Argument-based evidence from the National Trust

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I've been reading the National Trust's long account of how its estate is mired in historic slavery and colonial exploitation.  Informative, but somewhat tendentious I felt.

Any large house that was occupied in the long 18th Century and up to mid-Victorian times could have similar stories told about and against its inhabitants as there was no way of escaping the implications of living at that time.  Just as there has been no way for us of escaping living in the age of oil and the problems that has caused for millions of people and the planet.  100 years from now, maybe even my modest house will find itself in a future little book of shame because of how I exploited the Earth, or how I was at least complicit in its exploitation – it's the same thing from the point of view of the account's authors

The acres of footnotes make this document out to be an academic one; well, maybe.  But if so, it's more UG than PhD.  I'm sure that the Trust would like us all to think that its arguments and conclusions are evidence-based, but in places it just presents evidence that suits its arguments.  And sometimes there is only assertion.  Take this about Wordsworth:

"The poet William Wordsworth (1770–1850) lived for a time at Allan Bank. He and his sister, writer Dorothy Wordsworth (1771–1855), are both known for expressing views in opposition to slavery.
Their brother, John Wordsworth (1772–1805), became Commander of the East India Company ship Earl of Abergavenny in 1801.  He captained two successful voyages to China, in which the family invested.  Wordsworth’s third voyage would have made the family a considerable sum, but the ship sank a few days into the journey, causing the death of John and many others."

The implication is that the Wordsworth's (W, D and other members of "the family") made money by investing in the East India Company's egregious activities, but it doesn't quite say this.   I have asked the Trust for the evidence they have linking W & D to any such investment.  I still await the long-promised outcome.


PS, it's absolutely no use looking at the NT website for details of the Wordsworth's short time at Allan Bank.  Why, I wondered, is Wikipedia much more informative.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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