Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery: Local Nuances of a ‘National Sin’ 9781781382776, 9781781383551

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Table of contents :
List of Illustrations
Part I: Little Britain’s History of Slavery
1: From Guinea to Guernsey and Cornwall to the Caribbean: Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel
2: ‘There to sing the song of Moses’: John Jea’s Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery in Liverpool and Portsmouth, 1801–1817
3: Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family: The Staniforths of Liverpool
4: Forgotten Women: Anna Eliza Elletson and Absentee Slave Ownership
5: East Meets West: Exploring the Connections between Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company,
Part II: Little Britain’s Memory of Slavery
6: Whose Memories? Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering
7: Liverpool’s Local Tints: Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery in a Seaport City
8: Local Roots/Global Routes: Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney
9: Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow
10: Making Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery in Olney
Selected Bibliography
Recommend Papers

Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery: Local Nuances of a ‘National Sin’
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Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Liverpool Studies in International Slavery, 11

Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Local Nuances of a ‘National Sin’

Edited by Katie Donington, Ryan Hanley and Jessica Moody Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Liverpool University Press

First published 2016 by Liverpool University Press 4 Cambridge Street Liverpool L69 7ZU Copyright © 2016 Liverpool University Press The right of Katie Donington, Ryan Hanley and Jessica Moody to be identified as the editors of this book has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication data A British Library CIP record is available print ISBN 978-1-78138-277-6 cased epdf ISBN 978-1-78138-355-1 Typeset by Carnegie Book Production, Lancaster

Contents Contents

List of Illustrations vii Acknowledgements ix Contributors xi Introduction Katie Donington, Ryan Hanley and Jessica Moody 1 Part I   Little Britain’s History of Slavery 1 From Guinea to Guernsey and Cornwall to the Caribbean: Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel Brycchan Carey 21 2 ‘There to sing the song of Moses’: John Jea’s Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery in Liverpool and Portsmouth, 1801–1817 Ryan Hanley 39

3 Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family: The Staniforths of Liverpool Jane Longmore 60

4 Forgotten Women: Anna Eliza Elletson and Absentee Slave Ownership Hannah Young 83 5 East Meets West: Exploring the Connections between Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company, c. 1757–1857 Chris Jeppesen 102 •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Part II: Little Britain’s Memory of Slavery 6 Whose Memories? Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering Catherine Hall 129

7 Liverpool’s Local Tints: Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery in a Seaport City Jessica Moody 150

8 Local Roots/Global Routes: Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney Katie Donington 172

9 Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow Michael Morris 195 10 Making Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery in Olney Leanne Munroe 216

Afterword John Oldfield 237 Selected Bibliography 247

Index 261


List of Illustrations List of Illustrations

Colour Image 1.1: Oil portrait of Ann De Lisle De Beauvoir, with young servant; circle of Henri Gascars, c. 1669. Image 3.1: Portrait of Thomas Staniforth, 1769, by Joseph Wright of Derby (1734–1797). Image 3.3: Portrait of Charles Goore (1701–1783) by Joseph Wright of Derby, c. 1769. Image 9.1: Panel from the Great Tapestry of Scotland showing the Glasgow Tobacco Lords.

Black-and-White Image 3.2: Darnall Hall, near Sheffield.


Image 3.4: Liverpool Old Dock, 1770.


Image 3.5: Thomas Staniforth’s house in Ranelagh Street, W. G. Herdman, 1867.


Image 3.6: Diagram of the stowage plan for the slave ship Brookes, 1788. 73 Image 6.1: Plan of Lucky Valley Estate, Clarendon, Jamaica, 1769, by James Blair.



Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Image 7.1: Goree warehouses engraving, 1826 copy.


Image 7.2: Piazza sculpture plaque.


Image 7.3: Piazza Waterfall sculpture with Wilberforce House in the background.


Image 8.1: Joanna Vassa’s grave in Abney Park Cemetery, Hackney.


Image 8.2: Thomas King Entering London Dock 1822–1827, William John Huggins.


Image 8.3: Portrait of Samuel Boddington by William Drummond c. 1835. 187 Image 8.4: Poster advertising Joseph Jackson Fuller’s preaching at Salem Chapel.


Image 10.1: The slave ship model at the Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney.



Acknowledgements Acknowledgements

This book has developed through a series of conference events. Initial ideas arose following Katie and Jessica’s participation in a section of the American Association of Geographers conference on ‘Slavery and Memory’ in New York in 2012 organised by Derek H. Alderman and E. Arnold Modlin. The event generated a number of questions for us on the relationship between slavery and the geographies of memory in Britain. As a result, joined by Ryan, we decided to convene the conference ‘Little Britain’s Memory of Slavery: The Local Nuances of a National Sin,’ which took place at University College London on 13–14 September 2013. The conference was a joint initiative between the Humanities Research Centre at the University of York, the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull and the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project at University College London. It was generously supported by those three institutions, English Heritage and the Economic History Society. The conference brought together academics, public historians, museum and archive professionals, genealogists, artists and campaigners to think through the ways in which slavery has been remembered, commemorated, memorialised and represented in different parts of Britain. We would like to thank all those who took part as speakers or attendees. The conversations that began during that meeting are threaded through this book. We have been supported throughout the publication process by Liverpool University Press and would like to thank Editorial Director Alison Welsby for all her help, and patience, in producing the volume. We would like to thank the anonymous reader at LUP for their invaluable comments on the various chapters presented here. Finally, we are also very grateful to the Ludwig fund at New College, Oxford for financial support in reproducing the colour images featured in this volume. KD, RH and JM •


Contributors Contributors

Brycchan Carey, Northumbria University Brycchan Carey is Professor of English at Northumbria University. He is the author of From Peace to Freedom: Quaker Rhetoric and the Birth of American Antislavery, 1657–1761 (Yale University Press, 2012) and British Abolitionism and the Rhetoric of Sensibility: Writing, Sentiment, and Slavery, 1760–1807 (Palgrave, 2005). He is the editor (with Geoffrey Plank) of Quakers and Abolition (University of Illinois Press, 2014), (with Peter Kitson) of Slavery and the Cultures of Abolition: Essays Marking the British Abolition Act of 1807 (Boydell and Brewer, 2007) and (with Markman Ellis and Sara Salih) of Discourses of Slavery and Abolition: Britain and its Colonies, 1760–1838 (Palgrave, 2004). His book Unnatural Empire: Slavery, Abolition, and Colonial Natural History, 1650–1840 is forthcoming from Yale University Press in 2018. Katie Donington, University of Nottingham Katie Donington completed her doctorate with the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project at University College London in 2013. She was a Research Associate on the second phase of the project – ‘The Structure and Significance of British Caribbean Slave-Ownership, 1763–1833.’ She is currently a Research Associate with the Antislavery Usable Past project at the University of Nottingham. Her research focuses on slavery, family and commerce during the period of abolition with a focus on the relationship between Britain and Jamaica. She is a co-author of Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2014).


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Catherine Hall, University College London Catherine Hall is the Principal Investigator for both phases of the ESRC/ AHRC-funded Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project at University College London. Her research centres on rethinking the relation between Britain and Empire in the early/mid-nineteenth century. Recent publications include Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830–1867 (Polity and Chicago University Press, 2002), At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World, edited with Sonya O. Rose (Cambridge University Press, 2006), Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain (Yale University Press, 2012) and Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2014). She is on the editorial board of History Workshop Journal and is an editor for the Cambridge University Press ‘Critical Perspectives on Empire’ series. Ryan Hanley, New College, Oxford Ryan Hanley is Salvesen Junior Fellow in History at New College, Oxford. He completed his PhD at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) at the University of Hull. He was a LapidusOIEAHC Fellow at the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture in 2013 and the BSECS-QMCECS Early-Career Visiting Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London in 2014. He has published a number of articles on eighteenth-century black evangelicals and celebrities, and in 2015 he was awarded the Royal Historical Society Alexander Prize for his article on James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, the first black author to be published in Britain. He is currently working on a project examining the spread of racial ideologies in Britain during the 1820s. Chris Jeppesen, University College London Chris Jeppesen completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2013 and subsequently worked as an AHRC Cultural Engagement Fellow and Research Associate on a collaborative project based at UCL and the British Library – East Meets West: Caribbean and Asian Colonial Cultures in British Domestic Contexts. The project sat between two major UCL research projects – The East India Company at Home, 1757–1857 and Legacies of British SlaveOwnership – and attempted a preliminary exploration of the connections between the East India Company, Britain and the Caribbean slave economy. He is currently a Teaching Fellow at UCL.



Jane Longmore, Southampton Solent University Jane Longmore joined Southampton Solent University in 2007 as Pro Vice-Chancellor, Academic and was appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor in January 2010. Jane has previously worked at the universities of Reading and Sussex, St Mary’s University College, London and the University of Greenwich, where she was Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Her publications include ‘Cemented by the Blood of a Negro: The Impact of the Slave Trade on Eighteenth-Century Liverpool’ in David Richardson, Suzanne Schwarz and Anthony Tibbles (eds), Liverpool and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Liverpool University Press, 2007), ‘The Urban Renaissance in Liverpool, 1750–1800’ in A. Kitson (ed.), Joseph Wright of Derby in Liverpool, 1768–71 (Yale, 2007), ‘Rural Retreats: Liverpool Slave Traders and their Country Houses, 1760–1820’ in M. Dresser and A. Hann (eds), Slavery and the English Country House (English Heritage, 2013). Jessica Moody, University of Portsmouth Jessica Moody joined the University of Portsmouth in September 2014 as a lecturer in History and Heritage. Prior to this, she was a Research Associate with the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP) at the University of York, working with Geoff Cubitt on research into the commemoration of the First World War during the 2014 centenary. She completed a PhD in History at the University of York and is currently writing a book on Liverpool’s memory of slavery, the topic of her PhD research. She is a member of the Port Towns and Urban Cultures (PTUC), and Citizenship, ‘Race’ and Belonging (CRaB) research projects at the University of Portsmouth. She runs Engaging with the Past, a public reading group which meets monthly in Portsmouth pubs to discuss cultural heritage and public history. Michael Morris, Liverpool John Moores University Michael Morris completed a doctorate on relations between Scotland and the Caribbean in the English Literature department of the University of Glasgow in 2013. He was a postgraduate research fellow at IASH – the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities – at the University of Edinburgh 2013–2014, and has been Lecturer in English Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University since 2014. He is the author of Scotland and the Caribbean, c. 1740–1833: Atlantic Archipelagos (New York and Abingdon: Routledge, 2015), and ‘Yonder Awa: Slavery and Distancing Strategies in Scottish Literature’ in Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past: the Caribbean Connection (Edinburgh University Press, 2015).


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Leanne Munroe, University of Cambridge Leanne Munroe is a final-year PhD student at the University of Cambridge. Before commencing her PhD, Leanne was the manager of the Cowper and Newton Museum. She also worked as the Research Co-ordinator for a Heritage Lottery Fund community project that examined the memory of the East African slave trade and the clove trade in Zanzibar. John Oldfield, University of Hull John Oldfield is Professor of History and Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) at the University of Hull. His books include ‘Chords of Freedom’: Commemoration, Ritual and British Transatlantic Slavery (Manchester University Press, 2007) and Transatlantic Abolitionism in the Age of Revolution; an International History of Antislavery, c. 1787–1820 (Cambridge University Press, 2013). He specialises in the history of slavery and abolition in the Atlantic world (1750–1850). He is also interested in the American South and the history of black-white relations in the United States during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Hannah Young, University College London Hannah Young is a PhD student on the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project at UCL. She is particularly interested in female slave owners and relationships of power, gender and property.


