Bristol history commission members revealed

September 30 2020
Bristol history commission members revealed

MEMBERS of a commission to examine Bristol's history and its effect on the modern city have been revealed.

The We Are Bristol History Commission was set up following an announcement by Mayor Marvin Rees in the aftermath of the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston in the city centre during a Black Lives Matter protest in June.

At the time of the announcement it was reported that the commission would consider whether to rename remaining streets and landmarks named after the 17th and 18th century slave trader.

The commission, which includes professional historians and what the city council describes as "a wide-range of academics from sectors including philosophy, trade unions, arts and culture, and law", met for the first time in September.

Chaired by Professor Tim Cole (pictured above with Marvin Rees), professor of social history and director of the Brigstow Instituteat Bristol University, the other members are:

  • Dr Madge Dresser – honorary professor of history, University of Bristol

  • Professor David Olusoga – professor of public history, University of Manchester and a BBC presenter whose recent programmes include A House Through Time

  • Dr Shawn Sobers – associate professor of cultural interdisciplinary practice, University of West of England

  • Professor Alan Bogg – professor in law, University of Bristol

  • Dr Joanna Burch-Brown – lecturer in philosophy, University of Bristol

  • Estella Tincknell – associate professor in film and culture, University of West of England

  • Councillor Helen Godwin – cabinet member for women, children and young people, Bristol City Council

  • Nigel Costley – regional secretary, Trades Union Congress


The council says the mayor "invited the commission to help Bristol better understand its history and how we have become the city we are today", adding: "The commission was initiated after the events of this summer and its work will include the history of slavery as well as the full scope of events that have impacted the city.

"The commission will include the building and removal of the Colston statue as a departure point and it will also consider the growth of education, the struggles of workers for pay and working conditions, and the Chartists and suffragettes campaigning for emancipation."

A council spokesperson was unable to confirm whether renaming streets and landmarks was still within its remit.

The council said the commission's first focus would be to "find ways to invite all citizens to explore the question: 'What have we remembered and who gets to tell our history?'"

Prof Cole said: “This is an opportunity for us to improve the understanding of our city's past together and honestly explore our city's history, as well as our own individual histories, and the ways that they connect.

History is never a single, monolithic story, but rather an ongoing debate about the past and its meaning."

Mr Rees, who attended the first meeting but will not be a commissioner, said: “Everyone experiences the results of our past differently. The commission will help us all build an improved shared understanding of Bristol’s story by learning the origins of our beginnings and our journey, contending with events and their meanings, and making sure we share the stories with generations to come. This work will be an important step in helping us all live with difference."