ALTHOUGH almost a quarter of wealth is held by the richest one per cent, Britain is one of the wealthiest countries on Earth.
In a previous letter, “Slavery history”, I explained how much of the wealth which British people enjoy today was accumulated through slavery and imperialism.
That means, of course, British people of all races. This somehow leads C MacArt (HAS Apr 2) to the absurd conclusion that the “nations that formed the British Empire also benefitted from the same slavery and imperialism”.
How exactly did people “benefit” by being exploited, enslaved, terrorised or massacred as their countries were invaded, colonised and plundered for their natural resources?
How did the many different peoples of Africa “benefit” when the continent was arbitrarily carved up and stolen by various colonial powers?
How did the Australian Aborigines “benefit” after their land was claimed for the British Crown in 1770 by Captain Cook? Thousands were wiped out by diseases such as smallpox brought by British settlers, while others were hunted down and slaughtered. By the time the massacres stopped in the 1920s, around 60,000 were left alive – about a tenth of the original population.
How did 12 million African men, women and children “benefit” by being shipped in chains across the Atlantic in conditions so barbaric that one in five perished on the seven-week voyage? And please don’t give me that guff about how the slaves were captured by Africans in the first place. Lucrative British plantations in the Caribbean created a huge demand for slaves, and, yes, some Africans were willing to supply them in exchange for firearms and other manufactured goods from Britain.
These aspects of British imperialism are too often whitewashed from history.
Finally, Mr MacArt says the implication of my argument is that Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh working classes “share responsibility”.
As I said before: “No one alive today can be held responsible for the dreadful crime against humanity that was the transatlantic slave trade.”
Pete Winstanley, Durham.