Introduction Katie Donington, Ryan Hanley and Jessica Moody Introduction

No it isn’t easy to forget What we refuse to remember

Grace Nichols, ‘Taint,’ in I is a Long Memoried Woman (1983)

Slavery was a part of everyday life in Britain. While most British people never witnessed the scenes of brutal exploitation upon which the plantation system depended, almost all were implicated in it. The perception that it was only wealthy white male plantocrats who benefitted from slavery has enabled broad swathes of the public to reject any sense of themselves as implicated subjects. Falling back on hierarchies of suffering rooted in eighteenth-century pro-slavery discourse, some have responded to the idea that the nation benefitted from slavery by insisting that their families were ‘ordinary’ and therefore free from the taint of British involvement. The British state, and the nation as a whole, reaped the benefits from the duties collected on slave-produced colonial goods. From the upper echelons of the country house-owning elite, to the enterprising merchant classes, to poverty-stricken textile workers, slavery permeated throughout British society.1 The consumption of cheap slave-produced colonial commodities was widespread; as James Walvin describes, the produce of slave labour – coffee, tobacco and sugar – could be found in the paradigmatic public space 1 Madge Dresser and Andrew Hann (eds), Slavery and the British Country House (Swindon: English Heritage, 2013); Catherine Hall, Nicholas Draper, Keith McClelland, Katie Donington and Rachel Lang, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery of eighteenth-century Britain, the coffee house.2 When the formal abolition movement began to generate momentum after 1787, British people from all backgrounds, from every corner of the country, participated in that too. The popular imaginary may prioritise the work of a few ‘saints’ in its commemorations of the abolition campaigns, but without millions of signatories to their petitions, and thousands of lives lost across the Atlantic in slave uprisings, they would never have succeeded. The history of British slavery and its abolition is not exclusively the history of the wealthy and privileged any more than it is of the oppressed working classes. It is not ‘black history.’ It is everyone’s history. In Britain the collective history of slavery is a contested terrain; its racialised, classed, gendered and regionalised contours threaten the fragile bonds that give meaning to a unified and unifying vision of ‘Britishness.’ In order to satisfy the construction of a Britain that champions the liberal model of freedom, free trade, democracy and equality, slavery had to be forgotten and abolition remembered. Linda Colley comments on this irony: ‘From being the world’s greediest and most successful traders of slaves in the eighteenth century the British had shifted to being able to preen themselves on being the world’s foremost opponents of slavery.’ This, she argued, ‘revealed as much if not more about how the British thought about themselves.’3 That abolition continues to be a cornerstone of British national identity can be read in Prime Minister David Cameron’s 2014 iteration of ‘British values,’ which included a reminder that ‘this is the country that helped […] abolish slavery.’4 This view of Britain has its roots in early histories of abolition; Thomas Clarkson’s History in 1808 cast the movements squarely as national phenomena.5 His Whiggish nineteenthcentury successors linked anti-slavery activism to a love of liberty and justice supposedly inherent to all Britons. This characterisation required the suppression of both popular pro-slavery ideology and the similarly ‘national’ spread of investment in the slavery business.6 This tendency 2 James Walvin, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery (London: Harper Collins, 1992), pp. 3–5. 3 Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837 (London: Pimlico, 1994), p. 351. 4 David Cameron, ‘British Values,’ Daily Mail, 15 June 2014. government/news/british-values-article-by-david-cameron [accessed 23 July 2015]. 5 Thomas Clarkson, History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament (London: Longman et. al., 1808). 6 See John Oldfield, Chords of Freedom: Commemoration, Ritual and British Transatlantic Slavery (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007). For examples of this nineteenth-century tendency, see James Montgomery, Poems on the Abolition of the Slave Trade (London: R. Bowyer, 1809); Joseph Marryat, Thoughts on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and Civilization of Africa (London: J. M. Richardson, 1816); George William •


Introduction reached its nauseating apogee in 1869 with W. E. H. Lecky’s description of the ‘unweary, unostentatious, and inglorious crusade of England against slavery’ as ‘among the three or four perfectly virtuous acts recorded in the history of nations’ – an appraisal that has remained surprisingly tenacious in contemporary public discourse.7 This book has been written precisely at a time in which the whole project of ‘Britishness’ seems to have come under threat. The closely-contested results of two important referenda – on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom in 2014 and Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union in 2016 – emerged in the context of widespread anxiety over questions of national identity and belonging. Histories of colonialism and empire – and just who should take responsibility for them – are intimately bound up in such anxieties. For example, some Scottish nationalists have sought to present the country’s historic relationship with England unproblematically as that of colonised and coloniser – Scottish freedom in contrast with English tyranny. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin have offered a note of caution in relation to this positioning, suggesting that ‘[w] hilst it is possible to argue that these societies [Ireland, Scotland and Wales] were the first victims of English expansion, their subsequent complicity in the British imperial enterprise makes it difficult for colonized people outside of Britain to accept their identity as post-colonial.’8 While less work has been done on the involvement of Ireland and Wales in the slavery business, recent studies highlighting the centrality of the Scots to the running of empire confirms these assertions (see Michael Morris, Chapter Nine).9 The Alexander, Letters on the Slave-Trade, Slavery and Emancipation (London: Charles Gilpin, 1842); James Elmes, Thomas Clarkson: A Contribution towards the History of the Abolition of the Slave-Trade and Slavery (London: Blackader, 1854); William O. Blake, The History of Slavery and the Slave-Trade, Ancient and Modern (Columbus, OH: H. Miller, 1861). 7 W. E. H. Lecky, History of European Morals, from Augustus to Charlemagne, 3 vols. (New York: D. Appleton, 1869), vol. 1, p. 161. 8 Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (London: Routledge, 2002). 9 Christopher Evans, Slave Wales: The Welsh and Atlantic Slavery 1660–1850 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2013); Nini Rodgers, Ireland, Slavery and Antislavery, 1612–1865 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). The literature on Scotland is more extensive: T. M. Devine, The Tobacco Lords: A Study of the Tobacco Merchants of Glasgow and their Trading Activities, c. 1740–90 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1990); T. M. Devine, Scotland’s Empire: The Origins of a Global Diaspora (London: Penguin, 2012); T. M. Devine (ed.), Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past: The Caribbean Connection (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015); Michael Morris, Scotland the Caribbean 1740–1833: Atlantic Archipelagos (London: Routledge, 2015); Stephen Mullen, It Wisnae Us: The Truth about Glasgow and Slavery (Edinburgh: Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, 2009). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery over-representation of Scottish slave owners in the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership database demonstrates empirically the enthusiastic participation of Scots in the British imperial project. Indeed, it was noted at the time in the Jamaica Observer that should Scotland leave the United Kingdom, as an independent country it would have to be added to the list of governments from which the Caribbean would seek reparations.10 As popular nationalism, both Scottish and British, is strengthened in the wake of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, these questions remain both pertinent and contentious. The vexed issue of reparations continues to shape ideas about the history, memory and legacies of slavery in public discourse in both the Caribbean and Britain. Rooted in the pioneering historiographical work of C. L. R. James, Walter Rodney and Eric Williams, and drawing from recent economic analyses of slave owner compensation by Nicholas Draper, Hilary Beckles has set out the case for reparatory justice.11 In March 2014 the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) agreed on a ten-point reparations plan and indicated that it would pursue the European governments who participated in and benefitted from transatlantic slavery using diplomatic, and potentially legal, means. Beckles, as Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, has argued that rather than a horror confined to the past, slavery continues to impact on the lived experiences of the peoples of the Caribbean. He has written that the Memory of slavery in the Caribbean is no sporting matter. Nearly one hundred seventy years since general emancipation in the English-speaking sub-region, the immediacy of the recollection of slavery still angers many in the regional community. It also hinders movement toward ethnic reconciliation, and serves to sustain the identity consciousness that energizes the rapidly emerging reparations movement.12 10 Sir Ronald Sanders, ‘Scotland’s September 18 Referendum: Its Consequences,’ Jamaica Observer, 13 September 2014. 11 Hilary Beckles, Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide (Mona: University of the West Indies Press, 2012); Nicholas Draper, The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Caribbean Slavery (Cambridge University Press, 2010); C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (London: Secker and Warburg, 1938); Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (London: BogleL’Ouverture Publications, 1972); Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1944). 12 Hilary McD. Beckles, ‘Slavery Was a Long, Long Time Ago: Remembrance, Reconciliation and the Reparations Discourse in the Caribbean,’ [accessed 17 July 2015]. •


Introduction If Britain is haunted by the ghost of its slaving past, then the Caribbean lives with the visceral embodiment of a present shaped by its encounters with slavery and colonialism. A British Foreign Office spokesman responded to CARICOM’s move rejecting the case for reparations and adding that ‘We regret and condemn the iniquities of the historic slave trade, but these shameful activities belong to the past. Governments today cannot take responsibility for what happened over 200 years ago.’13 The asymmetrical memory of an institution that on the one hand consigns historic ‘shameful activities’ to the past yet on the other spends millions of pounds on commemorating the noble undertaking of abolition cannot be lost on the people of the Anglophone Caribbean. The spectre of slavery overshadowed then Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent visit to Jamaica in September 2015. With the debate surrounding reparations ignited once again by CARICOM, Cameron addressed the issue in a speech to the Jamaican parliament. He stated his hope that ‘as friends who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times, we can move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for their future.’14 As historian David Olusoga pointed out, ‘Those two words – “move on” … highlight the huge gulf that exists between Britain and her former Caribbean colonies when it comes to the issues of slavery and reparations.’15 For the people of the Caribbean, slavery constitutes the founding story of their nations – its history and memory is inescapable. The development of ‘big history’ datasets has revealed the astounding scale and pervasiveness of Britain’s national involvement in transatlantic slavery. The digitisation and, more recently, ‘crowd-sourcing’ nature of these databases has meant that the mapping of many archives, images and activities has opened up new global avenues of research for academic and public historians. The internet has made it possible for academic history to have a global reach; projects that focus on the digitisation of local and national archival material not only increase the accessibility of the records but also remind the user of the interconnections between the local, the national and the global. Alongside digitising historical archives of Britain’s investments in slavery and its abolition through, for example, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database and the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project, another 13 Quote taken from Owen Bowcott and Ian Cobain, ‘UK Firmly Resists Paying Reparations for Slave Trade Atrocities and Injustices,’ Guardian, 24 February 2014. 14 ‘Jamaica Must Move on from Painful Legacy of Slavery,’ Russia Today, 1 October 2015. [accessed 22 January 2016]. 15 ‘Why Has a Memorial to Slaves Quietly Been Dropped?,’ Guardian, 4 October 2015. [accessed 22 January 2016]. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery large dataset (the Antislavery Usable Past project) is currently being developed to archive and digitise materials related to British abolitionism and its commemoration from the late 1780s to the present. It is tempting, when confronted with these statistical topographies of slavery and abolition, to conceptualise such investments wholly within their national or transnational contexts. Indeed, looking outward from Britain tells us much about the global consequences of transatlantic slavery. However, while transnational history has risen in popularity, it has been accompanied by a surge of interest in regional and local studies, resulting in a greater awareness of the range of political and social experiences of those in provincial Britain.16 For most British people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, slavery was something primarily encountered within and understood through their local communities, networks and families. The quite specific nature of any given geographical area’s interactions with slavery and abolition necessarily impacted upon the ways in which they were viewed locally. Within both academia and public history, small-scale, in-depth analysis of particular areas has provided rich material for considering the impact of slavery, abolition and the historic black presence. In the wake of 2007, marking the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade, many local studies unearthed previously unknown connections resulting in a flurry of pamphlets, archive guides and walking tours.17 Concentrating on the ways in which the local interacts with the global, these studies challenge narrow and parochial ideas about identity, home and belonging by demonstrating the ways in which these places and their populations were shaped by the imperial world they inhabited. Within the overall picture of British slavery, therefore, it is possible to identify significant regional variations in the level and nature of proand anti-slavery rhetoric, culture and investment. By looking inward, and focusing on these small stories, we can begin to disinter how the larger historical contexts of empire, commerce and slavery impacted on people’s lives in real-world scenarios, and vice versa. Britain’s principal slaving ports of Bristol, Liverpool and London have all been the subject of significant bodies of work.18 In Bristol and Liverpool, local investment in the slave 16 See, for example, Katrina Navickas’s excellent history of radicalism and loyalism in Lancashire: Loyalism and Radicalism in Lancashire, 1789–1815 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). 17 For a list of local resources see [accessed 27 July 2015]. 18 Madge Dresser, Slavery Obscured: The Social History of the Slave Trade in Bristol (Bristol: Continuum, 2001); James A. Rawley, London: Metropolis of the Slave Trade (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2003); David Richardson, Suzanne •


