Petitions call for removal of John Cabot’s name from Bristol despite ‘no connection’ to Atlantic slave trade

One petition calls for the renaming of Cabot Circus

Two petitions have been set up calling for the removal of John Cabot’s name from buildings in Bristol city centre, following the removal of the Colston name from the city.

One of the petitions, with 52 signatures, calls for the renaming of Cabot Circus, and simply states “There is evidence to suggest John Cabot had traded slaves.” in the description. The other petition has no signatures at all.

Cabot, a celebrated 15th century explorer, has “no connection whatsoever that we know of with the Atlantic/African slave trade” according to Evan Jones, a history professor at the University of Bristol and co-creator of the Cabot Project.

Another petition, set up on the Bristol City Council’s e-petition page, was created on the day of the Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol. The description states the petition was “inspired” by the action, and the creator feels Cabot’s name “should not be prominent on any public buildings and locations”.

The petition currently has no signatures.

Cabot’s only known connection to slavery is that he sold and owned one slave in Crete in 1483, called Marina.

Jones told Bristol Live: “Slavery was a common institution throughout the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages – in both Christian and Islamic nations. However, it was more like a form of indentured servitude with a fixed time limit.

“The other way that such slavery was different to the later Atlantic slavery is that it was not racialised.

“So, while Marina might have been African or Middle Eastern, she was more likely to have been a Christian, coming from what would now be Greece, the Ukraine or Georgia. These areas were the major suppliers of slaves to the region.”

Bristol became involved in the transatlantic slave trade from the 17th century, 200 years after Cabot’s death.

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