A black and white archive photograph of the exterior facade of Liverpool Town Hall.
Liverpool town hall. © Historic England Archive. Image reference AA98/04365.
Liverpool town hall. © Historic England Archive. Image reference AA98/04365.

Audit of Research into the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Built Environment

"At Historic England our role, as laid out in the National Heritage Act, is to champion, protect and advance the public’s knowledge of all of England’s historic environment.

In February 2020, we commissioned an audit which brings together pre-existing, publicly available research into the tangible traces of the transatlantic slave trade in England’s built environment, mostly carried out over the last 30 years by universities and community groups.

By bringing all known research on this subject into one place, the audit has provided a comprehensive overview of this subject and identified gaps in our collective knowledge. New knowledge gained through research in this area would be used to enhance information about listed places on the National Heritage List for England, so we can tell a more complete story of our country’s remarkable, rich and complex history.

Our job is to focus on facts in an impartial way; we are not making moral judgements. By sharing knowledge of England’s history, as told through the fabric of our buildings and sites, our aim is that they become better understood and protected.

In the cases where sites encompass parts of our history that do not represent today’s moral standards, our approach is not to remove or ignore them but to provide thoughtful information and powerful reinterpretation. This is summed up in our approach to “retain and explain” our heritage. We can do that in a more meaningful way when our knowledge is backed up by rigorous, academic research. 

As a public organisation we have a mandate to address the lack of diversity in the heritage sector and we are fully aligned with government policy and wider practice on this.

We published our Inclusion, Diversity and Equality Strategy in November, following careful development and consultation. England's heritage is for everyone and our role is to ensure that everything which helped to shape it is fully understood as part of our collective history."