Introduction trade contributed significantly to an extended period of economic prosperity during the eighteenth century and accounted for much of their hinterlands’ employment infrastructure.19 In London it also led to the development of financial and commercial structures which supported not only the slave trade but also lucrative businesses in slave-produced commodities. Seymour Drescher, Madge Dresser and others have demonstrated that popular antipathy towards abolition in Liverpool and Bristol (though less pronounced in the latter) was significantly higher than elsewhere in the country, partly as a consequence of the benefits they derived from slavery.20 As the contributions in the first half of this collection show, local interests impacted on how slavery and abolition were viewed all across the country, often in quite surprising ways. Geography was not the only type of locality to act as a filter through which British people viewed slavery. A recent resurgence of biographical works have used the individual as a lens through which to explore the wider issues that shaped involvement in both the slavery business and its dismantling.21 As Catherine Hall, Sheryllyne Haggerty, Ann Stott and others have suggested, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century networks of business, friendship and kin had significant impacts on how the business of slavery, and indeed the tasks of abolition, were undertaken.22 While Schwarz and Anthony Tibbles (eds), Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007). 19 Dresser, Slavery Obscured, pp. 96–128; Jane Longmore, ‘“Cemented by the Blood of a Negro”? The Impact of the Slave Trade on Eighteenth-Century Liverpool,’ in Richardson, Schwarz and Tibbles (eds), Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery, pp. 227–51. 20 Seymour Drescher, ‘The Slaving Capital of the World: Liverpool and National Opinion in the Age of Abolition,’ Slavery & Abolition, 9:2 (1998), pp. 128–43; Dresser, Slavery Obscured, pp. 129–231. See also Brian Howman, ‘Abolitionism in Liverpool,’ in Richardson, Schwarz and Tibbles (eds), Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery, pp. 277–96; Pip Jones, Satan’s Kingdom: Bristol and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Bristol: Past & Present Press, 2007), pp. 106–46. 21 See Trevor Burnard, Mastery, Tyranny and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and his Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Barry Higman, Proslavery Priest: The Atlantic World of John Lindsay 1729–1788 (Mona: University of the West Indies Press, 2011); Perry Gauci, William Beckford: First Prime Minister of the London Empire (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, (2013); David Lambert, Mastering the Niger: James MacQueen’s African Geography and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2013). 22 Catherine Hall, Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain (London: Yale University Press, 2012); Sheryllynne Haggerty, ‘Merely for Money’? Business Culture in the British Atlantic, 1750–1815 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012); Ann Stott, Wilberforce: Family and Friends (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). Numerous studies have demonstrated that the family formed one of the cornerstones of the •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery they were, by their very nature, bound to particular sites of production, transaction or resistance, these networks of influence were by no means always restricted to a given geographical area. Nevertheless, dynastic and emotional ties to a particular corner of Britain often led these ‘citizens of the world’ to claim peculiarly parochial personal identities.23 Thus while colonial commercial networks, regularly overlapping with familial and social ones, could comprise agents based in three or more continents, they might still be characterised as, for example, ‘Lancaster traders,’ or a ‘Glasgow family.’ Even in the very crucible of modern global capitalism, the worlds in which most British agents dealt with slavery had only small populations, subject to the vagaries of their own particular, interdependent historical contexts. Beyond the realms of business, there has been important new scholarship on the ways in which slavery altered the structure of the family both in the Caribbean and in Britain.24 The upsurge in popularity of family history has increased public interest and participation in genealogical work. Academic, popular and personal history recognise the continued power of the family to shape history and historical memory. Indeed, a key task of this book is to uncover these intimate worlds and interrogate the processes, ideologies and business of slavery. See, for example, Richard Pares, A West India Fortune (London: Longmans, 1950); Richard Pares, ‘A London West-India Merchant House, 1740–1769,’ in Richard Pares and A. J. P. Taylor (eds), Essays Presented to Sir Lewis Namier (London: Macmillan, 1956), pp. 75–107; S. G. Checkland, The Gladstones: A Family Biography 1764–1851 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971); Simon D. Smith, Slavery, Family and Gentry Capitalism in the British Atlantic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Katie Donington, ‘Transforming Capital: Slavery, Family, Commerce and the Making of the Hibbert Family,’ in Catherine Hall, Nicholas Draper, Keith McClelland, Katie Donington and Rachel Lang, The Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 203–49. 23 The imperial networks created by family, marriage and commerce have been explored in Sarah Pearsall, Atlantic Families: Lives and letters in the Later Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); Emma Rothschild, The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011). See also Esme Cleall, Laura Ishiguro and Emily J. Manktelow, ‘Imperial Relations: Histories of Family in the British Empire,’ Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 14:1 (2013), n. pag. 24 Daniel Livesay, ‘Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Migration from the West Indies to Britain, 1750–1820,’ PhD thesis, University of Michigan, 2010; Jenny Jemmot, The Ties that Bind: The Black Family in Post Slavery Jamaica, 1834–1882 (Mona: University of the West Indies Press, 2015); Lucille Mathurin, A Historical Study of Women in Jamaica from 1655 to 1844 (Mona: University of the West Indies, 2006); Andrea Stuart, Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire (London: Portobello Books, 2012). •


Introduction objectives that bound them together and plugged them into markets and movements that spanned the globe.

Britain’s Memory of Slavery – a ‘Forgotten’ History? Alongside this renewed attention to the scholarly study of Britain’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, slavery and its legacies, has emerged a keen interest, and indeed public concern, over the ‘memory’ of this difficult history. How slavery figures (or not) in museums and public history, the school curriculum, public monuments, local and national narratives, and public consciousness more broadly remains a contentious issue. This can be read in the Labour government’s decision post-2007 to include the topic as a compulsory part of the national curriculum, followed by its subsequent removal by the coalition government under Conservative Education Secretary Michael Gove. Relegated to a non-statutory requirement, it can no longer be guaranteed that young people will gain any knowledge of this history. Even more overtly, in UKIP’s (the United Kingdom Independence Party) manifesto of 2010, ‘Restoring Britishness,’ slavery was isolated as an ‘issue which has been deliberately used to undermine Britishness.’25 It went on to call for the British Empire to be taught and celebrated for ‘its achievements in terms of democracy, law, freedoms and trade.’ The obvious question to ask of these claims is, whose freedoms? In arguing that ‘UK citizens must learn a common history and draw from a unified heritage,’ the UKIP manifesto ignored that British history and heritage is also a global history and heritage. It is part of a shared (if unequal) imperial experience, the history and memory of which is necessarily shaped by the individual’s position within the relationship of colonised and coloniser. More commonly, however, concern over the representation of transatlantic slavery in Britain is articulated as an ‘amnesia,’ a ‘forgetting,’ or something ‘buried’; as something which regularly requires uncovering at periodic intervals.26 Forgetting, in the context of public memory, however, is not a passive act. As Guyanese poet Grace Nichols suggests, it is a process which takes constant and vigilant work. Catherine Hall has described this as an act of ‘[d]isavowal and distantiation.’ These practices of psychological 25 UKIP Policy Statement, ‘Restoring Britishness: A Cultural Policy for an Independent Britain’ (January 2010). 26 The BBC Two documentary produced in 2015 in collaboration with UCL’s Legacies of British Slavery project team was titled ‘Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners,’ and an article by the presenter of this programme used the language of ‘burial’: David Olusoga, ‘The History of British Slave Ownership Has Been Buried: Now its Scale Can Be Revealed,’ Guardian, 12 July 2015. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery disassociation, she argues, have ‘been the crucial mechanisms facilitating avoidance and evasion’; ‘it didn’t happen here,’ it is ‘not our responsibility.’27 Because British slavery happened, in large part, on the plantations of the Caribbean, geographic distance has enabled a distancing of the mind. Further, the ‘forgetting’ of Britain’s immense role in transatlantic slavery – and the obscuring of this segment of the ‘national story’ for the best part of 200 years has relied on a great deal of mythologising about slavery itself, and in particular a ‘re-framing’ of the history of transatlantic slavery through the more morally comforting narrative of abolition. John Oldfield has highlighted the dominance of what he terms a ‘culture of abolitionism’ in Britain, which has displaced memories of slavery with those of abolition and emancipation.28 Marcus Wood has more vehemently termed the iconography produced within Emancipation processes as a ‘spasmodic white ejection’ – creating a mythology of abolition which obscures knowledge of transatlantic slavery.29 Perhaps, then, ‘forgetting’ is the wrong word. Commemorations, narratives and other public past-to-present relationships perhaps more fittingly constitute an ‘organised forgetting,’ or an ‘un-remembering’ of particular aspects of history.30 There is a history to the public memory of slavery in Britain, but it is fragmented, warped and partial, shaped by successive efforts to foreground abolition as a key facet of national identity construction, especially in relation to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century imperial aims and ambitions – where the ‘anti-slavery mission’ drove empire further into the African continent.31 Some aspects of Britain’s involvement in transatlantic slavery have, therefore, been very well ‘remembered’ at a national level. This pattern has been reflected in museological history too, where, from the beginning of the twentieth century until the early 1990s, the only permanent museum representation of transatlantic slavery was at Wilberforce House, Hull (the birthplace of William Wilberforce), which necessarily focused on the life and political 27 Catherine Hall, ‘Gendering Property, Racing Capital,’ History Workshop Journal, 78 (2014), p. 3. 28 John. R. Oldfield, ‘Chords of Freedom’: Commemoration, Ritual and British Transatlantic Slavery (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007). 29 Marcus Wood, Blind Memory: Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America, 1780–1865 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), p. 8. 30 Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 14; Sinfree Makoni, ‘African Languages as European Scripts: The Shaping of Communal Memory,’ in Sarah Nuttal and Carli Coetzee (eds), Negotiating the Past: The Making of Meaning in South Africa (Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 242–48. 31 See Richard Huzzey, Freedom Burning: Anti-Slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012). •


Introduction career of the famous abolitionist. Material concerning the history of slavery more broadly was not added until the 1980s.32 However, later twentiethcentury demographic changes (namely West African and Caribbean immigration and settlement) and cultural shifts from around the 1970s onwards disrupted this picture dramatically. The subsequent foregrounding of Britain’s entanglements with slavery owe much to the social politics of 1970s and 1980s anti-racist and black activism alongside accompanying research and revisionist histories of race, gender, colonialism and the black British presence. This shift reflected a keen awareness of the need for critical re-engagement with ‘whitewashed’ histories of empire, including, at their tortured heart, transatlantic slavery. However, as Stuart Hall has noted, such shifts also embodied a particular ‘politics of representation.’ It was not only the absence (or ‘forgetting’) of particular black experiences in British national memory that was the issue; it was their representation, simplification, stereotypical portrayal – their absence of nuance.33 It was against this background, as well as a decade of particularly pronounced racial tensions (especially riots in London, Bristol and Liverpool in the 1980s) that the first exhibitions which focused on transatlantic slavery, but did not have ‘Wilberforce’ in their titles, opened in Britain. In 1994, the Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity gallery opened in the basement of the Merseyside Maritime Museum, in Liverpool’s Albert Dock. Bristol had a number of exhibitions and events exploring the city’s involvement in transatlantic slavery between 1997 and 2000, including an exhibition in the Georgian House in Great George Street and a series of events and exhibitions in the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery in 1999 called A Respectable Trade? 34 The city’s Industrial Museum also developed content related to local trade linked to transatlantic slavery.35 After several decades of silence on the matter, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich opened its Trade and Empire gallery in 1999, amidst controversy over the disruption this caused to the museum’s overall narrative of British maritime identity.36 Smaller slave ports also played a role. Lancaster’s 32 Exhibitions also appeared in Wisbech Museum, Norfolk, to celebrate ‘local’ abolitionist Thomas Clarkson. See Chapter Five of Oldfield, Chords of Freedom. 33 Stuart Hall, quoted in Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace, The British Slave Trade and Public Memory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), pp. 11–12. 34 John G. Beech, ‘The Marketing of Slavery Heritage in the United Kingdom,’ in G. M. Dann and A. V. Seaton (eds), Slavery, Contested Heritage, and Thanatourism (New York: Haworth Hospitality Press, 2001), pp. 85–105. 35 Oldfield, Chords of Freedom, p. 122. 36 See Douglas Hamilton, ‘Representing Slavery in British Museums: The Challenges of 2007,’ in John Oldfield and Cora Kaplan (eds), Imagining Transatlantic Slavery and Abolition (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010), pp. 127–44. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery modest permanent exhibition, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery in the city museum focused on the involvement of, and impact on, the port and city.37 However, exhibitions at this time were largely restricted to former slave ports or coastal locations – foregrounding what John Beech has argued constituted a maritimising of Britain and transatlantic slavery.38 In addition to museological representations, some of which dealt with national assessments of Britain and transatlantic slavery and some (Bristol and Lancaster) which chose to focus on more local connections, a host of other activities and ‘memory work’ emerged towards the turn of the millennium, including walking tours and historical trails in Bristol and Liverpool, leaflets, books and educational initiatives. In 1999, Liverpool city council officially ‘apologised’ for its role in the transatlantic slave trade, and the city annually marks Slavery Remembrance Day on 23 August, to coincide with the anniversary of the Haitian Revolution. In a pattern mirroring museological development, public memorials commemorated abolitionists rather than the enslaved until the latter part of the twentieth century. While numerous monuments erected to honour the likes of William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson have stood proudly in civic centres and national memorial sites, it wasn’t until ‘Pero’s Bridge’ in Bristol (1999), the ‘Captured Africans’ memorial in Lancaster (2005)39 and the ‘Gilt of Cain’ monument in London (2008) that the subject of memorialisation diversified. Much of the academic scholarship on ‘memory work’ from the 1990s and into the new millennium has focused on the content of museum exhibitions themselves, alongside contemporary developments in ‘new museology,’ postmodern developments in representation and display, and the ‘experiential turn’ in heritage seen in the development of a number of heritage sites which drew on reconstruction and performance.40 Such sites became the focus of debates over the representation of the past, and work on Britain’s ‘slavery heritage’ in part reflected some of this debate.41 Elizabeth 37 Beech, ‘The Marketing of Slavery Heritage,’ p. 98. 38 Beech, ‘The Marketing of Slavery Heritage,’ p. 103; see also Chapter Seven of this volume. 39 The ‘Captured Africans’ memorial was designed by Manchester-based artist Kevin Dalton-Johnson as part of the Slave Trade Arts Memorial Project (STAMP). See Alan Rice, ‘Naming the Money and Unveiling the Crime: Contemporary British Artists and the Memorialization of Slavery,’ Patterns of Prejudice, 41:3–4 (2007); Alan J. Rice, Creating Memorials, Building Identities : The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010), Chapter Two. 40 Peter Vergo (ed.), The New Museology (London: Reaktion, 1989); Kevin Walsh, The Representation of the Past: Museums and Heritage in the Post-Modern World (London: Routledge, 1992). 41 See Dann and Seaton, Slavery, Contested Heritage, and Thanatourism. •


