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Scholar Talk: Blood money

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State Library of New South Wales

Metcalfe Auditorium, Ground Floor

Macquarie Building

Sydney, NSW 2000

Australia

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In the UK, USA and Caribbean, there are increasingly vociferous calls to assess the true legacies of slavery and to offer recompense for one of history’s most egregious wrongs. Universities commit significant funds to uncovering how their institutions profited and, in some cases, seek to meet amends. Governments grapple with how to best address calls for large-scale reparations to be paid. Historians regularly deal with a fierce backlash against their research, which is seen to reinforce these calls by telling a history that many who are not of African descent prefer to forget.

Here in Australia, these conflicts hardly make the news. We see ourselves as standing apart from that particular sordid history. Yet that is not exactly true. When Britain made chattel slavery illegal in most of the British Empire in 1833, it paid out vast sums of money, equivalent to 40% of the government’s income, to slave owners. This debt was so vast that repayments were only completed in 2015. A portion of that money came to the Australian colonies, and went in particular to found Australia’s sugar industry, a business that infamously imported Pacific Islanders as labour. Emma Christopher will tell the story of how this some of this compensation money made its way to Australia and what it was used for. She will discuss whether we too should be asking ourselves what now should be done.



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State Library of New South Wales

Metcalfe Auditorium, Ground Floor

Macquarie Building

Sydney, NSW 2000

Australia

View Map

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