If you register, you can do a lot more. And become an active part of our growing community. You'll have access to hidden forums, and enjoy the ability of replying and starting conversations.

Even Steam Engines are "racist" it seems

Discussion in 'Everything Else Heritage' started by davidarnold, Nov 7, 2021.

  1. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,498
    Likes Received:
    6,841
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    You might find this interesting about the Pennants - who were behind Penrhyn Quarry and who were owners of slave plantations in Jamaica. In short they would not have been able to buy and develop Penhryn without the money from slavery.

    http://www.spanglefish.com/sugarandslaverythepenrhyncastleconnection/pennants.asp
     
  2. RLinkinS

    RLinkinS Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2008
    Messages:
    708
    Likes Received:
    735
    Gender:
    Male
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    On a visit to Penrhyn Castle we were told that the 2 daughters of the family were known as Miss Slate and Miss Sugar. That made me understand where the money for the Castle and the race horses came from.

    Sent from my SM-A105FN using Tapatalk
     
    Jamessquared and Monkey Magic like this.
  3. Phill S

    Phill S New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2015
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    90
    Gender:
    Male
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I'd recommend people look for definitions of things like "Woke" and "Critical race theory" from sources that aren't trying to make you cross so you buy their paper. Some of it is quite interesting.

    Now, you want to talk wasting money on "Revisionist History" on a railway forum...perhaps we could start with there being not one, but two projects to recreate what we all know was a failed design of steam engine. We know what is written from the time, we know they were heavily rebuilt and then scrapped, so why are we spending several million on recreating them? One daft lot even think they're going to do regular mainline runs with theirs! It's revisionism gone mad! I don't care who I offend, Gresley P2 replicas are a stupid idea. Something something snowflakes (cont page 94)
     
    maddog, mgl, Hampshire Unit and 8 others like this.
  4. CoalFiredGeek

    CoalFiredGeek New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2019
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    35
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Postgrad Student
    Location:
    North Norfolk
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    As someone who's very recently studied Museum & Heritage Development at postgraduate level, I agree with you. We should always seek to uncover new sources and look ever deeper at the history we think we know. From that academic perspective, history should be frustrating and annoying. Historical figures aren't angels or demons, they're complex individuals who can be fantastic one minute and then you turn the page of a book and they're instantly & utterly despicable the next. Railways have done the most amazing things to improve our communities and societies over the past 200 years, and at the same time they've also helped to speed up and improve the efficiency of mass genocide under the Third Reich. So as an academic, yes, history is absolutely definitely annoying, and long may it continue to be so!

    But I'm also a volunteer at a heritage railway, and I can see that the typical visitor to a heritage line is more-often-than-not just looking for an enjoyable day out. They're possibly seeking to indulge nostalgia for the past, albeit sometimes a rose-tinted memory of the past. Or they're seeking escapism and just want to immerse themselves in the delights of a bygone era. This is where these two worlds butt heads; the day-out seeking visitor isn't normally in the mood for a serious, sincere history lesson, especially not one that's based on the negative, darker parts of our collective past. And if you're the management of a money-making tourist attraction and you're basically trying to sell nostalgia like a packaged product; you're not going to confront your guests with uncomfortable truths from history to bring down their mood. When did anyone last pay to visit a museum/heritage attraction with the specific hope of leaving feeling guilty because their long-dead ancestors did things unacceptable by 21st century standards?

    And from that perspective, I see where they're coming from. Example: I like visiting industrial pumping stations in my spare time, and I can look at a beam engine and admire James Watt's engineering prowess. But I can also completly accept that, as an individual, he had links with the slave trade. Crucially, in my opinion, neither of those aspects of his character wipes away the other. He was a fine engineer, and he was living in an era when society was very different, and many would argue that it's not entirely appropriate to judge all of the morals and behaviour of an 18th/19th century figure by 21st century standards. Back to my earlier statement, he's not simply a hero or simply a villain; he's a complicated, brilliant, terrible human being. Like any one of us can be from time to time.

    But should every Watt-designed beam engine have a small sign next to it, reminding the visitor of the more negative aspects of Watt's past and, possibly in the eyes of many, seemingly chastising/criticising the visitor for simply trying to enjoy the engineering and ignore those bad aspects? An academic would possibly say that that sign should be there, whereas many visitors would say it shouldn't. The staff and volunteers of an industrial museum hosting that beam engine would probably also fall on different sides of that debate; a researcher/curator with a passion for historical truth would possibly say yes, a managing director seeking to keep their paying visitors happy might say no to avoid controversy.

    It's not an easy one to fathom, and there are many debates to be had. I think that it's good that projects like the one the OP brought up are undertaken, and uncovering more and more of the past, be it ugly or nice, should be the aim of every historian. But... I can't criticise a member of the public for simply 'wanting a steam train ride'. For just wanting a day out involving a beautiful old locomotive. If that member of the public wants the complicated history lesson, then by all means carefully stage an appropriate, well-toned exhibition that examines these difficult subjects from both sides. Indeed, I think the NRM serves as an ideal platform for that, certainly better than a heritage line does. But chiefly, I think you've got to let people have their escapism and nostalgia as well. That's what they're paying for at the end of the day. In the depressing trappings of the 21st century, we all need our escapism from time to time.
     
