The UK’s Liberal/left-wing education system has been brain-washing our children about Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade for the past fifty years or more. However, what they have failed to do is to tell the whole truth about British slavery and the role that Africans played in the enslavement of their own people. Nor will they mention the contribution that Islam played in the African slave trade; with more enslaved Africans being transported to Muslim nations than those crossing the Atlantic. However, when most people think of slavery, they only consider enslaved Africans and are completely ignorant of the Barbary pirates whose plundering of Europe for white slaves went on for many hundreds of years and was only stopped after the end of the Napoleonic wars. There were progressive stages of slavery throughout Britain’s history, including the Roman and the Anglo-Saxon periods; for this essay we shall start from the Norman period.
So, what are the actual facts concerning slavery within the United Kingdom? There always has been some form of slavery since the Roman period; however, most of these slaves tended to be enemy prisoners captured during periods of conflict between different warring tribes, or criminals enslaved for their acts of violence or theft against the resident community. It wasn’t until the Norman conquest that institutionalized slavery became an established part of everyday life, as the Norman hierarchical system enforced its tyranny on the indigenous Britons.
Essentially, there were two types of slaves in Norman England; the first being serfs who worked on plots of land owned by the Norman landlords, and were also required to work on the landlord’s agricultural lands as dictated without any payment; the second being the villein, who in theory was a freeman, that paid rent for the use of the landlord’s land. The only other non-gentry person would have been the artisan such as masons, blacksmiths, wheelwrights and millers – who would have been employed by the gentry and completely under their control. So true freedom for the commoner was non-existent under the tyranny of Norman rule, which enslaved everyone apart from the gentry.
As time progressed many of the villeins and lower gentry combined to become free-holders of their agricultural lands, and by the 1400s if their land was valued at more than 40/- then they were classed a yeomen – land owning commoners who were to form the future middle-class. However, the serfs and villeins were still subjected to rules which essentially made them slaves; these rules and penalties included:-
- Pay tax for the marrying off of their daughters. (merchet)
- Pay a tax if the unmarried daughter produced a bastard. (leyrwite or childwyhe)
- Pay a tax to live away from the manor land. (chevage)
- Pay a tax to use the lord’s mill. (mill suit)
- Pay a tax to administer his goods on the peasant’s death.
- Pay a tax to exchange land or divide it up among his family members.
- Pay tax to buy land, hold free land, or lease land.
- Pay tax to permit his widow to retain custody of their children.
- Pay tax to buy custody of his neighbour’s or relative’s orphaned children.
- Pay tax to send his children to school.
- Pay tax to take Holy Orders.
- Pay tax to feed his pigs on the common land around his village. (pannage)
- Pay tax to fish in nearby rivers or streams.
- Pay tax to collect firewood for fuel. (fire-bote)
- Pay tax to take wood to repair fences or houses. (hay-bote or house-bote)
These are only a few of the tyrannical persecutions endured by the peasantry; furthermore, they had no legal recourse to challenge these sufferings at the King’s Court because Common Law only applied to free-men – and the peasantry were not classed as free-men. In reality they suffered far greater hardships and persecution than any African slave did in the Americas.
According to a dictionary of Medieval terms, an Outlaw is: “A person deemed unworthy of protection afforded by the law”. There were in fact two types of outlaw. the first being the criminal outlaw who was denied the right to legal protection due to his act of criminality.
The second being the civil outlaw who was denied the protection of the law because he refused to pay the landlord’s taxes or work on his land without payment. The overwhelming majority of outlaws were in fact civil outlaws who were escaping the tyranny of slave labour enforced on them by their landlords. The wives and daughters of outlaws were not classed as outlaws, but were known as waives, as in principle they were not waived of legal protection.
It was easy for a common peasant to escape the slavery of serfdom; indeed, many did and formed groups of outlaws throughout the country, the most famous groups being located around Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. The most famous outlaw was the legendary Robin Hood, who is said to have stolen from the rich to give to the poor – he certainly would not have stolen from the poor as they had nothing worth stealing.
