College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Historical figure’s slavery links in spotlight

Scholars are to debate the slavery links of a key historical figure whose statue has prompted public protest.

The online panel discussion about Henry Dundas – best known for his role in delaying abolition of the slave trade – takes place amid calls for the removal of his statue in Edinburgh.

Experts with specialist knowledge of Henry Dundas' career will discuss and analyse all aspects of the Scottish politician’s relationship to slavery.

Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville was the Scottish Lord Advocate, an MP for Edinburgh and Midlothian and the First Lord of the Admiralty.

Key role

Calls to remove the statue – or to add a new plaque retelling Dundas’ story – have focused on his insertion of the word ‘gradual’ into the 1792 bill to end Britain’s slave trade.

Dundas’s connections to slavery were broader than that single act, says the discussion’s moderator, University of Edinburgh historian Professor Diana Paton. 

The event on Tuesday 7 July has been organised by the Edinburgh Centre for Global History in the University’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology.

Expert panel

Taking part in the debate will be John Cairns, Professor of Civil Law at the University of Edinburgh, who specialises in the history of slavery and Scots law.

Joining him will be Stephen Mullen, author of 'It Wisnae Us: The Truth about Glasgow and Slavery', who is researching Dundas’s role in the abolition of the slave trade.

Completing the panel is Melanie Newton, Associate Professor of History at the University of Toronto, who is an expert on Caribbean history, including British colonial and foreign policy under Dundas.

The event is free but is currently oversubscribed. Names can be added to the waiting list. 

Related links

Register for the event 

Edinburgh Centre for Global History