Wales and Atlantic Slavery: redressing historical amnesia

    Impact: Cultural impacts

    Description of impact

    This is a case-study in the first stages of development. The intention is to use research by Evans on ‘Negro Cloth’, a woollen fabric produced in mid-Wales and used to clothe enslaved workers in the New World, as a way of extending public understanding Wales’s historic links to Atlantic slavery. The hoped-for impact is (i) the incorporation of this forgotten/suppressed story into the narrative offered by the National Museum of Wales, (ii) inform the work of community groups investigating their own forgotten histories, and (iii) contribute to the educational / public awareness anti-slavery initiatives being developed by the Welsh Government.

    How did your research contribute?

    The case study will be based upon research carried out initially by Evans in 2007-2009 on the production and marketing of coarse woollens in mid-Wales that were intended for Atlantic markets. These fabrics, known as 'Welsh Plains’ (a.k.a. ‘Negro Cloth’), were used in the procurement and maintenance of enslaved workers. Using material in British and US archives, Evans was able to demonstrate how Welsh Plains were (i) traded for captives on the Guinea coast, and (ii), more importantly, sold in large volumes to planters in the Caribbean and British North America / USA to be used for slaves’ clothing.

    This was a previously unsuspected finding but it is of a piece with much recent research on the material functioning of the Atlantic slave complex. It dovetails with other scholarship that points to the profound effects that the provisioning needs of the plantation world (its demand for food, fuel, packaging, processing equipment, etc.) had on parts of the world that were superficially detached from Atlantic slavery. Evans’s research therefore reinforces the claim that mass enslavement in the New World was in no way aberrant or peripheral in an age of gathering modernity. On the contrary, it was constitutive of modernity.

    Who is affected?

    The National Museum of Wales
    Category of impactCultural impacts
    Impact levelIn progress