Remembering Slavery in Wales: English, the Slave Trade and the Curriculum Cymreig: Chris Stephens and Lorna Herbert Egan Give Accounts of Two Welsh Projects Exploring Slavery in Wales in English Lessons-A Rich Combination of English, History and Citizenship Focusing on Evidence from Wales's Multicultural Past

Article excerpt

As reported in Issue 3 of EDM in January 2005, there is a strong emphasis currently in the Welsh education system on developing, across the curriculum, both 'The Curriculum Cymreig'--aspects of the curriculum that are concerned with the culture, environment, history and language of Wales--and 'Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship'. In English, one aspect of the Curriculum Cymreig is the requirement to 'read stories and poems from Wales, works by Welsh authors writing in English and works that have a Welsh setting or a special relevance to Wales' (ACCAC: Developing the Curriulum Cymreig, 2003). Another is the requirement to take opportunities to explore Welsh experiences in more general work in oracy, reading and writing.

The Curriculum Cymreig also focuses on issues of cultural diversity and global issues, stressing the need to 'help foster in pupils an understanding of an outward-looking and international Wales, promoting global citizenship and concern for sustainable development.' It points out that 'because Welsh society is very diverse, there can be no single view of what it is to be Welsh.'

This article gives accounts of recent projects, involving English teachers in Welsh primary and secondary schools and teacher training institutions, which have sought to explore issues of Welsh heritage, cultural diversity, citizenship and internationalism through an examination of the Welsh slave trade, inspired particularly by the 2007 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. These projects bring together aspects of English, History and Citizenship in a an inspiring way/ They provide valuable models for extended language investigations in English that encompass both the past and present of the local environment, and the interconnections between the local, the global and the political.

Interpretations of Slavery

Chris Stephens describes a project devised for Pembrokeshire primary schools based on the study of local archive manuscripts and other resources connected with the slave trade.

Considering the magnitude of the subject which I am to
bring before the House.... it is impossible for me not to feel
both terrified and concerned at my own inadequacy to such
a task

(William Wilberforce, 12 May 1789)

Melvyn Bragg's Twelve Books that Changed the World does, in the writer's own words, make us realise, in a most imaginative way, the power of the printed word. It's a fascinating, challenging, personal choice, opening as it does the opportunity for debate, not only in the content of the books chosen, but also in the actual choice of the books. Reading one of Bragg's choices, On the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and his commentary on both the text and the circumstances of its creation, certainly changed my project plans for work in primary schools in the spring of 2007. Taking advantage too, of the opportunity to apply for, and successfully acquire, Heritage Lottery funding available for local initiatives, 'Remembering Slavery in 2007', through the Narberth Museum, gave my research, and subsequent resources, for work in four local primary schools a professional finish and authority which I would have been unable to achieve in other circumstances.

Pembrokeshire and Slavery

Pembrokeshire itself might not appear at first to have many ties with slavery, and the local culture's attitude to its advantages and abolition and the subsequent perceptions of black people, but it's amazing what patient research and a little luck can achieve. Little England beyond Wales lies a long way from the bustling port of Bristol, considered by some the second most important British centre in the 'Triangular Trade' although of course the north Wales coastline has long been linked to Liverpool's maritime success. Knowing, or merely suspecting, that several Pembrokeshire grand houses were 'built on sugar,' I began my search for local resources in the Museum's own archives, and the County Reference Library. …


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