By Max Ashforth and Emily Herbert
The contentious work of a Leicester professor looking at the history of slavery in the UK countryside has caused controversy and was discussed at the Leicester Literary Festival this week.
Professor of Postcolonial Literature at the University of Leicester, Corinne Fowler, specialises in rural Britain’s colonial relations, and her most recent novel, Green Unpleasant Land, suggests that rural England was a site of violence and globalisation.
After discovering that she had ancestry connections to slave ownership, she felt compelled to ensure that future generations are fully aware of the true history of the British Empire.
Professor Fowler found herself surrounded in controversy with Conservative MP’s, following her references to Winston Churchill’s role in colonial administration and his opposition to Indian independence.
She warned of a ‘political agenda’ and reported in the Guardian: “I have been unfairly treated.
“Attempts were made to misrepresent, mischaracterise, malign and intimidate academics in clear efforts to damage the professional reputations of people for evidence-based scholarship”.
Despite the backlash from national newspapers and Conservative MPs she stated: “I’m not going to be deterred from doing my research, that would be ridiculous!”
Her book has evoked both praise and critique as well as a heated debate.
The inspiration for writing the book came after writing about the same issue in another publication, she stated: “I realised it deserved a whole book.”
The coverage of the 400-year history of the British Empire has previously overlooked the exploitation of slaves and invasion of foreign territories.
Fowler dismissed how the slave trade and British colonisation has been taught in schools in the past by stating: “Up until now we have focused on the abolition in almost a celebratory way”
Instead, she wants to focus on ensuring that the silenced people of the past have had their stories told.
A link to Corinne Fowlers biography can be found here: https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/english/people/corinnefowler and further information on colonial countryside can be found here: https://le.ac.uk/colonial-countryside
A link to these events can be found at https://le.ac.uk/literary-leicester