The Black Death
It is estimated that the Black Death killed a third of the British population when it arrived at Melcombe Regis, Dorset, from Europe in 1348 and rapidly spread throughout the British Isles. The effect of the Black Death was to reduce the peasant population, which meant that the landed gentry had difficulty finding cheap labour to work for them as serfs. For a brief period of time, of about 30 years, this empowered the peasants who were able to demand better payment and terms of employment, consequently serfdom virtually disappeared during this period.
Unfortunately, this brief period of liberation for the peasantry was not to last as the landlords found new ways of enslaving the peasantry as they were still not classed as free-men, so had no legal redress in the Civil Courts.
The Peasant’s Revolt
In 1381, more than 30 years after the Black Death, the landed gentry were re-enforcing their bondage over the peasantry in a violent and controlling manner for which there was little escape. The cruelty inflicted on the peasantry was inevitably going to result in a backlash against the landed gentry, which arrived with the coming of two leaders, Wat Tyler and John Ball, who wanted to free the peasantry from the bondage inflicted on them by their landlords. To raise money for the French wars a poll tax had been introduced three times within a four year period. This meant that all people over the age of 15 had to pay a poll tax of one shilling; for the gentry this was a trivial amount, but for the peasantry it was crippling. Those who couldn’t afford it had to pay in kind, with the forfeiting of their tools, seeds, crops or else free labour.
The revolt started in the village of Fobbing in Kent when a group of tax collectors arrived to clarify why the taxes hadn’t been paid, but they were quickly thrown out by the villagers who refused to pay the taxes. The rebellion spread to other districts in Kent and then across the Thames estuary to Essex where John Ball took control of the revolt. Wat Tyler then proceeded to London where he hoped to negotiate the peasants concerns with the young King Richard II. The King agreed to the demands of the peasants which included:
- the purchase and rental of cheap land;
- free-trade so that the peasants could sell their products for the highest price;
- the abolition of serfdom;
- the abolition of forced unpaid labour.
However, during the process of these negotiations Wat Tyler was killed by one of the King’s body-guards. The peasants now being leaderless peacefully drifted away from London in the belief that the King would honour his agreement to liberate them from land owning tyrants. King Richard was to betray his promise by later making the following statement: “villeins [feudal tenants] you were and villeins you will remain; in permanent bondage, not as it was before, but incomparably harsher… we shall strive… to keep you in subjection, to such a degree that the suffering of your servitude will be an example to posterity”. So effectively the Peasant’s Revolt ended in failure, it would take centuries before the plight of the common worker would improve. However, there were other rebellions that followed the Peasant’s Revolt; the most notable being that of Jack Cade in 1450 – but this too ended in failure.
The Tudor Period
The Reformation with the closure of the monasteries resulted in virtually all of the monastic lands being plundered by the wealthy ruling class with the peasanty getting nothing. It was, also, in this period that the landlords started to enclose what was once common-land with fences and hedges, so preventing the peasantry from using this land for the growing of food or the grazing of livestock. This forced many of the peasants to leave the countryside and seek a new life in the towns and cities that were beginning to grow as centres of culture, education and enterprise.
At the start of the Tudor period the estimated literacy rate was about 1% of the peasant population, as they had very little access to written texts. However, with the invention of the printing press printed books and leaflets became more readily available to the general population; consequently, by 1620 the literacy rate for England was 48% of the population. This huge increase in the population’s literacy meant than many peasants left the countryside and sought employment in the ever-expanding towns and cities as artisans where literacy was an important factor; or else they became servants to the growing wealthy gentry who inhabited these towns. However, these town dwelling workers still had very little legal protection, no representation or say in the manner in which the local councils were administered.
Although Magna Carta had established that the King could not raise taxes without the consent of the land-owning aristocracy; the land-owners were virtually free to tax the peasantry as and when it suited them. In the Tudor period the peasants and workers were rarely taxed directly, as they could not afford the financial burden; however, they paid it indirectly by paying high property rental costs or providing free slave labour.
The Stuart and Cromwell Period
Since King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215, there had been attempts to form some kind of Government that the King had to get approval from before he could raise taxes or declare war. The early Government comprised the aristocracy of Barons, Counts and Earls who sat in the Lords Chamber; with the non-aristocratic landed gentry sitting in the Commoners Chamber. So essentially the wealthy landowners had some form of governance over the country, whereas the peasantry, artisans and servants (although Commoners) had no representation in the Commons Chamber.