  5. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Resident of Nat Pres

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2015
    Messages:
    7,676
    Likes Received:
    5,823
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Thorn in my managers side
    Location:
    72
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Well said.

    Its difficult, most people conform to a greater or lesser degree with the norms of their times and of course the great Country Houses could notbe afforded by farm rents alone, the money had to come from somewhere.
     
    CoalFiredGeek likes this.
  6. Paul Grant

    Paul Grant Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2010
    Messages:
    524
    Likes Received:
    429
    Location:
    Fife
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Really need to lay off whatever populist guff the Telegraph is pumping out.

    Edit: I cant imagine why a generation which has a shorter life expectancy than their parents and suffered at 10 years of Austerity Rule would be anti-capitalist. Crazy how that happens.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2021
    maddog, mgl, GWR4707 and 2 others like this.
  7. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,498
    Likes Received:
    6,841
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    To bring it closer to home I think UK heritage railways are not very good at looking at political, economic and social exploitation in the UK and the railways' role in that. It tends to be brushed over as 'one of those things' - the Michael Portillo, 'he wasn't a very nice man but he was one of the classical victorian go getters that helped Britain rule the world' (or words to that effect).

    For example - when it comes to signalling displays etc - there is very little discussion of resistance from management to safety measures. Very little discussion about working hours and the fight for the eight hour day.

    Frequently when I go to a railway museum, I see plenty of official 'company history' but nothing of the workers - no discussion for example about the development of local rail unions or what local fights and disputes were about.

    One of the things I would really like to see reflected on more is the importance of migration and the context of that migration to railway development - whether that is Irish migration post famine and its importance in building railways, or post-WW2 migration from the Caribbean, Africa, Asia. But more than 'there were lots of Irish navvies and they lived in terrible conditions, drank lots and were violent'. I'd like to see a more sophisticated contextualisation - and being honest about things like hostility and prejudice that migrant groups experienced.

    A recent discussion I saw on another forum

    The discussion produced a couple of interesting links - https://www.ilhumanities.org/events...nities-in-the-chicago-area-and-the-midwest-3/ and https://www.wtvp.org/local-programs/boxcar-people/
     
    maddog and S.A.C. Martin like this.
  8. Paul Grant

    Paul Grant Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2010
    Messages:
    524
    Likes Received:
    429
    Location:
    Fife
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Real life is seemingly about denying the truth and teaching only minimal parts of the story that make certain people sound good. Take for example the Scouts, the origin story being rather noble but leaving out that Baden Powell was such a paedophile it was built into the organisation from day one. A lot of the founding railways were built using money from government compensation for slaves. Thats a fact. I understand that a lot of what gets people upset is that their entire world view is being shattered by Da Yoof so must be bad because you can't smack children (I give it three days before the Times runs that as a piece). Britain has almost always been the bad guy in history and to paper over the bad things people did with occasional good things (Colston for example) is only delaying the inevitable. The sooner we take stock and shine a light on the worst things Britain and own up to them, the better.
     
  9. mdewell

    mdewell Well-Known Member Friend

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Messages:
    1,069
    Likes Received:
    1,436
    Occupation:
    UK & Ireland Heritage Railways Webmaster
    Location:
    Essex
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    And let's not even mention how sexist steam engines are :oops:. . . . It took a war to start correcting that situation! :D

    (And before anyone jumps on me, no this comment isn't meant to be taken seriously.)
     
  10. class8mikado

    class8mikado Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2009
    Messages:
    3,265
    Likes Received:
    1,233
    Occupation:
    Print Estimator/ Repository of Useless Informatio.
    Location:
    Bingley W.Yorks.
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Indeed, history does tend to focus on the roses we grew and not the sh*t we made happen to grow them in.
    How long before Museums have to hide away all their Greek, Roman and Egyptian artifacts as pretty much all these ancient civilisations functioned on slavery. Viking culture is pretty popular at the moment.. but it wasnt just the church silver they nicked, it was people as well....
     
    mdewell likes this.
  11. Paul Grant

    Paul Grant Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2010
    Messages:
    524
    Likes Received:
    429
    Location:
    Fife
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Vikings are the perfect example as they've often been vilified and misrepresented in history.
     
  12. goldfish

    goldfish Resident of Nat Pres

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2009
    Messages:
    12,573
    Likes Received:
    8,472
    Probably never. Museums should be able to describe the whole story of the artefacts they hold. Hence rather than 'hey look at this Colston bloke, wasn't he great, gave away lots of money to good causes', you should get 'look at this Colston ****! Made his money shipping tens of thousands of people to their deaths and slavery. The Victorians sought to rehabilitate his story as a benefactor to suit the narrative of the time.'.

    If at some point it turns out that on Colston's weekends, he cured cancer and found a recipe for world peace, I daresay his portrayal in contemporary museums and history books should be further revised (he's clearly a complicated character).