Introduction Kowaleski-Wallace’s monograph The British Slave Trade and Public Memory dealt in part with museological representations of slavery alongside literature and broader cultural sources, yet positioned these developments in relation to ‘Millennial reckonings.’ This reflected their timing alongside the publication of significant reports into race relations, such as the 1999 MacPherson Report on the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence; and the Parekh report into the ‘future of multi-ethnic Britain,’ in 2000.42 Other scholarship that touched on Britain’s memory of slavery around this time largely drew on the experiences of those involved in developing exhibitions.43 The national marking of 2007, the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade, represented – in part – a departure from this earlier pattern of representation. The availability of finance for projects and exhibitions through the Heritage Lottery Fund and substantial governmental backing from the Labour government meant that a great wealth of institutions and heritage organisations could host exhibitions which connected their locales to the history of transatlantic slavery and its abolition. This meant that, significantly, representations of slavery appeared, not only in former slaving ports,44 or places associated with famous abolitionists,45 but also in places not previously publically associated with this history, from the coastal locales of Swansea and Plymouth to land-locked galleries in Wolverhampton and Hitchin. The bicentenary was a contested moment in national public discourse. The engagement of museums with this history was largely ‘anxious and ambiguous’ in part because of its contentious nature, and associated issues of race and racism, but also because of concern over what role museums could, or indeed should, play in relation to ‘established narratives of national identity.’46 The bicentenary was criticised by some groups for a focus on 42 Kowaleski-Wallace, The British Slave Trade and Public Memory. 43 Lonnie Bunch, ‘The Challenge of Remembering Slavery,’ in Anthony Tibbles (ed.), Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity, 2nd ed. (Liverpool: National Museums Liverpool/Liverpool University Press, 2005), pp. 125–30; Anthony Tibbles, ‘Interpreting Transatlantic Slavery: The Role of Museums,’ in Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity, pp. 131–40. 44 Some notable permanent exhibits were launched this year, including the at International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, London, Sugar, Slavery at the Museum of London Docklands and a new permanent gallery in the National Maritime Museum. 45 Wilberforce House, Hull, launched a redesigned exhibition in this year. 46 Geoffrey Cubitt, Laurajane Smith and Ross Wilson, ‘Introduction: Anxiety and Ambiguity in the Representation of Dissonant History,’ in Laurajane Smith, Geoffrey Cubitt, Ross Wilson and Kalliopi Fouseki (eds), Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums: Ambiguous Engagements (New York: Routledge, 2011), p. 1. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery white abolitionists – a ‘Wilberfest’47 – though other commentators saw a greater diversity of abolitionists ‘celebrated’: figures such as Hannah More and Olaudah Equiano featured in exhibitions frequently. There was also a greater sense of diversity more generally, which reflected the contexts, demographics and histories of individual cities, towns and villages. In large part, as Geoffrey Cubitt has suggested, smaller exhibitions sought ways to make meaning through local connections as a way of ‘bringing home’ this transatlantic history.48 Much academic scholarship has emerged in the aftermath of 2007 which has looked critically at the processes and experiences of marking the bicentenary.49 This has focused predominantly on issues faced by museums and patterns of representation, themes and omissions within exhibitions themselves.50 However, there has been some notable commentary on broader public discourse, media and political rhetoric.51 The bicentenary – conflicted, contradictory and ‘ambiguous’ though it may have been – has had some notable impacts. National heritage organisations were prompted to look again at the interpretation of their sites, including a renewed focus on country houses – places which had largely remained absent 47 Term used by Toyin Agbetu, an African British activist and founder of Ligali, a Pan-African organisation. Philippe Vervaecke, ‘“Wilberfest” No More? The Memory of Slavery and Anti-Slavery in Britain 1833–2007,’ in Cecile Coquet-Mokoko and Trevor Harris (eds), Crafting Identities, Re-Mapping Nationalities: The English-Speaking World in the Age of Globalization (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012), p. 1. 48 Geoffrey Cubitt, ‘Bringing it Home: Making Local Meaning in 2007 Bicentenary Exhibitions,’ Slavery & Abolition, 30:2 (2009), pp. 259–75. 49 See special issues of Museums & Society, 8:3 (2010); History Workshop Journal, 64:1 (2007); Slavery & Abolition, 30:2 (2009). 50 In addition to the above, see Marcus Wood, ‘Significant Silence: Where Was Slave Agency in the Popular Imagery of 2007?,’ in Cora Kaplan and John Oldfield (eds), Imagining Transatlantic Slavery (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 162–90; Anthony Tibbles, ‘Facing Slavery’s Past: The Bicentenary of the Abolition of the British Slave Trade,’ Slavery and Abolition, 29:2 (2008), pp. 293–303; James Walvin, ‘What Should We Do about Slavery? Slavery, Abolition and Public History,’ in Iain McCalman and Paul A. Pickering (eds), Historical Reenactment: From Realism to the Affective Turn (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 63–78. 51 Marcus Wood, The Horrible Gift of Freedom: Atlantic Slavery and the Representation of Emancipation (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2010); Emma Waterton and Ross Wilson, ‘Talking the Talk: Policy, Popular and Media Responses to the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Using the “Abolition Discourse,”’ Discourse & Society, 20:3 (2009), pp. 381–99; Ross Wilson, ‘Remembering to Forget? The BBC Abolition Season and Media Memory of Britain’s Transatlantic Slave Trade,’ Historical Journal of Film, 28:3 (2008), pp. 391–403. •


Introduction from the story of transatlantic slavery and its legacies.52 Two of the most significant impacts of 2007, however, were in local history and in considerations of ‘memory.’ Archives have been scoured for links to abolitionists but also, less predictably, to the enslaved and their descendants, to slave traders and plantation owners, and to local trade and industry, which have re-figured the narratives of place in some areas. The second major impact was on the public debate the bicentenary initiated over the representation of slavery in the public sphere, the sensitivities necessarily touched upon by the public history of slavery and the ways in which slavery is ‘imagined.’53 Both of these facets, through the multiple local-level projects and activities initiated by the bicentenary, have revived an interest in the local history and memory of slavery, scholarship around which can significantly advance our understanding of Britain and transatlantic slavery more broadly. There is also potential in this new work to shift the focus of the scholarly study of Britain’s memory of slavery, away from analysing the more overt ‘memory-work’ of the later twentieth and early twentyfirst centuries (museums, memorials and art specifically about slavery), to a more critical focus on processes of ‘forgetting.’ The study of absence, omissions or collective ‘amnesia’ can be critically interrogated to forge a better understanding of how memories of slavery are ‘organised’ in relation to cultural shifts, local politics and civic identity narratives. Work has already begun to touch critically on ‘forgetting’ through taking a longer historical view, such as John Oldfield’s and Madge Dresser’s work on the historical commemoration of abolition in Hull and Bristol respectively.54 Alan Rice, meanwhile, has shed light on Lancaster’s ‘amnesiac’ memory of slavery through its narratives of civic identity.55 More focused studies draw out the nuances of memory in local context, at points challenging broader national generalisations and aiding a deeper understanding of remembering and forgetting in context.

52 English Heritage funded new research into a number of properties which resulted in a publication: Dresser and Hann (eds), Slavery and the British Country House. 53 See Cora Kaplan and John Oldfield, ‘Introduction,’ in Cora Kaplan and John Oldfield (eds), Imagining Transatlantic Slavery (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). 54 Madge Dresser has compared the anniversaries in 1907 and 2007 in Bristol. See Oldfield, Chords of Freedom; Madge Dresser, ‘Remembering Slavery and Abolition in Bristol,’ Slavery & Abolition, 30:2 (2009), pp. 223–46. 55 Rice, Creating Memorials. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Structure, Content and Approach It is out of these specific academic and public history contexts and developments that this book emerged. New research into the history and memory of Britain’s involvement in transatlantic slavery has changed the ways in which the local, national and global stories of enslavement and abolition are represented, disseminated and consumed. The authors have focused on methodologies and sources which analyse places, people, families, networks, representations and narratives in their ‘local’ context. The following chapters demonstrate that both the history and memory of Britain and transatlantic slavery must be considered together in order to forge meaningful understandings of the past, and indeed the present. Part One presents new research into individuals, places, families and networks of the history of Britain and slavery. Brycchan Carey recovers a forgotten local history of slavery: how widespread plantation-ownership changed the course of the British abolition movement in Cornwall and the Channel Islands during the eighteenth century. In doing so, he reveals slavery’s rural connections, challenging the notion that slave ownership only affected metropolitan centres. Ryan Hanley traces the experiences of John Jea, an African Methodist preacher, as he travelled through Liverpool and Portsmouth during the years bracketing the passing of the abolition of the slave trade. The content and style of Jea’s anti-slavery preaching, Hanley argues, was fundamentally influenced in both towns by local religious and political influences on popular attitudes to slavery. Jane Longmore argues for a fresh assessment of the balance between slave trading and other mercantile activities in late eighteenth-century Liverpool, through an examination of the life of Thomas Staniforth, a prominent member of the shadowy community of Liverpool slave traders. In doing so, she explores aspects of the troubled relationship between history and popular memory in Liverpool. Hannah Young offers new perspectives on the gendered history and memory of plantation-ownership and management through an intimate examination of Jamaica proprietress Anna Eliza Elletson’s relationship with her overseers and attorneys. In the concluding chapter of Part One, Chris Jeppesen argues that the archival and historiographical separation of empire into discrete geographical areas has impacted on the ways in which we understand and represent trans-imperial histories. Through an examination of the connections between and within West and East India families, he uncovers the local, national and global networks that structured commerce and colonisation at the turn of the eighteenth century. Part Two presents a critical engagement with the ways in which memory interacts with local identities and histories. Importantly, it reflects on the ways in which this history has been disseminated within the public sphere. •


Introduction Catherine Hall considers the power of history writing as ‘memory’ in relation to the ways in which the pro-slavery lobby shaped ideas about race, nation and empire through a detailed case study of the slave-owner and historian of Jamaica, Edward Long. Building on her recent work on Frederick Marryat and Charles Kingsley, she argues that the echoes of pro-slavery racial rhetoric continue to inform ideas of race in the present. Jessica Moody complicates and challenges John Beech’s argument that Britain’s memory of slavery has been ‘maritimised’ by deconstructing the place of slavery within Liverpool’s narratives of maritime identity in public discourse, arguing that ‘maritimising’ slavery is a process bound up in the city’s construction of its own collective identity. She looks beyond the museum space of the 1990s and 2000s, so often the focus of work on slavery and memory, and considers the contested relationship of a constructed maritime ‘heritage’ and the history of slavery across a longue durée. Katie Donington’s chapter uses the project Local Roots/ Global Routes (2013–2015) as a local lens to explore the multifaceted links to slavery found in Hackney. In doing so she reflects critically on the ways in which this project challenged local narratives of identity created and sustained by historic and contemporary identifications with radicalism, religious dissent and abolitionism. Michael Morris considers recent Scottish efforts to recover/ remember connections to slavery. He interrogates Glaswegian memories of slavery, against local and indeed evolving ‘national’ identity narratives, which shape and distort history and memory. Part Two ends with Leanne Munroe’s chapter, which takes a closer look at the memory of abolition in Olney, Buckinghamshire, through the local identity narratives constructed in the town around John Newton, one of its better-known inhabitants. Like Moody, Munroe also engages with historical narratives of place, people and identity to contextualise more recent memory work. Taken together, the contributions in this collection develop the process of heterogenising and diversifying our understanding of Britain’s continuing relationship with transatlantic slavery. The history of this involvement is intimately intertwined with its memory. We cannot meaningfully understand the historical processes associated with a history so bound up in moral battles, argument and identity, mythology, pain, shame and guilt, without embracing the notion that processes of remembering and forgetting are central to that understanding. Processes of ‘history’ (both lived and written) and ‘memory’ (both ‘remembered’ and ‘forgotten’), so often only arbitrarily different sides of the same cultural coin, forged dominant understandings of Britain and slavery which, in recent years, have become increasingly contested. The historical and memorial centre stage, too long occupied by (predominantly) white, male abolitionists, has been disrupted. Narratives of large-scale, transnational economics and national identity narratives, forged through active memory work and selective constructions of the •


past, have been significantly complicated by ‘local’ analysis of both history and memory. The structure and content of this book foreground this ‘intertwining’ of history and memory, focusing on the small-scale specifics of place and people in ways that challenge the ‘national’ narrative of Britain’s relationship with transatlantic slavery. In this way, this book ‘nuances’ our understanding of Britain and slavery by interrogating complex, contradictory and locally contextualised narratives of a so-called ‘national sin.’

