Teaching qualifications

Scotland ‘whitewashed’ its part in the slave trade from history exams, says Professor Neil McLennan

Scotland ‘laundered’ its part in the slave trade from history exams in a bid to ‘defame’ English people, top historian claims

  • Professor Neil McLennan said the exams ignored Scotland’s role in the slave trade
  • He asked the SNP to include Glasgow in a list of British cities that used slave imports
  • The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) refused to include him in the exam
  • Glasgow imported huge quantities of rum, sugar and tobacco in the 18th century

Scotland left its vital role in the slave trade out of the school curriculum to ‘whitewash’ its history and ‘defame’ England, a leading historian has claimed.

Professor Neil McLennan, a senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, said he had repeatedly called on the SNP for Glasgow to be included in a list of UK towns ‘associated with the gains from slavery’.

Students enrolled in National 5 history – the Scottish equivalent of the GCSEs – are only taught about Bristol and Liverpool in The Atlantic Slave Trade, 1770–1807 module.

This despite Glasgow importing huge quantities of rum, sugar and tobacco from the American colonies.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which is partly funded by the SNP, refused to include Glasgow, according to The Telegraph.

McLennan, who began his career as a history teacher, said: ‘This is part of our coming to terms with a bloody history of which we are all guilty in England, Scotland and other European countries.

Professor Neil McLennan (pictured), a senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, has repeatedly asked the SNP to include Glasgow in a list of UK towns ‘associated with the gains from slavery’ but have been refused .

“If we don’t recognize this in our educational system, we will never purify the demons of the past.

“It’s a good example of English history being defamed without presenting the whole of it, it’s a real concern.”

In fact, historical evidence shows that Glasgow – along with Greenock and Port Glasgow – imported more tobacco from slaves to America than all English ports combined in 1782.

Many Scots owned, managed and supplied plantations, while Glasgow grew wealthy from goods brought into the city.

The city also brought large quantities of rum and sugar to its port.

Scottish students should be made aware of the role of Liverpool and Bristol in the slave trade, despite the fact that Glasgow imported huge quantities of tobacco, rum and sugar.  Pictured: Glasgow Marina

Scottish students should be made aware of the role of Liverpool and Bristol in the slave trade, despite the fact that Glasgow imported huge quantities of tobacco, rum and sugar. Pictured: Glasgow Marina

Additionally, there are 62 streets in Glasgow named after slave owners who made their fortunes on plantations supplying tobacco.

The description of the SQA course on the Atlantic Slave Trade module states that students “should learn the organization and nature of the slave trade: its effects on British ports, eg Liverpool, Bristol”.

Another historian, Sir Tom Devine, said that Scotland developed a sense of “moral superiority” over England because Scotland “came very late” to understand its connection to the slave trade.

Oliver Mundell, Scotland’s Conservative education spokesman, said it was part of an “insidious attempt to rewrite aspects of our history in a misleading partisan way” by the SNP.

He added that students must learn an accurate account of historical events – one that includes the sad reality of Scotland’s involvement in the slave trade.

McLennan has previously denounced the SQA for its “apparent inability to reform” and supports its abolition.

The professor, who has worked with Learning and Teaching Scotland, wants to break the SQA’s monopoly on exams so pupils can have the chance to gain further qualifications, such as A-levels and the International Baccalaureate.

A spokesperson for the SQA said: “We fully recognize the importance for learners to understand Scotland’s role in the Atlantic slave trade and teachers have always been free to include this content in their lessons.”

“We will work with history teachers to review our curriculum guidelines to see if any further changes are needed.”

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