The University and the British Abolition Movement

On Monday (8th October), Stephen Mullen, historian and postgraduate research student of the School of Humanities (Scottish History) gave a brief, but informative talk entitled “The University of Glasgow and the abolition movement.” Here he provides us with a synopsis of that talk:

Conserving Francis Hutcheson’s work

“The city of Glasgow was at once the spiritual home of the Scottish Enlightenment, yet also a major investor in chattel slavery. This paradox was described in this talk, which illustrated the University of Glasgow’s largely unknown influence on the British abolition movement. Once situated at the commercial centre of the city, many sons of the ‘tobacco lords’ and the ‘sugar aristocracy’ were educated at the University before leaving for the colonies. At the same time, scholars at Glasgow, such as Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, both Professors of Moral Philosophy (1730-1746 and 1752-64 respectively), and John Millar Professor of Civil Law (1761-1800), wrote influential critiques that were cited by prominent abolitionists Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce. In this way, the University of Glasgow was the architect for the destruction of chattel slavery in the British West Indies.”

Andrew Watson with members of the Scottish team that played against England at the first Hampden Park on the 11 March 1882.

One son of a Scottish sugar planter and a local Guyanese woman was Andrew Watson (1857-c1902). Born in British Guiana, once part of the British West Indies and modern day Guyana, Watson was educated at schools in England and matriculated at the University in 1875 to study Mathematics, Natural Philosophy and Civil Engineering.

Watson went on to become a man of many firsts in the world of football; he was the first black footballer for Scotland, winning two Scottish Cups with Queen’s Park (the Manchester United of its day); he was capped three times as a full-back for Scotland, in 1881 and 1882; and he was the first black player to play in the English FA Cup (London Swifts 1882).


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Filed under Central America and the Caribbean, Commonwealth of Nations, South America

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