A Note on Modern Day Marginalisation and Renaissance Britain

The industrial revolution did not revolutionise Britain's oppressive ideology, much of which was solidified during the renaissance.

Twice last month, while running workshops with two completely unrelated organisations, a participant shared the same thought: Natalie, if we are to assess the dynamics of oppression / marginalisation and privilege in modern day Britain, you should start our journey, at the earliest, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, not before.

Between both cases, the following argument was shaped: 

  1. Slave’s were not permited on British soil, so saying that slavery has an impact on the treatment of Black people in Britain today is unfounded.

  2. The economically flourishing capitalist Britain we know today, simply did not exist before the industrial revolution (IR). Furthermore, the transatlantic slave trade had less economic impact on present day Britain than the capital generated during the IR itself, particularly through child exploitation.

And therefore, my analysing Renaissance Britain to establish substantial correlation to the shape of present day Britain is apparently a faux pas.

I appreciate moments when people speak up with genuine reservations during workshops and training, even if they are suggesting I’m clumsy (no one is immune to mistakes, right?). For what one person says out loud, five people could be sat wondering about in silence. The discourse is important and my answer in this case, for anyone wondering in general, is as follows.

The renaissance was a transition period, naturally then both parts of the pre societal structure and revolutionised structure, exist within the period of transition. Furthermore, the industrial revolution did not revolutionise Britain's oppressive ideology, much of which was solidified during the renaissance. If it had, the blueprint of marginalised groups from 16th century Britain might not mirror the marginalisation of today.

‘Do you have industrial revolution money?’

It’s 1997, I’m in the car with my mum driving home from somewhere. I ask her for McDonald’s, she replies, ‘do you have McDonald's money?’

I’m seven so no, I don’t have ‘McDonald’s money’. And I understand the point, she doesn’t have the money to spend on McDonald’s either.  

Before countless unfortunate children began to be exploited by industries, ‘industrial revolution money’ had to be counted up to invest in the infrastructure. Through colonisation, cunning trade routes and a heavy hand in transatlantic slavey Britain accumulated great wealth in the two centuries leading up to the IR. While the middle class swelled during the years of the revolution, the group initially emerged in tandem with transatlantic slavery, when many Brits made great fortunes not only transporting enslaved people from Africa to the Americas, but by claiming ownership of them and renting them to land owners for an income. The capital accumulated during this time no doubt had a massive impact on Britain’s ability to invest in the IR, extending how several of today’s British banks were also established using wealth generated by the slave trade.

While Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 followed by slavey itself in 1833 and Britain did not have the same crushing anti-black laws as the States, Britains policies and practices rendered the gap between black people and access to opportunity virtually impossible. Today data across British institutions illustrates that disparities between the Black and White British people still exist. Even though some equity measures have been taken to balance access, the supremacist ideology levered against black people while they were enslaved was never top down institutionally revolutionised. The ideology still sits heavily in British culture. 

Un-revolutionised Ideology: The Value of Productivity vs. Marginalisation.

British society pre IR had virtually no investment in community care, leading to essentially the complete marginalisation of those less able to be economically productive, such as the sick, the disabled, single parents, children, the very old. Although it was not yet called capitalism pre IR, ‘materialism’ was already the centre of societal value. Orphaned children, or those from poor households were systemically among the most vulnerable and always worked to survive if they could. The systemic marginalisation of poor and orphaned children pre IR allowed for them now (during IR) to be specifically and systematically exploited by new industry. The culture of poor treatment towards vulnerable children was not born of the IR, but rather the IR gave birth to an opportunity to exponentially exploit the existing culture. 

The same relationship between ‘Productivity : Value : Marginalisation’ (the more economically productive a person is, the higher their social value and lower the chances of their marginalisation) is still applicable to present day oppressions. Ableism and maternity discrimination are glaring examples, both are protected from workplace discrimination under the 2010 Equality Act due to rife discrimination based on assumption about, or inflexible expectations and methods of, productivity. The act is a step of equity to balance the differential access to opportunity and therefore quality of life. However the cultural ideologies that enable the imbalanced environment, go unchallenged top down by Britain as an institution and therefore never revolutionised.

Side Note: The Curse of Homogeneous Heroes (poor inclusivity)

A result of gatekeeping the diversity of thought leadership (in academia, organisations, government etc.) is a far more limited view of problems and solutions — we lose insight and meaning. The example above is a snippet of a far wider conversation about the nature of oppression in today's society, where generally, ideological patterns and core values go unexamined to the breadth required to effectively spot and challenge present day oppression in Britain.

Love, Light and ACTION! x

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