    That is the job of museums and galleries, to interpret historic events and people, using the best insight we have available to us. Not to gloss over the bad bits because they're inconvenient. It's important to learn from history, and you can't do that if our interpretation is dishonest. And it's only seeking an honest appraisal of the impact of colonialisation, and the factors that contributed to it, that we can learn the lasting impact from it (and perhaps take steps to mitigate those lasting impacts).

    Simon
     
  13. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Resident of Nat Pres

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2015
    Messages:
    7,676
    Likes Received:
    5,823
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Thorn in my managers side
    Location:
    72
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Even my conservative with a small C mother was well aware of the cruelties meted out in her lifetime, let alone before by the rich and powerful
     
  14. D1039

    D1039 Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    May 25, 2007
    Messages:
    3,707
    Likes Received:
    2,487
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    North Somerset
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    As an aside, the National Heritage part funded renovation of Falling Sands Viaduct on the SVR includes money for interpretation by the Charitable Trust, included in which is the life of Navvies involved in construction of the'loop line'.

    Patrick
     
    S.A.C. Martin and Monkey Magic like this.
  15. misspentyouth62

    misspentyouth62 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2017
    Messages:
    1,057
    Likes Received:
    1,215
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    34D, now flexible
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    I quite agree.
    As a reminder, 'Woke' as an adjective means well-informed and up to date as well as being alert to injustices in society, especially around racism.

    I guess The Telegraph (other similar newsprint is available) is succeeding in keeping certain people anti-Woke or what I prefer to term 'with certain bias'. :)

    Show me a modern historian that doesn't crave for history to evolve truth and balance? I also wonder if in past centuries whether scientists declaring the world to be non-flat, caused accusations of Woke-ness amongst the flat-earthers? ;-)
     
  16. D1039

    D1039 Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    May 25, 2007
    Messages:
    3,707
    Likes Received:
    2,487
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    North Somerset
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Some interpretations are challenging: 'he did this, but he also did this. How should we see his role?' I like that, others may not...

    Kudos Andrew. I did a mix of heritage, history (mainly) and politics in a joint honours Bachelors degree four years ago. The heritage modules included interpretation and presentation, and I bend the knee to your knowledge and expertise.

    Thank you for your post. I agree with pretty much all of it, certainly the differing educational duties of accredited museums* and heritage railways. I'm sure you're right, but I'd still want some balance on the railways though (see above: "see that banana van, that exploitative trade was built on the subjugation of..." ;) )

    *A question is that some heritage lines are also accredited museums, and were funded as such by Cultural Recovery Fund grants (such as NYMR). If you're accredited, and funded as such, then they've the same duty to examine difficult subjects from both sides, and educate their audience accordingly.

    Patrick
     
    S.A.C. Martin and goldfish like this.
  17. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,498
    Likes Received:
    6,841
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    That's great. I hope that it will provide some contextualisation about 'why' they were there in the first place.

    I was thinking about the Engine House for example and while I haven't been for a few years I don't recall for example much from the perspective of those involved in building and maintaining the line. It would be great to see an ASLEF banner afforded as much priority as the headboard from an express on the walls of railway museums. I am think there is much to be gained from 'history from below' and more than that, one that affords workers and navvies agency. Thinking about the Latinx project on the Great Plains, I'd love to see an oral history project (while participants are still alive) that tells the stories of the Windrush generation migrant workers who worked on the railways in the midlands etc. (It'd have to be collaborative but I think the stories could be fascinating and really rewarding to know).
     
  18. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Messages:
    22,825
    Likes Received:
    44,449
    Location:
    LBSC 215
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I'd suggest that that isn't the core purpose of a museum, or at least not a sufficient core purpose. They have to provide context; not just preserve an artefact, but explain why that artefact is more important or significant than others. Without that interpretation, you just have a pile of dead items and no way of saying which are important and which aren't; you also have no way of formulating a collections policy for future artefacts (which in turn would end up with museums essentially frozen is aspic: they would exist exactly as they are now and collect nothing in the future).

    Why did 34051 get preserved? Why not 34052, or 34050? Essentially because of its connection to a person (Churchill), and an event (his funeral), deemed of significance. Which is fine, but that takes you down the line of interpretation, and of matters that at first glance aren't railway related. It would be hard to argue that 34051 should have been preserved based solely on its significance as a piece of engineering, at least not within an arbitrarily small collection.

    Tom
     
  19. goldfish

    goldfish Resident of Nat Pres

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2009
    Messages:
    12,573
    Likes Received:
    8,472
    100%. It's complicated, and the binary 'thou shalt not question the presentation of any artifact' provides a poor service to the historical accuracy that we should expect and museums (et al) should strive for.

    Simon
     
    The Dainton Banker likes this.
  20. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,498
    Likes Received:
    6,841
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    I'd also suggest that the preservation of 34051 represents a deviation from the collection policy at the time which I believe was for the pioneering engines to be preserved ie 33001. 34001 and 34002 (first unrebuilt example) for example both survived until 1967. 34051 is hardly an accidental survivor 'oh my goodness, we need an unrebuilt Bulleid for the national collection, let's grab the first one we find on the Eastleigh scraplines'
     

Share This Page