When Britain abolished the slave trade, the British taxpayer paid 20 million pounds in compensation to slave owners. That was forty percent of annual state expenditure in 1833.
What did they do with this extraordinary amount of money?
If you live in any reasonably sized British town, it’s still there - It’s in your fancy Victorian council buildings and public libraries, it was invested in the railways you take to work, it started up businesses that still exist, one might employ you. Slavery made the empire, and when it was abolished it funded the industrial revolution.
They don’t tell you that in school, and no one talks about it, ever. Scotland had a disproportionately high level of slave ownership compared to England but I can tell you right now that it’s not part of our perceived national history, it’s just not there. The average Scot might even be forgiven for not knowing that we ever had slaves, on the grounds that if such a thing happened, surely we would’ve heard about it.
The US is fucked but at least they acknowledge the role slavery played in their history. For all the back patting the British (and especially us ‘left wing’ Scots) indulge in, we’ve actually got much further to go in terms of facing up to the unforgivable brutality that built our nations.