Part I Little Britain’s History of Slavery

1 From Guinea to Guernsey and Cornwall to the Caribbean Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel Brycchan Carey Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel On a cold winter day in 1755, an enslaved African child caught his first glimpse of the country that would ultimately become his home. Writing 30 years later, he recalled being ‘very much struck with the buildings and the pavement of the streets in Falmouth’ as well as with a fall of snow, unusual in the mild maritime climate of Cornwall where Falmouth is a major port. He stayed a few weeks in Falmouth, where he first experienced a desire to learn to read, before being sent 200 km across the English Channel to the island of Guernsey. He spent the summer there and, having attempted to wash the blackness from his skin to more closely resemble the white people he was now among, he learned about and ‘began to be mortified at the difference in our complexions.’1 The young Olaudah Equiano’s introduction to the British Isles was not, as one might have guessed, via the west coast slave-trading ports of Liverpool, Lancaster or Bristol, nor did he go directly to London. Instead, he entered Britain via the English Channel and came ashore at some of the country’s most remote locations, considered from the perspective of a journey by land. Equiano’s experience can hardly have been unique. It has been suggested that 3 per cent of Britain’s seamen in the late eighteenth century were of African origin or descent, whether enslaved or free.2 Many of them may have come ashore at Britain’s busy Channel ports, including those in Cornwall and the Channel Islands and, given their geographic location, one might assume 1 Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or, Gustavus Vassa, The African (1789), 9th ed. (London, 1794) in The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, ed. Vincent Carretta, rev. ed. (London: Penguin, 2003), pp. 67, 69. 2 See, for example, Ray Costello, Black Salt: Seafarers of African Descent on British Ships (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012), pp. 32–33. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery that these places were involved in slave trading as well. Both lie where the English Channel meets the Atlantic. The Channel Islands, although British Crown Dependencies, are geographically a part of France, around 150 km south of the British mainland, but just 15 km from the coast of Normandy at the closest point. Although today Jersey is often considered the main island, in the eighteenth century, Guernsey and its capital St Peter Port were more economically developed. Across the English Channel, Cornwall is both the most southerly and the most westerly English county. Cornwall was predominantly Celtic-speaking well into the sixteenth century, while Guernsey and Jersey had many French-speaking until the German occupation of the 1940s. Although Cornwall was incorporated into England in the Anglo-Saxon period, Guernsey and Jersey remain bailiwicks under the authority of a bailiff and with independent parliaments called the States of Guernsey and of Jersey. In the eighteenth century, the two were linked by strong, if illegal, economic interests since Guernsey in particular was the principal entrepôt supplying illicit tobacco, brandy and tea to the fabled smugglers of Cornwall. Both regions today maintain a strong sense of local identity at least partly marked by an assertion of difference from other parts of the British Isles; the Channel Islands have remained politically independent from the United Kingdom, while a sizeable minority of Cornish residents demand devolution or even independence. At the same time, both regions are today relatively less racially and culturally diverse than many other parts of the United Kingdom. While current politics are not a simple reflection of the situation in the central era of British slavery between 1660 and 1838, the sense of distinctiveness has a long history that predates the modern period and which is reflected in both cases in a rich local historiography.3 These special claims to distinctiveness lead us to ask if their experience of slavery was any different from the rest of the British Isles. Indeed, in both locations, popular sentiment and popular historiography have long held that slave trading was a marginal or non-existent activity and that local people were either uninvolved or actively opposed to both slavery and the slave trade. The reality is somewhat less glorious. This chapter synthesises evidence from a wide range of primary and secondary sources to argue that Cornwall and the Channel Islands, the island of Guernsey in particular, were not innocent bystanders, remote from the centres of trade and power, but were instead as fully involved in the slave economy as any other part of the British Isles. 3 The most reliable recent history of Guernsey is James Marr, The History of Guernsey: The Bailiwick’s Story, 2nd ed. (St Peter Port: The Guernsey Press, 2001). Good recent histories of Cornwall include Bernard Deacon, Cornwall: A Concise History (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007) and Philip Payton, Cornwall: A History, 2nd ed. (Fowey: Cornwall Editions, 2004). •


Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel

Forgetfulness Given their strategic location at the entrance to the English Channel, their long maritime traditions and their cultures of local tradition and historiography, one might imagine that the involvement of Cornwall and the Channel Islands in the slave trade would have been explored in considerable detail by historians. This is very far from being the case. The earliest mention of slavery in a Channel Islands history is in Thomas Dicey’s eclectic Historical Account of Guernsey (1751), which notes that ‘several rich Ships from Jersey, have of late Years, been employed in the Guiney Trade; and it is much to be wished that so beneficial a Branch of Commerce may meet with every desired Success.’4 Later historians expressed horror at this possibility. In his 1841 History of Guernsey, Jonathan Duncan expressed the view that ‘we would fain hope, for the credit of the sister island, that the present enterprising and estimable natives would shrink with horror from such a traffic, and that the Guiney trade above mentioned was not the heinous slave trade.’5 This is either naïve or disingenuous since the phrase ‘Guiney trade’ was hardly ambiguous, either in 1751 or in 1841, but Duncan does not merely stand up for the ‘sister island’: he exonerates Guernsey altogether. In a long discussion of smuggling in the eighteenth century, he notes that, although Guernsey certainly did take part in what he calls ‘the fair trade,’ this ‘has now passed away.’ Moreover, he asks English readers to recall what nation it is which introduces opium into China, which encourages smuggling from Gibraltar into Spain, and from Jamaica into the Spanish main – above all, let him bear in mind that, unlike London, Liverpool, and other English ports, Guernsey never participated in the inhuman slave trade, nurtured with the tears, and crimsoned with the blood, of Africa – a trade compared to which smuggling is innocency itself.6

These are grand words, rather self-satisfied, but also inconsistent. Having castigated the English, Duncan later comes to their defence in his biography of Sir John Jeremie, the Guernseyman who as a colonial judge had opposed slavery in St Lucia and Mauritius, had written the abolitionist Four Essays on Colonial Slavery in 1831 and who at the time of writing was the Governor of Sierra Leone. In Duncan’s view, the Four Essays, ‘which contained the results 4 Thomas Dicey, An Historical Account of Guernsey (London: John Newbery, 1751), pp. 182–83. 5 Jonathan Duncan, The History of Guernsey; With Occasional Notices of Jersey, Alderney, and Sark, and Biographical Sketches (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1841), p. 259n. 6 Duncan, History of Guernsey, p. 259. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery of personal experience, honestly and fearlessly declared, produced a great sensation on the public mind, and, doubtless, contributed in no unimportant degree to promote that great measure of emancipation which has shed an imperishable lustre on the name of England.’7 Duncan congratulates Guernsey for the part it played in bringing about this virtuous act, while arguing that, unlike England, Guernsey was not involved in the first place. Few twentieth-century histories of the Channel Islands pay slavery any attention. One exception is A. G. Jamieson’s A People of the Sea: The Maritime History of the Channel Islands (1986), which reveals that Channel Island privateers took as prizes French ships engaged in both the inward and outward passages of the triangular trade. ‘One prize,’ notes Jamieson, ‘was a slaver, the Enterprize of Nantes (110 tons) taken 3 leagues from the Ile d’Yeu by the Jersey privateer Dragon on 17 July 1781 when bound from Lorient to Guinea in West Africa with a cargo of brandy, bale goods and firearms.’8 Another exception is Gregory Stevens Cox’s 1999 history of Guernsey’s principal town, St Peter Port. In this, Stevens Cox demonstrated that Guernsey was ‘one of the principal commercial entrepôts in the Atlantic system.’9 Many of the goods that were the source of Guernsey’s prosperity in the eighteenth century, including tobacco, rum, indigo and sugar, were produced with slave labour, making Guernsey an indirect beneficiary of the slave trade. Stevens Cox further noted that, in the 1740s, ‘some St Peter Port Merchants participated in the notorious “triangular trade”.’ His evidence, derived from the records of Guernsey’s Cour d’Amirauté, shows that in 1740, James Seaborn, master of the Charles, was sued by its owner, Charles Mauger, for final returns on a voyage that the ship had made to the coast of Guinea. Two years later, in 1742, ‘Thomas Ebsworthy, master of the Anne Galley,’ was sued by its owner, Pierre Dobrée, who accused him of misappropriating the money from the sale of eight slaves in Barbados. The court records show that these eight were among 241 who had originally been purchased in Africa. Nevertheless, Stevens Cox treats these as isolated instances, arguing that it is ‘difficult to assess the extent to which Guernsey merchants were involved in the trade’ and, in any case, that there ‘is little evidence of Guernsey merchants participating in the slave trade after c. 1750.’10 Thus the final years of the twentieth century saw the first hints in 7 Duncan, History of Guernsey, p. 643. 8 A. G. Jamieson, ‘The Return to Privateering: Channel Island Privateers, 1739–83’, in A. G. Jamieson (ed.), A People of the Sea: The Maritime History of the Channel Islands (London: Methuen, 1986), p. 169. 9 Gregory Stevens Cox, St Peter Port 1680–1830: The History of an International Entrepôt (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1999), p. 23. 10 Stevens Cox, St Peter Port, pp. 27–28. •


Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel print that the Channel Islands’ relationship with the slave trade may have been less innocent than had long been supposed. Historians of Cornwall have taken even less interest in the county’s involvement in slavery; indeed, a bibliography of histories of the county that mention neither slavery nor the slave trade would essentially amount to a complete historiography. This is perhaps understandable in earlier histories, but the omission in recent and generally excellent works by Philip Payton and Bernard Deacon is puzzling, although both studies are in general stronger on terrestrial than maritime industry. Moreover, although there are several mentions of tropical produce, mostly smuggled via Guernsey, in the important and scholarly Maritime History of Cornwall, published in 2014, the only discussion of slavery concerns the early seventeenth-century kidnapping of Cornish men and women by Turkish pirates.11 While this was a real and serious problem, it was by no means Cornwall’s only experience of slave trading. If the historiography has little to say on the question of Cornish involvement in slavery, however, there is a surprising echo in the oral tradition. It is often said in Cornwall that Cornish people do not take sugar in their tea in memory of the protest against slavery. For example, in an article on the BBC Cornwall website in 2007 to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the outlawing of the British slave trade, Julyan Drew, the Methodist Minister for Newlyn, noted that ‘the Methodist Church was and still is very strong in Cornwall. It was almost the established church here. Most of us who were reared here, were taught not to have sugar in our tea because Mr Wesley said that we shouldn’t as a protest against the slave trade.’12 John Wesley had witnessed slavery first-hand when he was in South Carolina in the 1730s, and later, in 1774, he issued a 53-page pamphlet called Thoughts upon Slavery which was reprinted several times and would no doubt have been known to many Cornish Methodist preachers who could have used it as the basis of anti-slavery sermons.13 Even if Wesley promoted abolitionist ideas, however, he was not the instigator of the sugar boycott, which largely came about in the summer of 1791 – three months after Wesley died. Although proverbial 11 Philip Payton, Alston Kennerley and Helen Doe (eds), The Maritime History of Cornwall (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2014), pp. 83–84, 100. For smuggling with Guernsey, see especially pp. 196–97. 12 Julyan Drew, ‘No Sugar for Me’, BBC Local – Cornwall, 22 July 2007, http://www. [accessed 10 August 2015]. 13 John Wesley, Thoughts upon Slavery (London: R. Hawes, 1774). For discussion of Wesley’s anti-slavery writing and activities, see Brycchan Carey, British Abolitionism and the Rhetoric of Sensibility: Writing, Sentiment, and Slavery, 1760–1807 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 147–51. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery in Cornwall, the idea that the Cornish refuse sugar because of Wesley’s abolitionism probably has little basis in fact.

Slavery in the Western Channel Although historians of Cornwall and the Channel Islands have taken little interest, there are in fact many clues to the existence of slave trading in the region and recent advances in digital technologies make it easier than ever to locate them. Likewise, there are many references to both willing and unwilling African visitors to the region. In 2007, for example, La Société Jersiaise collected a number of newspaper reports and other pieces of evidence, mostly from the nineteenth century, and mostly involving black preachers, which testify to the existence of a black presence in Jersey for many years.14 The most celebrated black visitor to eighteenth-century Jersey was Pompey, the personal servant to Major Francis Pierson, and the central figure in what is probably the most famous image of the eighteenth-century Channel Islands: John Singleton Copley’s painting of The Death of Major Pierson, which was reproduced on the Jersey £10 note from 1976 to 2010 – making Pompey (or the model who portrayed him) the first black figure to appear on a British banknote.15 There has been less work on the historic black presence in Guernsey, although we know of two black visitors for certain: Equiano and John Jea, the African American preacher who in around 1815 ‘arrived safe at Guernsey, and brotherly love did not withdraw itself from me there, for the brethren in Christ gladly received me, and gave me the right-hand of fellowship, treated me as a brother, and gave me liberty to preach in the different chapels; and I can say with truth, there was no chapel large enough to hold the congregations.’16 Jea stayed for 15 days. More than a century earlier, there is evidence suggesting that one black child, at least, had been brought to Guernsey. In the background of a portrait of a wealthy Guernseywoman, Anne De Lisle De Beauvoir (see Image 1.1), is the figure of a black child who has a silver collar inscribed with the words ‘de Beauvoir.’ The portrait possibly dates from around 1669, when James De Beauvoir became a jurat: an important occasion which he is likely to have celebrated by commis 14 Société Jersiaise, Black History in Jersey, niers.html [accessed 8 August 2007]. 15 The model was the unnamed servant of James Christie, the auctioneer. See Jules David Prown, John Singleton Copley: In England 1774–1815 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), pp. 303–04. 16 John Jea, The Life, History, and Unparalleled Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher. Compiled and Written by Himself (Portsea: J. Williams [1815–1816]), pp. 94–95. •


Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel sioning matching portraits of Anne and himself. It may, however, be somewhat later since it appears to emulate Pierre Mignard’s well-known portrait of Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth, and her African slave, which was not painted until 1682. Either way, we have no external evidence to confirm that the figure represents a genuine person and was not merely introduced to the portrait by an imaginative artist; nor can we know whether the picture was painted in Guernsey or elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is tempting to conclude that, whether or not he came to Guernsey, the boy portrayed in the portrait represented an actual enslaved African child owned by the De Beauvoir family.17 We have more certain information about Olaudah Equiano, the African former slave who became a leading abolitionist and the best-selling author of an autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, published in London in May 1789. Equiano was brought to Guernsey in the spring of 1755 as a child of perhaps eight or ten. He was a slave owned by Michael Pascal, captain of the Guernsey-registered merchant ship The Industrious Bee, who, in Equiano’s account, intended the boy to be ‘a present to some of his friends in England.’18 As Vincent Carretta has shown, Equiano misremembers the date of his visits to Cornwall and Guernsey. Admiralty records in the Public Record Office, newspaper reports and Cornish meteorological records, cross-referenced with Equiano’s own account of unusual weather conditions in Falmouth shortly before The Industrious Bee set sail for Guernsey, suggest that he visited Falmouth and Guernsey in the spring of 1755, rather than 1757 as he claims, and stayed in Guernsey until the early summer.19 Pascal appears on the muster book of the Roebuck in late June 1755 while Equiano himself, under the name Gustavus Vassa, appears on the muster book on 6 August 1755. Pascal had clearly changed his mind about making the young slave a gift to his friends since Equiano served under him aboard a number of vessels in the Royal Navy, eventually reaching the rank of able seaman, before being suddenly sold to a Captain James Doran, a slave trader bound for the Caribbean island of Montserrat, on 10 December 1762, just two months after he had paid a second, briefer visit to Guernsey.20 17 The paintings are in the Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery and online on the site of the BBC Your Paintings project, ann-de-lisle-de-beauvoir-b-16311632-136466 [accessed 10 August 2015]. 18 Equiano, Interesting Narrative, p. 64. 19 The dating of Equiano’s visits to Cornwall and to Guernsey is discussed in Vincent Carretta, Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2005), pp. 40, 44–46, 50. 20 Equiano, Interesting Narrative, p. 91. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Equiano’s accounts of his visits to Guernsey reveal that slave trading in Guernsey ships was being carried out in proximity to some of the most influential Guernsey families of the mid-eighteenth century. The Industrious Bee, a snow with a crew of around ten, was built in New England. According to Admiralty records, however, its owners were based in Guernsey.21 Equiano mentions that the ship was partly owned by ‘a merchant, one Nicholas Doberry,’ almost certainly Nicolas Dobrée (1732–1800), who had inherited a substantial trading business built up by his father and grandfather. Pascal’s will shows that, even if he was not a Guernseyman himself, his closest friends were mostly from the Channel Islands.22 Pascal died in Southampton in 1786 and left both money and personal effects to friends and relatives. Much of this went to the family of Maynard Guerin – the Guerin family were substantial Guernsey merchants with connections in London who had offered Equiano much support over the years.23 But there were other beneficiaries. ‘To my good ffriend Cap.t Carteret of the navy residing in this town,’ Pascal writes, ‘I give my uniform sword and sword belt.’ This would appear to be Philip Carteret, born in Jersey in 1733, the sailor and discoverer of Pitcairn Island, who died in Southampton in 1796. There was also a gift for ‘my ffriend Mr Dobree Esquire of Guernsey,’ who was no doubt the same Mr Dobrée who part-owned the Industrious Bee. Only one person received two gifts: ‘my good ffriend’ Paul Le Mesurier in London, who received ‘ffive pounds’ and ‘my silver mounted sword.’ It seems certain that this was Paul Le Mesurier, MP (1755–1805), in 1786 a rising political star who would in 1793 become the first Guernsey-born Lord Mayor of London.24 Whether he had met Equiano when he was Pascal’s slave we cannot know, but there is no doubt that Le Mesurier was aware of Equiano’s existence and of his connection with Pascal for, in 1789, when the Interesting Narrative was published by subscription, Le Mesurier’s name appeared as one of the original subscribers. Working independently in 2008–2009, both Gregory Stevens Cox, in The Guernsey Merchants and their World, and myself, in an article in Reports and Transactions of La Société Guernesiaise, published details of slave trading in Guernsey in the mid-eighteenth century, identified by searching Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1527–1867: A Database on CD-ROM.25 We noted no records of 21 TNA, Admiralty Records, ‘The Industrious Bee’, ADM 7/87. 22 TNA, Wills and Probate, ‘Will of Michael Henry Pascal, Captain for the Royal Navy’, PROB 11/1142. 23 Carretta notes that Maynard Guerin died in 1760, so his children are remembered in Pascal’s will. Carretta, Equiano, The African, p. 135. 24 W. R. Meyer, ‘Paul Le Mesurier, Lord Mayor of London,’ Report and Transactions of La Société Guernesiaise, 21:5 (1985), pp. 701–14. 25 Brycchan Carey, ‘Guernsey and the Slave Trade: A Reassessment,’ in Report and Transactions of La Société Guernesiaise, XXVII (2008), pp. 360–74; Gregory Stevens Cox, •


Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel slave-trading ships registered in Jersey, but three ships in the database were registered in Guernsey. The first is the Ann Gally, 135 tons, captain Thomas Ebsworthy, owner Morgan Vaughn, registered Guernsey, departed London in 1741 for an unspecified area of Africa, outcome unknown. This is the same ship, and the same voyage, that the records of the Cour d’Amirauté show as being owned by Pierre Dobrée.26 (Multiple ownership of slavetrading ships was not uncommon, so we should not assume that either of these records are in error.) The second ship is the Gold Coast Gally, 100 tons, captain William Coutart, registered Guernsey, departed London in 1750 for an unspecified area of Africa, landed an unspecified number of slaves in Jamaica, outcome: success. The third is the African, 180 tons, captain John Mauger, owner unspecified, registered Guernsey, departed London 1750 for an unspecified area of Africa, landed 111 slaves in Barbados and returned via Falmouth. These last two ships set sail fully eight years after the last ship identified by Stevens Cox, but there may be connections. According to the Cour d’Amirauté, the slave ship Charles, which set sail in 1740, was owned by Charles Mauger. The African, setting sail in 1750, was captained by John Mauger. All three of these Guernsey-registered ships departed from the port of London, not St Peter Port, although two were captained by individuals with names associated with Guernsey: Mauger and Coutard. Regardless of the port of departure, these ships, registered in Guernsey and crewed and financed by Guernsey families, were clearly part of a slave-trading operation based on the island. The database also identifies seven ships that departed Guernsey for Africa between 1739 and 1761. The earliest was the Charles, commanded by James Seaborne, which left Guernsey for the ‘Windward Coast’ (modern Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire) in 1739, later successfully landing slaves in Barbados. The database does not say whether she returned safely to Europe. A little more than a decade later, an unidentified slave ship under the command of ‘Captain Major’ (an Anglicised spelling of Mauger) is recorded as departing Guernsey for Africa. Of the remaining five, three – the Castleton, the Duke of Cumberland and the Jenny – were registered in Lancaster, and each departed from Guernsey in 1756, presumably fitted out and provisioned in Guernsey. Two slave ships of unknown registration departed Guernsey between 1750 The Guernsey Merchants and their World (Guernsey: The Toucan Press, 2009), pp. 72–74, 214–16; David Eltis, Stephen D. Behrendt, David Richardson and Herbert S. Klein, The Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1527–1867: A Database on CD-ROM (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). An updated version is online at 26 The Ann Galley was ultimately lost following a slave uprising on board. See Thomas Smith, Narrative, of an Unfortunate Voyage to the Coast of Africa in the Ann Galley of London, David Adam, Esq. Commander: with Remarks on the Slave-Trade (Arbroath, 1813). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery and 1752; one, the Cumberland (also known in the records as the Africa), was under the command of David Pinneaux. The final ship identified by the database is the Fanny, registered in London but commanded by Captain Bareaud. This voyage was not successful. The ship was captured by a French privateer in 1761 and its cargo of 165 slaves sold in Martinique. In addition, the Liverpool-registered Charming Nancy, of 50 tons, which made five slaving voyages, had been constructed in Guernsey in 1746. Likewise, the 100-ton Hope, and the 50-ton Trevor appear in the database, registered at Bristol and Liverpool respectively. Both were constructed in Jersey. Clearly, between 1739 and 1761, Guernsey was regularly doing business with slave traders, and was setting up slave-trading business of its own. The database likewise turns up evidence of slave-trading activity in Falmouth, largely from ships registered in London. Although none of these slave-trading voyages originated in Falmouth, several seem to have concluded there. For example, Robert Doegood successfully brought The Arthur into Falmouth harbour in 1676, Francis Corbin landed a cargo in The Adventure in 1701 and, as we have seen, John Mauger of Guernsey concluded a slave-trading voyage in The African in Falmouth in 1750. Not all ships that landed cargoes in Falmouth were British. In 1671, Waling Jancz Keijser of Texel in the northern United Provinces (the Netherlands) sailed the captured Santa Maria into Falmouth and sold its cargo at a profit. A century later, in 1783, another Texel captain, Captain Winkstern, successfully unloaded a cargo at Falmouth at a profit. Winkstern seems to have departed the Netherlands just before they entered the Revolutionary War on the side of the American revolutionaries, and appears to have returned to Europe just as the conflict ended. It is unlikely that he sailed through three years without realising that his country was at war with Britain. More probably he was lucky enough to be one of the first ships to reach Falmouth with tropical produce after the end of the war. Such luck, if luck it was, did not meet Captain de Lavillemarais of La Rochelle, whose slave ship, Jupiter, was captured and unloaded at Falmouth in 1757, at the outset of the Seven Years’ War. Evidently Falmouth was a port of call for many ships involved in the slave trade – including, of course, the vessel that first brought Equiano to the British Isles in the 1750s. Equiano was by no means the only black visitor to Cornwall. One of the most celebrated is the musician Joseph Emidy, who was enslaved in West Africa by Portuguese slave traders and then in 1795 kidnapped in Lisbon by a British naval officer, Sir Edward Pellew, who forced him to play violin for his crew for four years. As an ‘impressed’ sailor aboard a Royal Naval vessel, Emidy was technically a free man, although his freedom of movement was entirely constrained. He was put ashore in Falmouth in 1799 and became a successful performer, composer and music •


Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel teacher, leading the Falmouth Harmonic Society, marrying and having several children. Although none of his musical compositions has survived, his life story has been widely retold in academic studies and in a recent play.27 Like most eighteenth-century ports, Falmouth was a multicultural town – but Africans were also brought to Cornwall by other routes and to other places. Like the De Beauvoir family in Guernsey, aristocratic families in Cornwall embraced the fashion of employing African children as page boys and servants. The names of most of these young people have not survived, but traces do survive in paintings and churchyards. For example, an epitaph on a gravestone at Werrington Church near Launceston locates: The Remains of Philip Scipio Servant to the Duke of Wharton Afterwards to Sir William Morice An African Whose Quality might have done Honour To any Nation or Climate.28

Elsewhere, a young black servant dressed in fashionable clothes appears in the lower foreground of a painting of an angling party by Edward Smith (fl. 1740–1773) inscribed as having been painted at Fowey in Cornwall in 1773 – although it has been conjectured that the scene represents the Willyams family at their mansion at Carnanton, some 25 km from Fowey.29 Moreover, as Kathleen Chater has shown, children identified as black were baptised in several Cornish locations, including Calstock, Fowey, St Gluvias and Truro.30 There can be no doubt that enslaved people passed through both Cornwall and the Channel Islands and that slave trading took place or was serviced in both St Peter Port and Falmouth, but it might be argued that these were dockside activities only, and did not really affect the wider population. This 27 See, for example, Richard McGrady, Music and Musicians in Early Nineteenth Century Cornwall: The World of Joseph Emidy – Slave, Violinist and Composer (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1993). The play was performed on tour in 2007 and published as Alan M. Kent, The Tin Violin: The Adventures of Joseph Emidy – A Cornish Tale (London: Francis Boutle, 2008). 28 Kathleen Chater, Untold Histories: Black people in England and Wales during the Period of the British Slave Trade, c. 1660–1809 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), pp. 228–29. 29 The painting is on public display at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. It was bought by George Bambridge in 1923 from a sale of angling pictures at Sotheby’s, and taken to Wimpole when he moved there in 1938 (National Trust, unpublished guide notes for Wimpole Hall). 30 Chater, Untold Histories, pp. 89, 136, 196, 205. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery seems unlikely. The Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project has recently made available online records of the thousands of British investors in slavery who were paid a share of the £20 million compensation awarded by the British government to slave owners when slavery was abolished in the British Empire in the 1830s.31 A simple county search for Cornwall reveals that ten individuals from across the county were paid compensation totalling £41,984 7s 6d for their ownership of 1,925 enslaved people. The records range from the very small – the Rev. George Kemp of Penryn received compensation of £42 14s 5d for two slaves he owned in Barbados – to the very large claim of Eldred Lewis Blight Pearse of Bodmin, who received £15,865 7s 6d for 435 slaves distributed across three plantations in Jamaica. In the smaller Channel Islands even larger sums were claimed. While only three individuals from Guernsey claimed compensation, totalling £2,879 17s 3d in respect of 198 enslaved people, in Jersey the figures were much larger. In total, 16 individuals claimed for 2,553 slaves, receiving £68,486 9s 0d in compensation. Again, the distribution varied considerably, from Moses Franco, whose compensation of £4 6s 8d was for a single slave in Barbados, to the Scottish-born John Cameron, who received an enormous pay out of £30,137 4s 10d for 574 enslaved people held in five estates across British Guiana. There is no doubt that there was significant investment in slavery in both Cornwall and the Channel Islands.

