Jeudi 4 mars 2021 à 17 h : Stephen Mullen (Glasgow), “The rise of James Watt: Enlightenment, Commerce & Industry in a British Atlantic Merchant City, 1736-1774”

Jeudi 4 mars 2021 à  17 h :  Stephen Mullen (Glasgow), The rise of James Watt: Enlightenment, Commerce & Industry in a British Atlantic Merchant City, 1736-1774


On 13 June 2020, during the global conversation about Black Lives Matter, a newspaper article in The Times revealed James Watt – inventor and ‘great improver’ of the steam engine – had historic connections with transatlantic slavery. The article ‘Black Lives Matter: James Watt, father of the age of steam, sold slaves’ came as a shock to many. My research, which underpinned this revelation, went back almost three years. As part of my research for the report ‘Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow’ in 2017-18, I identified that Watt was involved, alongside his father, in colonial commerce in Greenock and Glasgow in Scotland. Later archival work revealed James Watt was not just a beneficiary of his father but had a more direct role in trafficking an enslaved child, Frederick, in Glasgow in 1762. This paper, therefore, does two things; I trace the story of James Watt’s rise, including connections with Atlantic slavery and its commerce in the west of Scotland, then pose questions in comparative context about commemoration and celebration, especially in light of the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020.


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La conférence aura lieu en ligne de 17h à 18h30.

Lien Zoom habituel, disponible auprès de Jean-François Dunyach : <jfdunyach(at)free.fr>