Britain and slavery: Who profited and what should they do now?

In the early 1800s, Benjamin Greene was running his own brewery and managing of a number of sugar plantations in the West Indies. When the British government abolished slavery in 1833, he was paid the equivalent of almost £500,000 in today’s money to compensate him for the loss of his ‘property’ – that is, men, women and children who had been kept as slaves on the plantations.

Greene’s brewery is now the highly successful Greene King brewery chain, just one of 43,000 UK companies – including several major banks – named on a database at University College London to have directly or indirectly benefited from these compensation payments. What can and should these companies do now to make amends?

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Editor and invited experts

James Harding
Co-Founder and Editor

Sir Hilary Beckles
Chair of the CARICOM Reparations Commission and Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies. CARICOM is a regional body created to establish the moral, ethical and legal case for the payment of reparations by the governments of all the former colonial powers.

Professor Kehinde Andrews
Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University. His research focuses on resistance to racism and grassroots organisations. His latest book Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century was published in 2018. He is also editor of the Blackness in Britain book series. His next book, The New Age of Empire: How Racism and Colonialism still Rule the World will be published in February 2021.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy
Labour Member of Parliament for Streatham, her home constituency. In her maiden speech, Bell called for the United Kingdom to reckon with its imperial past in order to tackle racism in the present, citing the government loan taken out to compensate slaveholders and calling for reparations.

Promise Frank Ejiofor
Doctoral researcher and graduate in social anthropology and political science from the University of Cambridge and the Central European University (Austria), respectively. His research interests span constitutional politics, nationalism studies, moral and political theory.