Thursday, 25 June 2015

Do you remember the days of slavery?

Those of you who follow my posts will know I often quote song lyrics in the title. Last weekend we had a return visit from a group associated with a project from Nottingham University.
There's a book of poetry associated with the Global Cotton Connections too, available from the Mill.
They have also left an interpretation poster for us, highlighting some of the aspects of the cotton trade that we are only just beginning to consider at the Mill.
Some of the Mill volunteers are getting together as a Research group, taking a fresh look at some of the research that has been done in the past and exploring new aspects of the history we represent. Edward Strutt, William's only son, made a speech in Parliament in 1841 that is against slavery and the part that the slave trade played in the sugar, cotton and tobacco industries. There will be more about this in a blog post to come. William Strutt was a member of the Derby Philosophical Society. Through Erasmus Darwin this linked to the informal group of industrialists and philosophers known as the Lunar Men. Non conformists and anti slavery,the group included Josiah Wedgewood, who produced the now familiar anti-slavery image captioned 'Am I not a man and a brother". But we know the days of slavery are still with us. Factories led to mass production. Mass production contributed to the rise of consumerism. We live in a fast fashion, throwaway society. The textile and fashion industries still use sweatshops to produce cheap clothes. They may be cheap but they come at a price. In recent years there's been an interest in recycling, ethical trade, fair-trade and sustainability. People have concerns over how raw materials are grown and produced. The newly refurbished Whitworth Gallery in Manchester has a fantastic textile collection. This now includes an exhibit featuring 'Monkee Genes', a clothing company based in Derbyshire who were one of the first to insist on fair trade principles for those involved in the manufacture of their range of clothes. I was aware of the 'rag trade' conditions in the late 1970s and early 80s, for home workers and in sweat shops in London. The work went overseas, to be made even more cheaply. We know the slavery days aren't a thing of the past.

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