Personal profile

Research interests

Office: 2.01, 26 St. Michael's Park

Email: [email protected]

Phone:  0117 9287619

Twitter: @Dr_RGStone

I am an economic and social historian, specialising in the history and legacies of the Atlantic slave economy.  Much of my work has focused on the city of Bristol, which provides an ideal window onto the wider Atlantic world.  I am especially interested in the role of Atlantic trade and slave derived wealth in shaping the development of major institutions and the wider economy, and the complex relationships between slavery and abolition, business and philanthrophy.  I am a member of the Center for Black Humanities, Center for Environmental Humanities, and Early Modern Studies Research Group at the University of Bristol. 

My published work traces the themes of slavery and the Atlantic economy through from the fifteenth to the twentieth century.  My first monograph, Bristol and the Birth of the Atlantic Economy, 1500-1700 is under contract to Boydell and Brewer.  This is the first study of an early modern port based on a detailed statistical analysis of the surviving customs records. It challenges previous ideas about the extent to which English economic development in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was shaped by slavery and the Atlantic economy, showing that they began to influence Bristol’s commercial fortunes much faster and much earlier than had been assumed.    

My most recent research has focused on the latter years of the Atlantic slave economy. I was the lead researcher for the ‘Past Matters’ group, conducting archival research into links between the University of Bristol and slavery. My findings have been cited by the international media, shaped displays around the University, and influenced the policy of the University’s Senior Management Team. I am Bristol University’s representative to the international Universities Studying Slavery consortium, and continue to research the links of the Wills, Fry, and Colston families to both slavery and the University. 

I am a co-investigator on the UKRI funded project ‘Creating Research Together, Bristol: Reparative Justice through Collaborative Research’.  I am leading the strand ‘Bristol, Capital and Enslavement’ which uses records of the compensation paid when slavery was abolished in 1834 to examine the economic impact of the Atlantic slave economy on the city of Bristol.  This gives us a unique snapshot of who Bristol’s slaveowners were, and an opportunity to investigate where they invested their capital.  Linking the compensation records to the Caribbean slave registers will also allow us to investigate the lives of the enslaved people for who compensation was claimed. 

Engaging with a range of publics and institutions is fundamental to my work as a historian.  I have used my research expertise to advise Bristol Museums, Bristol Archives, Bristol Old Vic, and Bristol Cathedral.  I am currently leading a funded research project investigating the links between Bristol’s Society of Merchant Venturers and slavery.  I regularly give talks and lead guided tours in Bristol and the surrounding area, and regularly engage with the media.  My work has featured in a range of podcasts, tv programmes (from House Through Time to Hairy Bikers Pubs that Built Britain), radio (from Radio 4 to Radio Bristol) and newspapers (from The Times and The Economist to CAMRA’s magazine). 

Structured keywords and research groupings

  • Centre for Black Humanities
  • Centre for Environmental Humanities
  • Decolonisation
  • Migration Mobilities Bristol


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