Human Resources, the newest podcast from Broccoli Productions, explores the British involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, and explores how the trade has influenced every part of modern Britain.
Due to the increased public interest in the Black Lives Matter movement, 2020 saw a surge of listens to podcast about Black history, and the way racism has shaped Western society. One of the most-listened to shows was 1619, a five part series from New York Times that explained how the transatlantic slave trade created the systems of power that we live by today.
It was incredibly powerful, but 1619 focused on America. There has been a lack of similarly powerful podcasts like 1619 that focus on Britain’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.
Now, Human Resources is here to do just that. From Britain’s first slave trafficker, to Sir Isaac Newton, and even chocolate, the 10-part series will to contextualise the impact of the transatlantic slave trade on daily life in modern Britain.
We asked host, Moya Lothian McLean, how the podcast came to be and what listeners can expect from the series.
Hi Moya, we’re very excited about this podcast. It’s a massive topic, where does the podcast start?
The starting point was actually the easiest part of the whole process. I’m on this journey of education as much as the audience is, so we began in the place I grew up, a county called Herefordshire. It was vital for me and the team to root this project in our most familiar worlds and uncover the hidden histories that bubble under the surface. Herefordshire is a sleepy, beautiful rural county, on the border of Wales. Lots of sheep. It’s the last place you’d think to look for stories about British slavery. Which is why we had to start there.
Was it easy to find the information about these histories?
Yes and no. Hunches often proved right but digging for hard evidence and paper trails can be much harder when investigating the history of British slavery – something we explore during the course of the project. The brunt of the digging was done by our amazing researchers, Arisa Loomba and Dr Alison Bennett who also found the right people to ask about the places and people we wanted to look into. This project would not exist without their work.
Why podcasting? What is it about the medium that works for this project?
I think podcasting is so well suited to exploring histories, especially hidden ones because it allows a depth and level of detail that sometimes there’s not space for in your standard TV documentary or one-off radio broadcast. There’s also a freedom and flexibility in the medium; for example, we decided at a late hour to do a two part-episode on one particular story because what we discovered was so rich and multi-faceted I just felt a fervent urge that we couldn’t limit the story to one episode. Podcasting is so accessible too – we wanted this history to be something people didn’t make excuses not to listen to. You can’t watch a documentary while driving. You can listen to a podcast.
Without giving too much away, was there anything you were particularly surprised by from your research?
Perhaps surprise is the wrong word because I’ve learnt not to be surprised by much when it comes to history. I think probably the scale of just how much of our modern way of life is built from institutions directly created through the slave trade – seeing that picture come into focus in front of my eyes was like a shock of cold water. It’s one thing saying it, it’s another hearing the detail of it.
Were you inspired by any particular podcasts?
When we started this project, we talked about podcasts we enjoyed. I definitely had in mind the atmosphere of 1619 although our format is certainly different. I’m sure the other members of the team had their own inspiration – I think I took mine from the likes of The Dream and Ponzi Supernova, not in form or content but just trying to make this engaging, and the journey to be unpredictable.
Who is your dream listener?
Anyone who wants to know why Britain in 2021 is the way it is.
The first episode of Human Resources is available to listen to right now on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts!