|By James Bloodworth
Whenever people ask, I say I’m from Bristol. No one’s heard of where I’m really from (Burnham on Sea – just down the road). Besides, Bristol has always felt so much cooler. My tired old, windswept, provincial coastal town is rather embarrassing by comparison.
Until now. While the tearing down of the Colston statue may have superficially burnished the city’s hip, progressive credentials, it also illuminated the city’s dark side: a history of brutal imperial exploitation, worker rebellion and rampant inequality that never went away.
The city, in 1889, just before the statue was erected, had been described as “a seething centre of revolt”. Britain was in its imperial pomp, but the servants’ quarters were in revolt. The subversive creed of socialism was gaining ground among the West Country’s working class. Respectable Victorian society sought to counter that spirit of rebellion by promoting philanthropists and the paternalistic values of ‘great men’ – men like Edward Colston, who now finds himself sitting in the bottom of the marina while a new generation of rebels cheer.
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