Dr Richard Stone Detective of the Slave Trade – “An academic with a laptop on the shoulder of giants

Last night Dr Richard Stone gave a fascinating lecture on Bristol’s First Slave Traders.  Not only did we learn so much that was new about the topic many Bristolians think they already know all about, but again we learnt about how historians use and interrogate evidence. Richard had used the Customs Records of the docks, the Port Books, to trace the changes in trade that showed that slave trading was going on in Bristol long before the monopoly of the Royal African Company was abolished in 1698.  Tell-tale clues including cargoes containing glass beads and felt hats suggested slave trading.  Using spread sheets and pie diagrams Richard pinned together the trail of slave trading voyages but he also showed he had walked in the footsteps of other historians of Bristol including Professor Charles M MacInnes, “Mac” and Professor Paddy McGrath “giants” in researching the History of the City and also the work of Professor Madge Dresser whose knowledge of the social and cultural aspects of slavery complimented his own forensic analysis of these long neglected written sources. 

It was a brilliant talk which sparked off both lively questions and some very knowledgeable comments from our audience. The success of the talk is shown by another large audience and some appreciative texts and tweets, notably from Professor McGrath’s daughter Antonia one of our original members of 2017 “my father would have been delighted to know the type of research he is involved in and his methodical approach” and two tweets on the HA National website this morning from Richard Kennett and Dr Jo Edwards

Just watched @Dr_RGStone deliver the @BristolHA lecture on Bristol’s 17th century slave voyages. So interesting. A genuinely brilliant lecture explaining the historical process and sifting the archives to find evidence of illegal voyage

Superb @BristolHA lecture on the evidence of trade of enslaved people by Bristol merchants pre-1698. Particularly enjoyed the details on methodologies and explained historiography. A greatly talented and entertaining speaker – thanks @Dr_RGStone. PS finish that book!

I think many of us would agree with Jo we are dying to read Richard’s book when it comes out.

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