Discourse and Representation The Channel Islands have not been conspicuous for their contribution to literary culture. The islands’ most celebrated author is Victor Hugo, who was in fact both French and an unwilling exile – first in Jersey and, more substantially, from 1855–70, in Guernsey – while the best-known eighteenthcentury text that mentions the islands is almost certainly Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative. Although the Guernsey sections are not long, they do contain the much-discussed account of the young Equiano’s attempt to wash away his black complexion. Henry Louis Gates, for example, has pointed out that Equiano uses ‘two distinct voices to distinguish, through rhetorical strategies, the simple wonder with which the young Equiano approached the New World of his captors and a more eloquently articulated voice that he employs to describe the author’s narrative present.’32 There is indeed a complex ‘double narrative’ in this passage in which the older 31 University College London, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership, https://www.ucl. [accessed 11 August 2015]. 32 Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 153. •


Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel and wiser Equiano speaks with the voice of a naïve child, a strategy amenable to complex analysis, although few critics have located the incident geographically. Equiano’s Interesting Narrative is beyond doubt a key text of abolitionist literature. Less well known, but arguably equally influential in its time, was Sir John Jeremie’s Four Essays on Colonial Slavery (1831) which, as we saw earlier, the historian Jonathan Duncan thought reflected glory on Guernsey.33 Jeremie’s Essays were indeed a notable intervention in the anti-slavery debate of the 1830s, and Jeremie himself occupies a prominent position in Benjamin Robert Haydon’s painting The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840. Although Jeremie was born in Guernsey, it is however difficult to see the Essays as a direct product of his experience in the Channel Islands. They mostly concern his time in St Lucia, and were published and probably written in London. Cornwall, by contrast, is now seen as a region rich in literary heritage, particularly from the mid-nineteenth century onwards.34 In the preceding century, we find the county is associated with a surprisingly extensive and sophisticated literature concerned with slavery and including contributions from both sides of the argument. Amongst these, Edward Long’s History of Jamaica, published in London in 1774, is by any measure the most notorious. Born in St Blazey in 1734 and educated in Liskeard, Long spent 12 years in Jamaica before returning to England (but not to Cornwall) in 1769. His History contains a great deal of important information about the society and politics of the mid-eighteenth-century Caribbean. It also contains an extensive section in which Long compares Europeans and Africans and concludes that they are ‘different species of the same genus.’ Africans, in Long’s view, are the inferior species, marked by ‘a bestial fleece, instead of hair,’ ‘the black colour of the lice which infest their bodies,’ their ‘noxious odour,’ and his observation that ‘they are void of genius, and seem almost incapable of making any progress in civility or science.’35 The passage in which Long notoriously compares Africans with orangutans led Peter Fryer to describe Long as ‘the father of English racism.’36 Whether the book reflected views current in Jamaica, in Cornwall or both, is difficult to say, but Caribbean planters were not rare in the county. Indeed, it is sometimes claimed that the ‘West-India Interest’ – the organisation that represented 33 John Jeremie, Four Essays on Colonial Slavery (London: J. Hatchard, 1831). 34 Alan Kent, The Literature of Cornwall: Continuity, Identity, Difference, 1000–2000 (Bristol: Redcliffe Press: 2000). 35 Edward Long, The History of Jamaica, or, General Survey of the Antient and Modern State of that Island, 3 vols (London: T. Lowndes, 1774), vol. 2, pp. 356, 352–53. 36 Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London: Pluto Press, 1984), p. 70. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery sugar planters and traders – made use of the county’s numerous rotten and pocket boroughs to get their candidates into Parliament. This may not have been true at all times; in 1781, just three of the 48 West Indian members of Parliament were returned from Cornish boroughs.37 Nevertheless, there were some famous examples, including Edward Trelawney (1699–1754) and his cousin Sir William Trelawny (1723–1772): both, in turn, MP for East and West Looe and Governor of Jamaica.38 Other well-known planters representing Cornish boroughs included Bryan Edwards, originally of Wiltshire, who was MP for the notoriously rotten borough of Grampound in 1796–1800. He had established his reputation with the extensive History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies, published in London in 1793. In the service of the electors of Grampound he became ‘a zealous defender of the Creole planters against Wilberforce’s attacks on the slave trade and slavery.’39 Not all Cornish MPs were in thrall to the West India Interest. Pascoe Grenfell (1761–1838), the Marazion-born copper magnate, Evangelical and MP for Penryn from 1820 to 1826, was a friend of William Wilberforce and an active parliamentary abolitionist at a time when anti-slavery sentiment appeared to be on the rise in Cornwall.40 Apparently named after him, but not otherwise related, Pascoe Grenfell Hill (1806–1882), also born in Marazion, played little part in the campaign to abolish slavery in 1830s, but took an important role in the post-emancipation period. As a naval chaplain, he witnessed the reality of illegal slave trading along the coast of Africa, and published two works on the topic in the 1840s.41 Although born at Marazion, however, most of Hill’s life was spent in London or aboard a naval vessel,

37 Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy, ‘The Formation of a Commercial Lobby: The West India Interest, British Colonial Policy and the American Revolution’, The Historical Journal, 40:1 (1997), pp. 71–95. 38 Kenneth Morgan, ‘Trelawny, Edward (bap. 1699, d. 1754)’, ODNB, http://www. [accessed 15 August 2015]. 39 Richard B.  Sheridan, ‘Edwards, Bryan (1743–1800)’, ODNB, http://www.oxforddnb. com/view/article/8531 [accessed 12 August 2015]. 40 Edmund Newell, ‘Grenfell family (per. c. 1785–1879)’, ODNB, http://www. [accessed 15 August 2015]. For Cornish anti-slavery sentiment in the 1820s, see Edwin Jaggard, Cornwall Politics in the Age of Reform, 1790–1885 (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1999), pp. 65–71. 41 G. C. Boase, ‘Hill, Pascoe Grenfell (1804–1882)’, rev. Elizabeth Baigent, ODNB, [accessed 15 August 2015]. Pascoe Grenfell Hill, Fifty days on board a slave-vessel in the Mozambique channel in April and May 1843 (London: John Murray, 1844) and A voyage to the Slave Coasts of West and East Africa (London: Charles Gilpin, 1849). •


Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel and it is hard to see his observations on slave trading as a reflection of attitudes current in Cornwall. Slavery surfaces as a theme in the work of John Wolcot (1738–1819), who was born in Devon but brought to Fowey and educated in Liskeard and Bodmin. He trained as a doctor in Aberdeen before joining William Trelawney, just appointed Governor of Jamaica, in 1768, and stayed on the island, on and off, for several years before returning to Cornwall – first to Truro, then to Helston – where he lost friends and alienated people with his wit. In the 1780s and ’90s, Wolcot became a popular satirist, writing under the pseudonym ‘Peter Pindar,’ most famous for a series of unflattering depictions of George III. With first-hand knowledge of the Caribbean, it was perhaps inevitable that Wolcot would tackle slavery when it became a major public theme, and he did so in five of his poems.42 These are too long to discuss in full here, but we should note that Wolcot’s position is neither clear nor consistent. At times he displays a sympathy for enslaved people that is consistent with abolitionist politics; at others, he alerts the reader to what he sees as the brutality of African slaves in a way that is consistent with the politics of the pro-slavery apologists. His 1794 poem ‘Azid, or the Song of the Captive Negro’ is an example of the former. Its laboured attempt at an African-Caribbean accent is painful to read today, but its sentimental representation of a tear-bedewed African slave is entirely consistent with abolitionist poetry of the time.43 The first few lines are enough: Poor Mora eye be wet wid tear, And heart like lead sink down wid woe; She seem her mournful friends to hear, And see der eye like fountain flow. No more she give me song so gay, But sigh, ‘Adieu dear Domahay.’

Wolcot was rarely so sentimental. He had been in Jamaica and to some extent shared the planters’ fear of slave uprising, as demonstrated in ‘A Poetical, Serious, and Possibly Impertinent, Epistle to the Pope’ (1793), which contrasts the pope with a Jamaican Obeahman, Quako, disappointed in his attempts to stage an uprising. Wolcot describes the rebels: When forth they march’d – a goodly, solemn pace, 42 The five poems are reproduced in James Basker, Amazing Grace, An Anthology of Poems about Slavery, 1660–1810 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), pp. 324–28. 43 For the form and politics of abolitionist verse, see Carey, British Abolitionism, pp. 73–106. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery To pour destruction on the Christian race; To send the husbands to th’infernal shades, Hug their dear wives, and ravish the fair maids; To bring God Mumbo Jumbo into vogue, And sanctify the names of wh— and rogue!

Unlike the pope, however, who wishes to ‘stretch’ his ‘divine dominion’ over France, ‘luckless Quako only stretch’d – a rope.’ The poem hit various notes in 1793: British anti-Catholicism, the French revolution and the parallel revolution in the French slave colony of Saint-Domingue that would lead to the creation of the Republic of Haiti. It probably referred more directly to Tacky’s revolt of 1760, an uprising that took place in Jamaica nine years before Wolcot reached the island; one of the first victims of that event was an Obeahman, whose hanging inflamed passions further. While Wolcot’s sympathies seem to lie firmly with the planters in this poem, another, ‘Tempora Mutantur. An Ode’ (1802), is less clear cut, leading James Basker to conclude that ‘the cruelty of a black slave to his mule is used to expose the deeper brutality of white “Christians” holding slaves.’44 Quako makes another appearance in the relevant section: How like the Negro on his Mule, Tormenting him beyond all rule, Beating him o’er the head and ears; His spurs into the creature sticking, Abusing, damning, cursing, kicking! For Blacky like a Christian swears. His quondam Master, passing by, Beheld the Beast with pitying eye: ‘You scoundrel, hold; is murder your design?’ – Quako turn’d round, with a broad grin, Not valuing the rebuke one pin: ‘Massa, me was your Nega; dissy mine.’

As with so much of Wolcot’s poetry, the satire is more important than the political affiliation. Wolcot cannot be seen as either unambiguously for or against slavery, nor does his poetry necessarily reflect the views of most Cornish men and women, but he recognises, and takes delight in exposing, absurdity and hypocrisy wherever he finds it. Two other Cornish poets deserve consideration. Richard Polwhele (1760–1838) was born in Truro in 1760, educated there and started writing 44 Basker, Amazing Grace, p. 328. •


Recovering the History of Slavery in the Western English Channel poetry after receiving encouragement from Wolcot. While vicar of Manaccan near Helston, he produced much writing, including a History of Cornwall (1803–1808) and several sermons, in one of which he argued that ‘the Abolition of the Slave-Trade, might, probably, be attended with consequences, in which humanity would by no means rejoice: And it should be considered, that the most clamorous on this subject, are those “whose end and aim,” is, to distress government.’45 This conventional, conservative position would, on the face of it, go hand in hand with his best-known poem, The Unsex’d Females, a Poem (1798), which is infamous for its sweeping attack on Mary Wollstonecraft and others asserting the rights of women. But Polwhele’s poem reminds us of the complexity of late eighteenth-century conservative attitudes to slavery when he contrasts the radical Wollstonecraft with the conservative Hannah More, and applauds the latter as the model of public, active femininity. More, a close friend of Wilberforce, was an active member of the abolition committee who produced two popular anti-slavery poems. For Polwhele, promoting social conservatism at home is a more pressing agenda than challenging or defending slavery overseas. A final example reminds us that, whether or not they abstained from sugar in their tea, nineteenth-century Cornish Methodists often opposed slavery. The labouring-class poet John Harris (1820–1884) was born in Bolenowe near Camborne and worked as a tin miner from the age of ten while writing poetry in the open air, where he was inspired by nature. After 20 years in the mine, one of his poems was published in a magazine, attracted notice and he was encouraged to produce a collection, which appeared in 1853. Shortly after, he obtained a position as a Methodist Scripture Reader in Falmouth, where he stayed until his death in 1884. He published several volumes of poetry, including his masterpiece, the loco-descriptive Carn Brea.46 In 1838, at the age of 18 and long before he came to public attention, Harris celebrated the emancipation of slaves throughout the British Empire in ‘The Fall of Slavery’, a poem that is exuberant, spiritual and reminiscent, in the opening stanzas at least, of some of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence. It begins: Musing by a mossy fountain, In the blossom month of May, Saw I coming down a mountain 45 Richard Polwhele, A discourse, preached on Sunday, December 30, 1792, at the parishchurch of Kenton; on the following words: Isaiah, 61st c. 1st v. (London: Cadell and Dilly, 1793), p. 15. 46 For a biography and a selection of verse, see Paul Newman, The Meads of Love: Life and Poetry of John Harris (1820–84) (Redruth: Dyllansow Truran, 1994). There is also a substantial selection, including ‘The Fall of Slavery’ online at http://www.brycchancarey. com/places/cornwall/poems.htm [accessed 15 August 2015]. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery An old man whose locks were grey; And the flowery valleys echoed, As he sang his earnest lay. ‘Prayer is heard, the chain is riven, Shout it over land and sea; Slavery from earth is driven, And the manacled are free; Brotherhood in all the nations; What a glorious Jubilee!’

For a young, poetically inclined Methodist miner, the end of slavery appeared not only to be a divinely ordained event, but also a moment in the spread of universal brotherhood. The energy and optimism of the poem are undoubted, but it also serves as a reminder that the abolition of slavery was not merely a patrician concern of conservatives like Wilberforce and More, but also a cause for celebration by those who had reason to want to see equality and brotherhood established more generally throughout the world. This chapter has demonstrated that, although the history of slavery has long been largely omitted from local historiographies of Cornwall and the Channel Islands, the communities of the western English Channel were undoubtedly involved in the inception, maintenance, defence of and ultimate abolition of the Atlantic slave system. This involvement ranged from passively receiving both tropical goods and enslaved visitors, to a more active engagement in slave trading and investment in Caribbean plantations. In both places, particularly in Cornwall, people with local connections made a range of cultural contributions to the discourse of slavery, from pamphlets on both sides of the argument, to histories, paintings and poems. This in itself is an important point of historical reinterpretation, and it is hoped that historians of both regions take note, but there are more general implications. Despite their claims to a separate identity, when it comes to slavery and the slave trade neither Cornwall nor the Channel Islands were discernibly different from any other region of the British Isles. Indeed, their involvement reminds us more powerfully than ever that no region or community in Britain had a special exemption from the nation’s imperial project.