During the Civil War period one would have expected that non-landowning commoners would have achieved some form of parliamentary representation; but this was not to happen, as all of Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentary supporters were themselves from the lower landed-gentry.
It was during this period that white slavery was to take new forms; these being indentured apprentices, and men being ‘press-ganged’ to serve on the Royal Navy’s ships. Indentured apprentices, or servants, were usually taken from the working poor as payment for debts and transported to the West Indies or North America, where they had to do unpaid labour for a period of seven years before gaining their freedom. Very few of these ‘so called’ apprentices actually received any formal training and were just treated as slaves who could be bought and sold by the wealthy land-owners as and when they wished. Consequently, many of these ‘apprentices’ fled from their owners to seek their freedom; if caught they were often severely punished by the whip that would permanently scar their backs. Indentured servitude eventually became redundant, as it was cheaper to import African slaves to do the work.
The increasing size of the Royal Navy needed evermore men to man the ships of the fleet. But not many men fancied this life-style, as they could be stuck on a ship for up to two years without setting foot on land. Even when a ship returned to its home port, the lower crew members were not allowed to leave the ship, as in most cases they would flee the port to seek their freedom – so effectively they were slaves. Consequently, it was hard to find crews for the ships; so, the only solution was to press the men into service against their will by using press-gangs to find suitable young men and forcibly transport them to the ship where they would become enslaved crew members. Those sailors press-ganged usually only served a maximum of five years, and on their release were supposed to receive full payment for the time served; however, very few if any received their full entitlement.
The Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution created new environments for the enslavement of the common people – the factory and the coalmines.
The cotton mills were the first factories to be built; prior to this the artisan weavers worked in their own homes and had control over the work that they undertook; they were essentially their own bosses. The factories resulted in these artisans being collectively herded together with the owner of the mill supervising how they worked, where they worked, and time they worked – these artisans had effectively been turned into slaves, very often working twelve-hour days for very little pay. As water and steam power became available the weaver no longer needed to manually work the loom, so he would then be responsible for the setting up, supervising and maintenance of some twenty looms with low paid women ensuring that they operated correctly. The Lancashire cotton mill owners ensured that the workers were enslaved to their jobs by providing the necessary housing, from which they were evicted if they did not meet his demands; furthermore, in most cases they shared the company-owned house with other workers and their families.
The conditions that the coalminers worked under were both physically demanding and extremely dangerous; in addition, the effects on their health by breathing in coaldust caused failure of the lungs – consequently few miners lived to the age of forty. No African slave was ever subjected to such harsh conditions. Yet the privileged parasites that owned the coalmines earned vast sums of money from the miner’s slave labour. To make matters worse most of these workers were not paid in coins of the Realm, but in tokens (or truck) which could only be used to purchase items of food or clothing in the factory owner’s shop; which he used to further exploit his workforce by charging them grossly inflated prices.
If people were unable to work, then their only chance of survival was the workhouse. This provided families with somewhere to live with food to eat; however, mothers, fathers and children were segregated and would only come together on special occasions. While in the workhouse they were expected to do unpaid labour. Often the only alternative to the workhouse was the debtor’s prison, but this was seldom the case as working men would have to declared themselves bankrupt.
The Emergence of Democracy
The English Parliament was certainly undemocratic up until the overthrow of James II in 1675 after the Glorious Revolution when the House of Commons separated into two separate political movements – the Whigs and the Tories. This did not bring true democracy as the only people who could vote were the wealthy landowners or people of wealth who owned other types of assets. So, the working man was to remain disenfranchised for another two hundred years.
Democracy evolved very slowly with the following Parliamentary Acts, and actions, being implemented over a period of almost a hundred years:
Peoples Act 1832 More usually known as the First Reform Act, broadened the franchise to include small landowners, tenant farmers and shopkeeper; it also gave the vote to all houseowners who paid a yearly rental of £10 or more. Additionally, it got rid of the many Rotten Boroughs that were corrupting Parliament. However, it did nothing to enfranchise the ordinary working man.
