Podcast: Globalised cities and their discontents

London and New York, united in being disdained. Image: Getty.

Some dates are destined to live in infamy. 1066; August 4th, 1914.

This is not one of those dates.

It is, however, a pretty big day for us as it sees the release of the first ever episode of Skylines, the CityMetric podcast. On it, you can hear Barbara and I talk about a topic that's pretty close to many a metropolitan liberal's heart: why does everyone seem to hate us? Or, to be more specific, what is it about world cities like London that seems to inspire as much loathing as admiration?

To help us answer this question, we talk to Tom Forth, the writer, consultant and professional Yorkshireman, to get a northern view on London's dominance. We also talk to Elizabeth Minkel to get a US perspective on both London and New York.

From here on in, with the help of our excellent producer Roifield Brown, we're planning to do one of these every two weeks. You can find us on Acast here. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed, or on iTunes

Or you can just listen to the latest episode right here:

Some relevant links...

  • Tom Forth is the man who revealed that the UK's airport isn't in London at all. It's actually in Amsterdam. He's on Twitter, probably shouting about regional injustice, as @thomasforth.
  • Back in January 2015, Elizabeth Minkel wrote this great piece for us on NYC's reaction to Winter Storm Juno (" there’s a sudden realisation that residents of four out of the five New York City boroughs live on islands"). She's also on Twitter as @elizabethminkel, and has her own podcast, Fansplaining, co-hosted with Flourish Klink.
  • Lastly, here's our map of the week, showing that all roads really do lead to Rome:

You can read more about it here.


Here's a helpful reminder that you can subscribe to the podcast via our RSS feed, or on iTunesYou can also find us on Acast here

 
 
 
 

Academics are mapping the legacy of slavery in Britain’s cities

A detail of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership map showing central Bristol. Image: LBS/UCL.

For 125 years, a statue of the 17th century slave-trader Edward Colston stood in the centre of Bristol, ostensibly to commemorate the philanthropy he’d used his blood money to fund. Then, on 7 June, Black Lives Matter protesters pulled it down and threw it into the harbour

The incident has served to shine a light on the benefits Bristol and other British cities reaped from the Atlantic slave trade. Grand houses and public buildings in London, Liverpool, Glasgow and beyond were also funded by the profits made from ferrying enslaved Africans across the ocean. But because the horrors of that trade happened elsewhere, the role it played in building modern Britain is not something we tend to discuss.

Now a team at University College London is trying to change that. The Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project is mapping every British address linked to a slave-owner. In all, its database contains 5,229 addresses, linked to 5,586 individuals (some addresses are linked to more than one slave owner; some slave owners had more than one home). 

The map is not exact. Streets have often been renumbered; for some individuals, only a city is known, not necessarily an address; and at time of writing, only around 60% of known addresses (3,294 out of 5,229) have been added to the map. But by showing how many addresses it has recorded in each area, it gives some sense of which bits of the UK benefited most from the slave trade; the blue pins, meanwhile, reflect individual addresses, which you can click for more details.

The map shows, for example, that although it’s Glasgow that’s been noisily grappling with this history of late, there were probably actually more slave owners in neighbouring Edinburgh, the centre of Scottish political and financial power.

Liverpool, as an Atlantic port, benefited far more from the trade than any other northern English city.

But the numbers were higher in Bristol and Bath; and much, much higher in and around London.

 

Other major UK cities – Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle – barely appear. Which is not to say they didn’t also benefit from the Triangular Trade (with its iron and weaponry industries, Professor David Dabydeen of Warwick University said in 2007, “Birmingham armed the slave trade”) – merely that they benefited in a less direct way.

The LBS map, researcher Rachel Lang explained via email, is “a never-ending task – we’re always adding new people to the database and finding out more about them”. Nonetheless, “The map shows broadly what we expected to find... We haven’t focused on specific areas of Britain so I think the addresses we’ve mapped so far are broadly representative.” 

The large number in London, she says, reflect its importance as a financial centre. Where more specific addresses are available, “you can see patterns that reflect the broader social geography”. The high numbers of slave-owners in Bloomsbury, for example, reflects merchants’ desire for property convenient to the City of London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the district was being developed. Meanwhile, “there are widows and spinsters with slave property living in suburbs and outlying villages such as Chelsea and Hampstead. Country villas surround London.” 


“What we perhaps didn’t expect to see was that no areas are entirely without slave owners,” Lang adds. “They are everywhere from the Orkney Islands to Penzance. It also revealed clusters in unexpected places – around Inverness and Cromarty, for example, and the Isle of Wight.” No area of Britain was entirely free of links to the slave trade.

 You can explore the map here.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

All images courtesy of LBS/UCL