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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 February, 2003, 14:38 GMT
Bristol bid 'must face slave past'
Much of the city was built on the profits of slavery
Bristol's bid to become 2008 European capital of culture should promote rather than hide its "dirty history" as a slave port, a leading historian has said.

The city is in the running to scoop the prestigious award, along with Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle Gateshead and Oxford.

But Tristan Hunt, history lecturer at the University of London, said its bid should aim to educate people about the past - including the development of a Museum of Slavery, based on a similar idea examining the holocaust in Washington DC.

Those behind Bristol's attempt, including Bristol City Council, said such ideas were welcome but could not necessarily receive funding.

Mr Hunt, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said it was a "wonderful opportunity" for the city.

I don't think Bristol should be apologising for its role in slavery but it should seek to find greater understanding
Tristan Hunt, historian

Capital of culture status is awarded annually to a European city - a British city will be European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Previous winners have included Glasgow, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Dublin, Prague, and Weimar.

The prize, celebrating art and culture, is aimed at boosting tourism, economic development and regeneration.

Mr Hunt said: "I don't think Bristol should be apologising for its role in slavery but it should seek to find greater understanding.

"My idea is that they should build a museum of slavery modelled on the holocaust museum in Washington DC.

"This would become a leader in Europe for academic research on the subject and would show how much of Bristol - including its Georgian buildings - was built upon this terrible trafficking of human life."

Slave past

By 1730, Bristol, aided by its fast access to the Atlantic, had replaced London as the centre of the UK's slave trade.

Much of the city's wealth developed out of this trade with figures of the time, such as merchant Edward Colston, still memorialised in concert halls and street names.

Diane Bunyon, leader of Bristol City Council, said the city had already started to acknowledge its role in the slave trade.

She pointed to a popular exhibition on the subject which had recently been held at the city museum, and said a possible 'Museum of Bristol' project would also tackle the issue.

Ms Bunyan said: "I think a museum of slavery would be very good to have but the difficulty would be funding.

"I do, however, think it is unfair to say Bristol isn't tackling its past in the bid."

Focus on the slave trade
03 Sep 01 |  Africa

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