Tragedy at Sea: UWE Bristol Professor comments on Shipwrecks

Issue date: 05 December 2013


Madge Dresser, Associate Professor in History at UWE Bristol, is set to appear on an exciting new BBC series entitled Shipwrecks: Britain's Sunken History.

Presented by maritime historian Dr Sam Willis, 'Shipwrecks' is a three part series that discovers how and why the shipwreck came to loom so large in the consciousness and history of the British Isles. Britannia may have ruled the waves of the past, but the cost of doing so from an island hemmed in by treacherous rocks resulted in a coastline that is home to the heaviest concentration of shipwrecks in the world.

Dr Dresser was approached by the producers of the programme due to her expertise in the area of slavery, an industry intrinsically linked to ships and the sea. She brought a particularly tragic shipwreck to their attention, the story of which will feature in episode 2 of the series.

Dr Dresser said, “During the course of my research, I had come across this case which transpired to be one of the worst maritime tragedies in Colonial American history. In 1763 a ship called the Phoenix sunk off the coast of Britain. All the white crew were rescued, but the 356 enslaved Africans were left to die on the ship. I brought this particularly horrific case to the producer's attention and they ended up using it in the programme. They also decided to film part of the series in Bristol, which gave me the opportunity to talk about Bristol and the slave trade in general, again based on my research.”

Dr Dresser's episode will air on Monday 9 December at 21:00 on BBC Four, and you can watch the first episode of the series on the BBC iPlayer.

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