Transatlantic slavery map
Ongoing Project

The Scott Trust Legacies of Enslavement Report

Researchers at the Wilberforce Institute are working on a project commissioned by The Scott Trust Limited (owners of Guardian Media Group) to uncover links between transatlantic slavery and the founders of the Manchester Guardian.

Project summary

The Challenge

Guardian Media Group wanted to discover more about any links it might have with slavery.

The Approach

Researchers from the Wilberforce Institute carried out in-depth research to investigate links with historical slavery.

The Outcome

A series of academic reports which highlight the Guardian’s links with slavery and stories of the enslaved.

Funded by

Project partners

The Challenge

Colonial slavery shaped modern Britain and we all still live with its legacies. Guardian Media Group is a values-centred global news organisation that gives a voice to the powerless.  It wanted to discover more about any links it might have with historical slavery. On a broader scale, confronting Britain’s legacies of slavery and colonialism pose multifaceted challenges which include censorship, highlighting stories of the enslaved and a lack of engagement with the communities whose stories and histories are being told in this type of research, such as African Caribbean and Indo Caribbean communities.

The Approach

Experts from the Wilberforce Institute were invited to continue work on "The Scott Trust Legacies of Enslavement Report", conducting in-depth research to investigate any links of John Edward Taylor (founder of the Manchester Guardian newspaper in 1821), his associates, and his or their business activities with historical slavery.  This followed initial research by the University of Nottingham. The research was conducted first by Dr Sheryllynne Haggerty, a fellow at the Wilberforce Institute, and Dr Cassandra Gooptar, and later by Dr Gooptar and Professor Trevor Burnard, Director of the Institute.

This research was conducted and produced in a way that strived to keep the perspectives of the enslaved and their stories at the forefront. Each step of the way, there was genuine effort to understand the sombre and heavy weight of what this research means as well as its part in helping to present a holistic narrative of Britain’s legacy of slavery. The research promoted an uncensored understanding of Britain’s legacies of slavery and colonialism and increased engagement with the Caribbean.

The approach involved online research of contemporary as well as antiquarian sources, secondary literature and archival visits to the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, Manchester Archives and Local Studies, Derbyshire Record Office and the London School of Economics and Political Science Archives.

In this article, Dr Cassandra Gooptar describes the lengthy and difficult process of uncovering the source of the cotton imported John Edward Taylor, and his associates and through this the links to slavery.

The report comes in three parts, and can be viewed via the links below:

Part One: The Taylor Report (University of Nottingham)

Part Two: The Scott Trust Legacies of Enslavement Report

Part Three: Sea Islands & Jamaica: Tracing the Enslaved People

The Impact

The outcome of this project was the generation of academically driven reports, based on secondary and archival research, which highlight the Guardian’s links with slavery and stories of the enslaved, and the ongoing engagement with stakeholders. The Wilberforce Institute and Guardian Media Group have now signed a three-year agreement to build on this work to explore the links it might have with historical slavery and reparations in greater depth.  

This research revealed the names of more than 300 people enslaved on plantations connected to the Guardian’s founders. Full details can be found here

Our researcher Dr Cassie Gooptar joined Guardian Group’s online panel discussion around the research and restorative programme. Watch the discussion here.

Project updates

  • Dr Gooptar appears in the first of the Guardian's new podcast series 'Cotton Capital'.  This episode is 'The bee and the ship – examining the Guardian’s links to slavery'.

Listen now 

  • In this video, our researcher Cassie Gooptar and historian David Olusoga talk about the Guardian’s links to slavery: ‘That reality can’t be negotiated with’.

Watch the video