This symposium examines the historical legacy of George Watson whose financial legacy, left on his death in 1723 to the stewardship of the Merchant Company of Edinburgh, made possible the foundation of George Watson’s Hospital in 1742.
It is now clear that Watson was involved in financing at least one ship which he intended should participate in the transatlantic trade in enslaved African people. This fact, along with other aspects of his business practices, raise urgent and important questions about the veneration that George Watson’s memory has traditionally received.
We will aim to understand the historical facts that are now apparent in the context of the Edinburgh of Watson’s day, of Scotland’s involvement in the slave trade and of the slave trade generally. We will ask what George Watson’s legacy means to us today and how we should acknowledge it now and in the future.
Speakers/contributors to include:
Sir Geoff Palmer, Professor Emeritus in the School of Life Sciences, Heriott-Watt University and human rights activist
Dr Melanie Newton, Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto
Dr Hugh Ouston, Author of George Watson’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Mr Bobby Chaudhry, Head of History at George Watson’s College
Mr Tom Bennett, Archive Officer at George Watson’s College
Pupils of George Watson’s College
Mr Melvyn Roffe, Principal of George Watson’s College