Bristol Radical History Group was formed in 2006 after the cricket and football teams we were playing for got sick of us going on about the book the Many Headed Hydra (see books) and its connections to Bristol. This book inspired us to look into our local history and its connections with the revolutionary Atlantic. We organised the first Bristol Radical History Week in Oct/Nov 2006 with the following aims:To open up some of the ‘hidden’ history of Bristol and the West Country to public scrutiny and challenge some commonly held ideas about historical events.
To approach this history from ‘below’ by examining the actions and perspectives of those involved rather than the views of the contemporary establishment histories.
To recognise that the history of Bristol is inexorably linked to that of the Atlantic and former British colonies through its seafaring and trading activities.
To engage academics, local historians and the general public (including children) in the process through lectures, public debates, films and other events.
The events were a resounding success and showed that there was a significant public interest in radical history. Since then we have organised more than 50 events with more than 1500 attendees. Bristol Radical History Group group now operates within a much wider network of footballers, artists, techies, drunks, rioters, publicans, ranters, ravers, academics, Cancan dancers, anarchists, stoners and other ne’r do wells.
Through our events we have both created and expanded that network, meeting many interesting and supportive people on the way (as well a lively bunch of nutters and stalkers, we salute you!). We would like to say thank you to all those who have helped and inspired us, and wish you all ‘a long life and a merry one’.
Our events are free or of minimal cost and open for anybody to attend. The lectures and talks are given by members of the public, local history groups and visiting expert speakers.
Bristol Radical History Group events are organised by local people from Bristol and are NOT funded by Universities, Political Parties, Business or Local Government. To break even we rely on donations from the audience at meetings and the sale of books.
Bristol Radical Pamphleteer #1
Cry Freedom, Cry Seven Stars: Thomas Clarkson In Bristol, 1787
By Mark Steeds
During 1787 abolitionist Thomas Clarkson started his research into the slave trade in Bristol. This pamphlet looks at how the histories of this pub and the abolition movement are intertwined and also some of the remarkable coincidences that link the name ‘Seven Stars’ with the slave trade.
Bristol Radical Pamphleteer #2
We Come For Our Own And We Shall Have It – Smuggling In Poole And Dorset
By Kevin Davis
A look at the history of smuggling in Dorset and the government responses to it. This pamphlet examines to whether smugglers should be considered folk heroes and to what extent smuggling was a community enterprise.
Bristol Radical Pamphleteer #3 & 3.5
A Brief History Of Corporations – Where Did They Come From?
By Dan Bennett & Andy Singer
Where did corporations come from and how did they get the same legal rights as individuals? This pamphlet attempts to answer these questions in a manner that will not cause the reader too much distress. But if you want more jokes the pamphlet also includes a three page comic by Andy Singer which addresses the same questions.
“An entertaining and educational read” – Noam Chomsky (As relayed to Dan by Ward Morehouse, honest)
Bristol Radical Pamphleteer #4
The Bristol Manifesto – The 2008 G8 In Hokkaido: Strategic Assessment
By The Emergency Exit Collective
When Bristol Radical History Group staged a series of events called Down With The Fences! The Struggle For The Global Commons in May 2008, a group leading academics found themselves together in an Eastville living room. They talked about what they would like to say to the leaders of the G8 countries who were soon to meet in Hokkaido, Japan. The result of their discussions, published under the name of the ‘Emergency Exit Collective’, is The Bristol Manifesto.
Bristol Radical Pamphleteer #5
John Locke – The Philosopher of Primitive Accumulation
John Locke is the most famous philosopher born and raised in the vicinity of Bristol. He born in Wrington, Somerset about 12 miles from Bristol on August 29, 1632 and he was brought up in the market town of Pensford, about seven miles south of Bristol.
Locke is also not only the main intellectual founder of liberalism, but also of neoliberalism, the “ruling idea” of the ruling class of today.
George Caffentzis is associate professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Southern Maine, USA.
Bristol Radical Pamphleteer #6
The Life And Times Of Warren James – Free Miner Of The Forrest Of Dean
By Ian Wright
Warren James was a man who was caught up in the social unrest that swept through the Forest of Dean in 1831, and who emerged as spokesman for the Foresters in their struggle to protect their ancient rights and way of life. The Forest Riots of 1831 were about insecurity, fear, poverty and starvation as a result of enclosures, enforced wage labour or unemployment. The Foresters fought to resist the twin onslaught from the Crown, who owned the Forest, and from businessmen who sought industrial profits from it.
Bristol Radical Pamphleteer #7
‘Race War’ – Black American GIs in Bristol and Gloucestershire During World War II
By Neil A. Wynn
America’s entry into World War II immediately served to highlight the issue of race relations and the contradictions between America’s declared position as a defender of “freedom” and “democracy,” and what was actually practiced. Prior to the D-Day landings of June 1944, there were just under 1.6 million American forces personnel located in various parts of the U.K, with the largest numbers gathered in the southwest. The pubs in Bristol were segregated with some serving whites only, others, generally poorer ones, blacks only. As early as 1942 arrangements had been made to seat the races separately in cinemas in Yeovil and Chard. Even fish and chip shops operated on racial lines or used black Wednesdays and white Thursdays.
Find out about the unrest that happened in Gloucestershire and Bristol when a segregated army made camp there.
Neil Wynn is Professor of 20th Century American History at the University of Gloucestershire.