Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bloodlines

The fascinating series The Slavery Business is still running on BBC2, and the BBC website linked to the programme is a great resource for social historians, but one particular part of it is especially of interest to linguists, and indeed anyone interested in the crossover of history, race and language.

In an article on the history of his own family, Dr Robert Beckford of Birmingham University looks at the origins of his surname and how he came to be "branded" with the slaveowner's name.

The article is well worth a read and also reminds me of how at a previous college with a largely white intake, it was fairly straightforward and uncontentious to look at the histories of family surnames, linking them to areas of the country, geographical features ("Cliff" or "Rivers") or even physical characteristics ("Fox" often meaning red-haired), but how, when moving to work at a much more racially mixed college, the whole discussion became much more sensitive.

Beckford's article (like the whole series) is a timely reminder about the legacy of slavery and its impact on the world today.

2 comments:

*Chrissyfloss*- ex SFXian said...

hey sir- nothing to do with this post (sorry!)but in case you read the G2 today (Thursday 11th)- do you reckon the little column by Ann Widdecome called "Big Girls' Blouses" could be a nice lil link with political correctness/representation? It may not be that relevant but then again it could still be added to the ever-so-helpful recent articles you give out in class..

Dan said...

Hi Charissa

I read it and it's quite funny (even though it's by her!). It's a good idea - I'll try to find the other articles that have appeared about the "fat" issue since then too.

Hope you're enjoying your hols.

:-)