The statue of Scottish inventor James Watt in Birmingham will be relocated along with a plaque explaining his ‘dark side’ and links to slavery.
The steam engine pioneer, who died in 1819, was a key figure in the Industrial Revolution and was honored with a gilded statue along with his colleagues Matthew Boulton and William Murdoch, known as the “golden boys”.
Even though the monument is in storage, Birmingham City Council identified it as a ‘possible risk’ in an examination of the statue amid the Black Lives Matter protests.
Statue of Scottish inventor James Watt in Birmingham to be reinstalled with plaque explaining his ‘dark side’ and links to slavery
The engineer, who developed the idea of power and lends its name to the unity of power, had family ties with the slave trade.
The council has now decided to relocate the statue to the city center with the addition of an explanatory plaque, according to The Telegraph.
The information on the plaque will explain the “dark side of Watt family history”.
In the council’s ‘at risk’ statues file, it is stated: “Watt’s family and Watt himself were not only complicit in the slave trade – they were directly involved in and greatly benefited from the profits generated by the slave trade. slavery.
The engineer, who developed the idea of power and lends its name to the unit of power, had family ties to the slave trade.
“The father of the industrial revolution”: how James Watt began in his father’s workshop as a shipwright before becoming the pioneer of the steam engine
James Watt studies steam engine improvements in his lab
James Watt was born in Renfrewshire in 1736 and continued to work in the workshop of his shipwright father.
He opened a shop in 1747 selling mathematical instruments at the University of Glasgow where he met a number of prominent scientists.
While repairing a model of the Newcomen steam engine in 1764, he was surprised by its waste of steam and invented a separate condenser.
He then built his own engine using his designs, which significantly improved their power, efficiency and profitability.
He then adapted his motor to produce rotary motion and a double-acting motor in which the piston pushed and pulled.
Factories and factories quickly implemented his inventions, increasing productivity at the height of the industrial revolution.
“His father paid for Watt’s education; part of his father’s income came from colonial trade.
It is also stated on the statue of the “golden boys”: “Boulton and Watt both sold steam trains for slave plantations in the Caribbean. Murdoch, as an employee, supervised by association.
The statue was stored in 2017 while work was being done on the metro system and has since remained in storage.
When she is relocated to the city, she will be contextualized with the plaque as well as online information on links to slavery.
The council uses a research paper commissioned by the Birmingham Museums Trust as the basis for the reworked installation.
The 18th century pioneer, who until recently featured on the £ 50 banknote, was supported by his father in his career as a West Indian merchant and slave trader.
Watt helped transform Britain from craft and cottage production into an industrial powerhouse through his work on the Steam Engine, which improved earlier designs to create a more efficient and available source of power.
It comes as Birmingham City Council is reassessing its statues and memorials following last year’s BLM movement.
The local authority said it would engage with residents on “heritage, injustice, inequalities and multicultural citizenship.”
In 2019, the University of Glasgow condemned Watt among other donors for their links to the slave trade.
The university had signed a “landmark” deal to fund a £ 20million “restorative justice” program over its links to slavery during the British Empire.
Officials signed an agreement with the University of the West Indies to fund a joint development research center
A report said: “Watt worked for his father as a commercial agent in Glasgow in the 1750s. In addition, Caribbean planters who needed to process the sugar cane were major consumers of steam engines. James Watt.
“It is certain that Watt profited from slavery and its trade, but an exact quantification is impossible.
University Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli said: “One of the external advisers in our report says that while you can’t change the past, you can change its consequences. “
“This is the story of our journey to do this to further enhance awareness and understanding of our history and the university’s links to both historic slavery and the abolitionist movement. “
The council has now decided to relocate the statue to the city center with the addition of an explanatory plaque
Memorials to politicians, war heroes and perpetrators all targeted for links to slavery and racist beliefs
The statue of Bristol slave trader Edward Colston, which was salvaged from the water after being knocked over at a Black Lives Matter protest and dumped in Bristol Harbor, is now on display in M Shed, Bristol
Since the statue of Edward Colston was dumped in Bristol Harbor, there has been a wave of vandal attacks on various monuments across Britain.
A statue of Winston Churchill has been defaced with the words ‘was a racist’ and ‘f *** your diary’ written under the wartime Prime Minister’s Memorial in Westminster Square, London.
That of slave trader Robert Milligan was covered with a shred and the message “Black Lives Matter” was placed on it in the West India Docks amid calls for its removal. He was later removed by the council of Tower Hamlets.
Less than a year after it was erected, “Nazi” was scrawled under a statue of Nancy Astor, the first woman to sit in Parliament in Plymouth.
A monument to 19th-century politician Henry Vassall-Fox, the third Baron Holland, has been splashed with red paint in Holland Park. A cardboard sign reading “I owned 401 slaves” perched in the arms of the bronze statue, with the number painted on the plinth next to the red handprints.
Tower Hamlets council removed a statue of slave trader Robert Milligan after it was covered up and posted the “Black Lives Matter” message during protests last month
A Grade II listed monument to Admiral Lord Nelson, Britain’s greatest naval hero, which stands within the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, has been covered with a black “V” in the middle of a circle – an anarchist symbol.
Red paint splattered another stature of Lord Nelson at Deptford Town Hall in South London.
In Kent, a former counselor wrote ‘Dickens Racist’ outside a museum dedicated to the beloved 19th century author. Letters sent by the author of Oliver Twist showed that he wanted to “exterminate” Indian citizens after an uprising failed.
A statue of Civil War leader Oliver Cromwell in Wythenshawe Park, Manchester bore the words ‘Cromwell is a cockroach’, ‘racist f ***’ and the Black Lives Matter acronym ‘BLM’ was scrawled there on the month. latest. Thousands of people were massacred during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.
BLM has also been scribbled on the Worcester Civil War Memorial in Royal Park.