A podcast dedicated to exploring various aspects of Bristol’s history. Produced in partnership with the Bristol Cable since April 2018.
Episode 47 – The Pneumatic Institute in Hotwells
At the end of the eighteenth century, ‘pneumatic’ (gas) chemistry was at the forefront of scientific knowledge. In 1799 the remarkable physician Thomas Beddoes opened the Pneumatic Institute in Hotwells and set about finding a cure for tuberculosis using gasses isolated from air. I spoke with author and cultural historian Mike Jay to discuss the work of the Institute and its legacy.
Episode 46 – Severing the Sinews of Slavery in Bristol
This week I spoke with Mark Steeds and Roger Ball to discuss their new book, ‘From Wulfstan to Colston: Severing the Sinews of Slavery in Bristol.’ Covering over a thousand years of history, the book charts Bristol’s long involvement in trading enslaved human beings. We discussed the two titular characters: St. Wulfstan, who was responsible for ending the slave trade between Bristol and Dublin in the 11th century; and Edward Colston, one of Bristol’s most prominent organisers of the African slave trade from the late 17th century. Mark and Roger also explained their problems with traditional narrative around abolition. To counter this they emphasise the importance of slave rebellions in the colonies, highlight the long-overlooked work of women in the abolition movement and draw attention to popular anti-slavery movements.
Episode 45 – The Bristol Bus Boycott
This week I met with Professor Madge Dresser to discuss the Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963. The boycott against the Bristol Omnibus Company over its racist employment policy was the first black-led protest against racial discrimination in post-war Britain. We explored race relations in Bristol around the time of the boycott, and why its legacy continues to resonate so strongly today.
Episode 44 – ‘Know Your Place’ and Planning in Bristol
This week I spoke with Pete Insole, Historic Environment Officer for Bristol City Council, to discuss the historical mapping tool ‘Know Your Place’. We also talked about the historic development of Bristol and about planning the future of the city.
Episode 43 – Bristol and the 1918 ‘Spanish’ Flu Pandemic
Arriving at the end of the First World War, the 1918 ‘Spanish’ Flu was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, killing between 40 and 200 million people worldwide. I spoke with journalist and historian Eugene Byrne – we discussed official strategies to combat the spread of the flu, as well as its local impact on Bristol.
Episode 42 – Witches and Witchcraft in the West Country
This week I met with Mike Slater, West-Country Occult Historian, to discuss the history of witchcraft in the West Country. We spoke about the continuance of popular belief in magic, long after official witchcraft trials had ceased. We also explored ‘witch scratching’, the pernicious and long-lived idea that drawing a witch’s blood would remove her curses.
Episode 41 – Graffiti and Street Art in Bristol
Nowadays Bristol is internationally known as a centre of graffiti and street art culture. I met with John Nation – pioneer and promoter of graffiti culture and its artists since the early 1980s – to discuss how perceptions of the culture have changed. From being despised as ‘vandalism’ to hailed as a cultural export of the city, graffiti continues to elicit strong opinions, not least because it raises questions about who gets to have a say in the visual culture of the city.
Episode 40 – Dr. Edson Burton In Conversation
This week I met with the writer, poet, historian and playwright Dr. Edson Burton. We discussed (among other things) how his historical outlook shapes his cultural work; the legacy of Caribbean migration to Britain and how Brexit plays into wider narratives of place and identity.
Episode 39 – Election Special: Polling Day in 18th Century Bristol
As we approach December’s election, the Bristol History Podcast asks: how did we get here? To this end I spoke with UWE Professor of History and Heritage Steve Poole about what elections in Bristol looked like some 300 years ago.