• sootallures

A Community of Scholars in the Landscape

Community of Scholars and Activists in the Field:

Decolonising the Stroud Valleys Landscape

In this time of lockdown and zoom,

It’s salutary to remember and emphasise

The benefits of collective endeavour:

Big oaks from little acorns grow,

As does collective knowledge,

When there is a free exchange of ideas,

When hearts and minds are in communion,

When there is synergy instead of the cash nexus,

When education is collective,

Rather than competitive and individualistic,

When there is a collective of scholars in the field,

Or in a lockdown network,

Rather than isolated in garrets and libraries.

And, so let us recall how our collective practice

Of decolonising the Stroudwater landscape developed:

Is it just eight years ago,

When I diffidently challenged

the fetishization of Stroud Scarlet,

When I challenged the whole notion of local history,

When I suggested we should look at the role of Stroud Scarlet,

In war, colonisation, empire, racism, and slavery,

When I suggested that when we walk this Cotswold landscape,

A hidden global history has to be revealed.

And so, I thank the following scholars, friends, colleagues, and activists:

Books: EP Thompson, back in my youth, for alerting me

To the need to go beyond written evidence,

So as to give voice to the anonymous, forgotten and ignored;

Book: Eric Williams Capitalism and Slavery

Books: Raphael Samuel for his work on theatres of imagination;

Books and articles: Stuart Hall for so much trailblazing food for thought;

Book: Peter Fryer for his Staying Power: A History of Black People in Britain;

Book: David Olusoga for his Black and British: A Forgotten History;

James Turtle for his work on Gloucestershire parish registers BAME entries;

UCL (alma mater!) for its slavery compensation data base;

Gary Younge for every article he has ever written for The Guardian;

Madge Dresser for her work on stately homes and slavery,

And for her work on the Bristol Slavery Trail;

Nesrine Malik for every article she has written for The Guardian;

Phil Smith for his inspirational suggestions on counter-heritage practice;

Kitty Crossley for her design of the ground-breaking Stroud Scarlet poster;

Stroud Museum for stocking it;

Book: Reni Eddo-Lodge for her

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race;

Walking the Land and Kel Portman

For exhibiting texts and posters;

Deb Roberts for her photography and pamphlets;

Radical Stroud and the virtual Topographer’s Arms colleagues:

Bob Fry, Andrew Budd, Jon Seagrave,

Robin Treefellow, Charlotte Rooney, and Bob Blenkinsop,

For their thoughts, presentations and discussion

Out there on the hoof and in the field;

Book: Akala for his Natives: Race and Class

In the Ruins of Empire;

Jamie O’Dell and George Thomas at Amplify Stroud;

Poems: Grace Nichols

Fiction: Thomas Pynchon Mason and Dixon

Performance: Peter Anderson ‘s presentation about Robert Wedderburn;

Performance: Stroud Football Poets: Freedom’s Arch

The Bristol Radical History Group;

Alexander Jordan Holmes-Brown at Decolonial History Collective;

Book: Alan Price Creating Memorials Building Identities

The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic

Stroud Local History Society;

Helena Petre and the WEA and the Stroud Learners’ Circle;

James Beecher at Stroud Radical Reading Group;

Anna Bonallack and Hannah McDonnell at Creative Sustainability;

Jim Dillon for the Bakers’ Quay information at Gloucester Docks;

Book: Nadine El-Enany for her

B) Ordering Britain,

Law, Race and Empire;

And finally,


Joe Mulhearn:

‘Stroud’s entanglement with slavery also extends to Brazil. Particularly, cousins George and John Rudge of Stroud who emigrated to Brazil in early 1800s. The former was implicated in the slave trade to Rio while the latter owned plantations and slaves in Rio and Sao Paulo.’

See Joe’s thesis at page 120

So, we see this is a story that has not ended;

We keep on keeping on.

We have challenged the old orthodoxy,

With success,

But we do not stand still,

We have plans after the lockdown ends:

Walks, talks, presentations, texts, film, bike rides,

Pop up museums,

New discoveries of local beneficiaries of slavery compensation:

Peter Hawker, Rodborough, Stroud, £699 17s 8d [26 enslaved]

Jamaica St Andrew (Liberty Hall Pen) …

The quest continues,

But for the nonce,

A search in the Diversity section on

Will keep you going.


Stuart Butler


This was written before BLM and the formation of the Stroud Against Racism Group.

That is a new chapter as we shall see.

But here is a history of our previous endeavours.

My next challenge is to develop a series of activities/syllabus for a virtual pop-up summer school/university for interested people in Stroud and the surrounding area on the theme of Decolonising the Stroud Valleys Landscape.

57 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

I’ve just counted seventy-four conflicts, In which this country has been involved Since the start of the nineteenth century: This martial country: Is this my heritage? Is this my consequent national i

Walking the streets of Clifton, You can see the consequences Of enslavement compensation, And you can see the triangles of trade Behind the balconied facades - If you know what you’re looking for, And