Chartists Petition of 1838 The Chartists Petition was signed by over one million people and had six demands which included: all men to have the vote; voting should take place by secret ballot; parliamentary elections every year; constituencies should be of equal size; Members of Parliament should be paid; the property qualification to become a Member of Parliament should be abolished. Unfortunately, Parliament totally rejected this petition in what is commonly referred to as the First Chartist Act.
The Chartist Petition of 1842 This petition was again brought before the House of Commons, and was signed by 3,315,752 people; but again, it was rejected by Parliament in what was referred to as the Second Chartist Act.
The Chartist Petition of 1848 This petition was again brought before the House of Commons for the third and final time, and was signed by over five million people; but again, it was rejected by Parliament in what was referred to as the Third Chartist Act.
Representation of the Peoples Act 1867 The is often referred to as the Second Reform Act, and basically resulted in the lowering of the property rental requirements, such that the number of men able to vote doubled. But this did nothing to enfranchise the average working man.
Ballot Act 1872 This Act implemented one of the demands required by the Chartist’s Movement; that all votes are carried out by secret ballot. Previous to this a voter had to announce his preferred candidate before the general public; which put pressure on the voter to vote for his landlord – otherwise he faced eviction from his property.
Representation of the Peoples Act 1884 This is often referred to as the Third Reform Act, and basically resulted in the lowering of the property rental requirements even further than that required in the Second Reform Act, such that the number of men able to vote doubled yet again. But the working man was still disenfranchised.
Representation of the Peoples Act 1918 After the Great War it was considered that the working man had made a monumental contribution to the salvation of the United Kingdom; consequently, all men over the age of 21 and women over 30 were given the right to vote.
Representation of the Peoples Act 1928 After the suffragette movement made repeated protests and demands for equality with men, they were granted the right to vote at the age of 21 – the same as men.
After almost 900 years a form of democracy eventually became the established method of government throughout the United Kingdom. However, it would take another 40 years before the chains of slavery were removed from the common people who were still tied to their masters, mainly through housing owned by the factory or mining companies. Council built housing eventually allowed the workers to free themselves from their employers control over them through factory owned housing.
An Enfranchised Working-class with No Power
Although the working people had won the right to vote they did not achieve the full level of democracy that they had wished for. They may have achieved dominance within the House of Commons, but the real power still remained in the hands of the wealthy elite who controlled the money supply within the United Kingdom.
A farmer could evict a farm labourer from his tied cottage at will, as it was often more beneficial for him to rent it out as a holiday let. In 1976 a Parliamentary Act was invoked that gave the farm labour the right to live in his tied cottage even if he no longer worked for the farmer, and to pass the rented property onto his family on his death.
In 1930 in was estimated that 90% of the UK’s wealth was owned by less than 5% of the population. It is estimated that in 2000 50% of the UK’s wealth was owned by 10% of the population, with the top 1% owning 25%. Apart from owning his own home, the average working man has very little wealth; consequently, his influence in the running of the nation is minimal as a person’s wealth buys him the means to succeed. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know”, which is apparent by the number of highly privileged who get the top jobs in our society, even though there are far more highly qualified and competent people within the working population. The freedoms and liberty that the white working class fought for over centuries is now actually going into reverse, as more immigrants are promoted into positions of power, even though there are far more white people with the necessary qualifications and experience available. Anti-white racism is now rife in the UK, although it is never mentioned in the MSM (main stream media) for fear of offending the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community.
It is now an established fact that white working-class boys are the most disadvantaged when it comes to secondary education; being proportionally the lowest group to achieve a university education – or perhaps they are wise enough to know that most university degrees are not worth the paper they’re written on!
Reparation for the Ancestors of Slaves
A Reparation Commission has been created with the aim of paying compensation to those nations and people who were subjected to slavery throughout the British Empire; but no mention is made of the far greater number of virtual slaves who worked in coal-mines, factories and up chimneys – but of course being white working-class they don’t matter. In reality the British Government has paid compensation many times over in the form of Foreign Aid to those nations of the British Empire where slavery took place – and it was the British tax-payer who footed the bill.