – don’t you think.?


  37. John Archer says:

    Any volunteers for whipping Moira Stewart?


  38. Jon says:


    Sorry misread your post – I thought it was one from Paul complaining about me nitpicking


  39. Steve_Mac says:

    Should Europe pay reparations for slavery?

    Have Your Say

    What is the legacy of slavery today?
    How should we remember the trans-Atlantic slave trade?

    On Sunday it will be exactly 200 years since the British parliament passed the Act of Abolition, which banned the trafficking of slaves from Africa to the New World.

    Over 11 million people are thought to have been forcibly transported across the Atlantic and over a million of those died on the journey. The slaves were put to work on plantations which generated huge wealth for their owners.

    But it created terrible suffering for the victims, left Africa impoverished and created the conditions for the subsequent colonisation of the continent.

    Should Europe pay reparations for slavery? Should western politicians apologise for the slave trade? What are the main consequences of slavery today? How should we mark this 200th anniversary?

    We’ll be debating these isses in Have Your Say on Sunday at 1400 GMT. If you would like to take part, please include your telephone number with your comment. Your number will not be published.


  40. terry johnson says:

    Excellent post. One has to realise though that Al-Beeb have to keep up their constant drumbeat of “white, Christian British = bad ” and “black, brown, immigrants = good” with programmes like this for a reason. The multi-cultural experiment of making the native British a minority in their own land cannot ( in the minds of the liberal elite of which Al-BBC are part) be allowed to be challenged. The more the native British are made to feel guilty about their past then the less resistant they will be to the huge waves of immigration currently swamping the UK. “Oh , we should let them in – it’s the least we can do after that evil, racist British Empire we used to have.”
    Al-Beeb’s task – and one which they have attacked with gusto – is to keep white, native Brits constantly on the defensive about our culture. Thus, everything “bad” in today’s Britain must be “our” fault. The current black-on-black teenage crime wave must be our fault for keeping these poor, deprived dears “marginalised” from society. The July bombings must be our fault because of the Iraq War. Muslim attempts to destroy our free speech and sexual equality must be our fault because we’re all “islamophobes”.
    And thus , anything good in our present or past , like Wilberforce, must be smeared and belittled so that the contemporary PC narrative can go on.
    Thankfully some are waking up to the great con-trick being foisted on the British – whether the majority wake up in time is anybody’s guess.


  41. Michael in America says:

    Forgive me for going off topic here.

    Notice how Nick ignored my questions?

    That is how their Editors and the BBC ignore people in general whose views they strongly disagree. And this is exactly how their website ignores reporting the entire truth in Iraq. I can only imagine what their TV coverage is like.

    Hey Nick, is the staff person still working for the BBC that had the picture of Bush as Hitler? Can you answer that simple question?

    I asked the Editors to run a piece about Iraq for comments on their Editors Blog. No can do it seems.

    I asked them to run stories about our heroic soldiers helping Iraqis. No can do it seems.

    I find it so hypocritical how the media reserves the right to be highly judgemental of everyone else, but they alone stand above the law. They rank themselves higher and arrogantly so. Their impact on society alters more minds than any politician can dream.

    Why be a politician today? If you want to accomplish something. Just go into media, write biased opinions and do not allow the sheep to see the whole truth.

    Interestingly enough Americans have just rated the media largely biased. So maybe the internet and sites like this are helping change the perception of media as trustworthy.

    Nick, do you think Iraqis deserve to be free?

    Or just snoddy, psuedo-intellectuals working for places like the BBC, NYT and others telling all how to think, live, eat, work, and culturally bend over? Lord knows Elton appreciates the fawning. But there are serious matters at hand for the Middle East and none of them need fashion statements.

    I’m curious what a BBC-Iraq Whole Truth post would be like here with Nick defending the unbalanced reporting on the website as well as the poll they produced which is at odds with another poll of 5,000 Iraqis.

    Me, the “ugly, rude, uneducated, American from Texas” will take on the ivory halls prim and proper educated BBC. I’ll provide opposing sources and balanced information of success our troops deliver every single day in protecting Iraqis, plus the political changes taking place, business and economic news. I’ll get all my information from open sources on the internet that the BBC refuses to post on their site.

    One single, “dumb cowboy” as many are fond of saying against all of BBC.

    What say you Nick? Up for a challenge?
    Or are you part of the runaway and leave them crowd, like the anti-Iraqi-freedom marchers?

    I do not know you Nick. You may be a nice fellow…, but my opinion of you is clouded by the BBC bias. Funny how broad brushstrokes work both ways, eh, Nick?

    Least the BBC is not quite as bad as Der Spiegel… yet?


  42. Allan@Aberdeen says:

    Following the BS from the BBC on slavery etc, I’m now more inclined to believe that blacks should be given the option of escaping the racist white societies of the west and take their compensation for slavery with them back to Africa. How much to offer? How many would go?


  43. Jon says:

    The BBc do not want to celebrate the abolition of the slave trade (in the British Empire)- They are content in celebtaring the evils of the slave trade. That is they are looking at the negative and not the positive.

    Shouldn’t there be parades in every town – with people flying the Union Flag, and people dressed in early 19th cenury costumes. Having fairs and all looking very happy.

    This was the start of the ending of the evil trade in human beings – it was not the beginning.


  44. Jon says:

    Michael in America: When you celebrate Independance Day – do all Americans go around with long faces cursing the British Empire? Postulating how evil the British were in the 18th century.?


  45. andycanuck says:

    As an antidote to the Beeb’s b.s., may I suggest Mark Steyn’s recent piece on Wilberforce?,CST-EDT-steyn18.article


  46. archduke says:

    the off topic thread is getting rather big. can you B-BBC admins open up another off topic thread? thanks.


  47. archduke says:

    and err. regarding white slaves – i must stand forwards and give an apology.
    a lot of that slave trade was because of us Irish back in the 400s, near the end of the Roman Empire.

    we raided Cornwall and Wales and exchanged slaves with the Arabs for gold and spices. St Patrick was lucky he didnt end up in Morocco. white slaves were highly prized in North Africa. the women especially. the strongest men were highly sought as gladiatorial combatants. a lucrative trade – that we Irish were at the centre of. (look at a map… morocco – north – ireland…)


  48. archduke says:

    jon -> i agree. the ENDING of the slave trade was probably the greatest single thing that Britain gave to humanity. it is a cause of celebration. and the English should be damn fucking proud of that history – you guys ENDED it. period. after an awful lot of political campaigning. its something to be proud of.

    not that the bbc coverage would give you a hint of that.


  49. Fr Tim Finigan says:

    Many thanks for this excellent post. As a Catholic priest, I am very keenly aware of the BBC’s systematic bias against traditional Christianity (and Catholicism in particular.)

    I couldn’t find any mention from the BBC in its coverage of the issue that the Popes condemned modern slavery from 1435 onwards and that the Holy Office of the Inquisition in 1686 ordered captors, buyers and possessors of slaves to make compensation. Funny that.