Part of this chapter reproduces, in revised and condensed form, material that originally appeared in ‘Guernsey and the Slave Trade: A Reassessment’ in Report and Transactions of La Société Guernesiaise, XXVII (2008), pp. 360–74. I am grateful to La Société Guernesiaise, and to the editor of the Transactions, Richard Hocart, for permission to reproduce this material.


2 ‘There to sing the song of Moses’ John Jea’s Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery in Liverpool and Portsmouth, 1801–1817 Ryan Hanley Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery

During the first two decades of the nineteenth century, the word ‘slavery’ held different meanings in different ports. For some of those working aboard ships and in dockyards in Britain’s ‘slave ports’ before 1807, it was perceived, however unfortunately, as the source of their own comfort, or even survival. Slavery generated employment for entire working-class communities; not just sailors, but an entire secondary infrastructure of shipwrights, dockers, warehouse labourers, publicans, carpenters, prostitutes, chefs, weavers, shopkeepers and service staff were employed because of it. Without slavery, some thought, they might starve. In other seaport communities, ‘slavery’ meant something else: not a black spot in Britain’s history, but an opportunity to wash it clean. For these working people, it was the suppression of the illegal slave trade after 1807 that ensured opportunities for a steady income – precious indeed, especially during the recession that followed the Napoleonic Wars. But in both settings, ‘slavery’ was more than just a means to employment. It entered popular discourse and so infiltrated their lives beyond the walls of the dockyard, from the pub to the pulpit. Whatever it meant to them, slavery bound British working-class port communities together and fundamentally influenced local narratives of identity. The same might be said of Methodism. Methodism was more dependent on regional and local exigencies than perhaps any other eighteenth-century evangelical movement. Its root-and-branch organisational make-up, and (at least since its founder John Wesley’s death in 1791) decentralised power structure meant that the political character of Methodist sermons differed substantially from one part of the country to another. David Hempton has even gone so far as to suggest that ‘Methodism forged a symbiotic relationship with its host environments,’ mutating to fit in with the •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery prevailing social and political mores of a given locality.1 This flexibility might account for the movement’s massive expansion during the eighteenth century, which cut across class boundaries. Even E. P. Thompson, who disdained Methodism as a fundamentally conservative influence in working-class political culture, conceded that it drew much of its support from ‘wide sections of the proletariat.’2 Indeed, increasingly authoritarian attempts to consolidate the movement’s management structure, along with a decided shift towards state approval and political anti-radicalism during the Napoleonic Wars, contributed to the emergence of a number of large-scale, locally organised secessionist movements, especially in the northern industrial towns.3 Internal divisions, derived in part from the political and social differences between local congregations, threatened the coherence of the movement in Britain. During the crisis years of the first two decades of the nineteenth century, the character of Methodist services was more ‘local’ than ever. How did working peoples’ attitudes towards slavery, influenced as they were by local exigencies, affect the character of Methodism at the discursive level? Put another way, if it is now accepted that evangelicalism was a key means by which anti-slavery attitudes proliferated, especially among working people in Britain, then how did regional investments in slavery and its suppression affect the content and tone of evangelical discourse? 4 The published memoirs and original hymns of the African Methodist itinerant preacher John Jea help to answer these questions. In The Life and Unparalleled Sufferings of John Jea, published around 1816, he recounted a number of the sermons he gave while preaching at Liverpool, in two separate 1 David Hempton, Methodism: Empire of the Spirit (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005), p. 7. 2 E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London: Random House, 1963), p. 355. 3 See D. A. Gowland, Methodist Secessions: The Origins of Free Methodism in Three Lancashire Towns: Manchester, Rochdale, Liverpool (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1979). 4 See, for example, Christopher Brown, Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012); Boyd Hilton, ‘1807 and All That: Why Britain Outlawed Her Slave Trade,’ in Derek Peterson (ed.), Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa and the Atlantic (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2010), pp. 63–83; Roger Anstey, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition (London: Macmillan, 1975). For the relationship between Methodism specifically and anti-slavery sentiment, see David Hempton, ‘Popular Evangelicalism and the Shaping of British Moral Sensibilities, 1770–1840,’ in Donald Yerxa (ed.), British Abolitionism and the Question of Moral Progress in History (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2012), pp. 58–80. •


Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery stints between 1801 and 1805.5 At that time, local financial investment in the slave trade was greater than it had ever been.6 As the national campaign for abolition began to regain some of its momentum after 1804, anti-abolitionist sentiment hardened in the local area, particularly amongst the workingclass congregations Jea targeted. In this difficult environment, he brought to bear the sensationalist exhortatory preaching style that characterised American Episcopal Methodism to deploy anti-slavery rhetoric without straying into abolitionism. By contrast, when he came to live in Portsmouth at the close of the Napoleonic Wars, the slave trade had been outlawed for seven years and the Royal Navy’s campaign to suppress it was just beginning. Moreover, Portsmouth was the home port for the West Africa Squadron, tasked with intercepting illegal slavers. As demonstrated by a book of hymns published under Jea’s name, some of which he had composed himself specifically for his congregants, his sermons there took on a more pronouncedly nationalist, patriotic fervour, recasting slavery as incompatible with British liberty while natural to Britain’s recent naval enemies, France and independent America.7 In both locations, Jea carefully navigated local attitudes towards slavery and abolition in his sermons, just as he navigated the webs of local Methodist politics. Even among the heterogeneous array of black writers active in Britain during this period, Jea stands out. Raised in the United States, his work fits more comfortably, perhaps, within the genre of African American life narrative than early black British writing. Articulating, as John Saillant terms it, an ‘unrealistic, yet characteristically American’ perception of freedom and slavery in binary opposition, his preaching and writing about slavery emerged from a North American social milieu in which chattel slavery could be witnessed daily.8 Denominationally, he was influenced by the pluralist spirit of late eighteenth-century American Evangelical Protestantism. Raised on a plantation owned by Dutch Reformed slave traders, 5 John Jea, The Life, History and Unparalleled Sufferings of John Jea, The African Preacher (Portsea: John Williams, [1815–1816]). 6 Sheryllynne Haggerty, ‘Risk and Management in the Liverpool Slave Trade,’ Business History, 51:6 (2009), pp. 817–34; David Pope, ‘The Wealth and Social Aspirations of Liverpool’s Slave Merchants of the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century,’ in David Richardson, Suzanne Schwarz and Anthony Tibbles (eds), Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007), pp. 164–226. 7 John Jea (ed.), A Collection of Hymns (Portsea: James Williams, 1816). All the hymns cited in this chapter have been identified as Jea’s in Graham Russell Hodges (ed.), Black Itinerants of the Gospel: The Narratives of John Jea and George White (London: Palgrave, 2002). 8 John Saillant, ‘Travelling in Old and New Worlds with John Jea, the African Preacher, 1773–1816,’ Journal of American Studies, 33:3 (1999), p. 473. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery his earliest association appears to have been with Calvinist Presbyterian ministry, though he later came to the Episcopal Methodist Church.9 This syncretic approach, imported from the religious frontiers of the plantations and black communities of the American east coast, appealed to British working-class congregations in a broad array of urban settings. However, in his articulation of anti-slavery ideas, Jea needed to adapt his approach to suit his audience. Despite an extensive secondary literature, few historians or literary critics have specifically examined the influence of local and regional contexts on early black writing in Britain.10 For perhaps obvious reasons, this is less true of studies dealing with black intellectuals in America, where a decentralised approach to the passing and enactment of anti-slavery legislature meant that region could literally make the difference between freedom and slavery.11 However, the comparatively overarching nature of English amelioration and abolition laws should not be taken as reflective of any unilateral popular position on slavery. Studies dedicated to the local nuances of slavery in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Lancaster have significantly developed our understanding of both slavery and abolitionism, not as neat, homogeneous national phenomena, but as messy, multifaceted, uneven and resistant to easy definition as the individuals who participated in them.12 This chapter follows one such individual as he made his way through two radically different local contexts, from ‘the most important slave trading port in the world’ to the very heart of its suppression.13

9 Saillant, ‘Old and New Worlds,’ p. 475; Hodges, Black Itinerants of the Gospel, pp. 1-9, 18-50. 10 Only Olaudah Equiano has garnered significant attention in specifically local contexts. See Vincent Carretta, Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2005); James Green, ‘The Publishing History of Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative,’ Slavery & Abolition, 16:3 (1995), pp. 362–75. 11 See, for example, Wanda Hendricks, Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2014). 12 Nick Draper, ‘The City of London and Slavery: Evidence from the First Dock Companies, 1795–1800,’ The Economic History Review, 61:2 (2008), pp. 432–66; James Rawley, London, Metropolis of the Slave Trade (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2003); Madge Dresser, Slavery Obscured: The Social History of the Slave Trade in Bristol (London: Continuum, 2001); Richardson, Tibbles and Schwarz, Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery; Melinda Elder, The Slave Trade and the Economic Development of Eighteenth-Century Lancaster (Halifax: Ryburn, 1992). 13 Kenneth Morgan, Slavery, Atlantic Trade and the British Economy, 1660–1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 88. •


Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery

Jea in Liverpool, 1801–1805 By the time Jea arrived to preach the gospel in Liverpool aboard the Superb on 25 June 1801, he had accumulated many stories to illustrate the universality of God’s love.14 He was born in Old Calabar in 1773, and sold into slavery in New York at the age of two. He claimed to have been taught to read the Bible by an angel in the 1780s, and that his miraculous literacy convinced the New York magistrates to uphold his subsequent self-emancipation. He also claimed to have aided other slaves to obtain their freedom by teaching them to read. He had preached Methodism to enslaved and free mixed congregations around New England for around a decade before coming to Britain. During this time, his wife Elizabeth, in a fit of madness apparently brought on by the realisation of her own sinful nature, murdered both their infant daughter and her own mother, and was consequently executed. But, even in the midst of the profound depression arising from this trauma, Jea was able to find solace in prayer. God, he claimed, had personally intervened to save his life many times.15 While their veracity has been questioned, with good reason, Jea’s stories made powerful claims about the emancipatory, empowering and emotionally healing powers of Christianity.16 Yet, effective as they might have proved in his evangelising mission to Liverpool, these were not the stories he told there. He chose instead to focus on his experiences as a sailor. Recognising the importance of seafaring as a local source of civic pride, as much as the maritime working-class socioeconomic make-up of his congregations, Jea’s articulated his parables of divine power in the language of the seafaring proletariat. He described how, during his crossing from Boston to Liverpool, some of the other sailors were making game of the works of the Lord, and said that the old man had fine fire works, for it gave them light to go up on the yards to furl the sails; but to their great terror, after they had furled the sails, it pleased the Lord to send his lightning and thunder directly, which killed two men on the spot.17

These sermons were qualitatively distinguished from what sailors and dock workers could get at other local Methodist meetings not only by their confident use of nautical settings and terminology and their emphasis on dramatic spectacle, but also by their egalitarian universalism. Jea was a 14 For the date, compare Jea, Life, p. 49; The Lancaster Gazeteer, 27 June 1801. 15 Jea, Life, pp. 3, 32–49. 16 Saillant, ‘Old and New Worlds,’ pp. 473–90. 17 Jea, Life, p. 51. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Methodist preacher, but his millenarian, exhortatory sermons demonstrated exactly the qualities from which the mainstream Methodist Church in Britain – the Wesleyan connexion – was at that moment attempting to distance itself.18 In contrast to most Methodist preachers in Britain, he had trained in the American revivalist tradition of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) during the late 1780s and early 1790s. Unlike British Wesleyan Methodism, which in Hempton’s words, ‘converted Wesley’s conservative tendencies into a conservative habit’ as it expanded during the 1790s, the MEC led American evangelicalism as a whole to become ‘far more enthusiastic, individualistic, egalitarian, entrepreneurial, and lay orientated.’19 This old-fashioned, American-style Methodism seemed to strike a special chord in Liverpool, and before long, ‘word of [Jea’s] preaching and exhorting spread all through Liverpool, and in the country.’20 Jea’s preaching may have proved popular because it articulated the relationship between the MEC’s organisational and hermeneutic characteristics and emergent liberal capitalism. As Nathan Hatch puts it, ‘American Methodism was the prototype of a religious organisation taking on market form.’21 True to his MEC background, Jea’s egalitarian message that ‘we were all born in sin’ was always framed with an emphasis on initiative and personal responsibility for one’s own earthly actions. This approach demanded that congregants ‘enquire and examine whether you have been raised from this awful state [of sin] or not.’22 In other words, he took to heart the MEC’s ‘entrepreneurial,’ ‘individualistic’ approach to conversion and reform of behaviour. While David Kazanjian reads Jea’s published Life as decoupling ‘black subjectivity’ from ‘racial capitalism,’ he concedes that it nonetheless ‘marks the quotidian traces of a powerful, emergent, historical articulation that conjoined hierarchically codified notions of race and nation with the formal and abstract equality that liberal capitalism equates with “freedom.”’23 Regardless of how they pulled the discursive strings joining capitalism and liberty, Jea’s sermons articulated spiritual awakening and emanci 18 See David Hempton, Methodism and Politics in British Society, 1750–1850 (London: Hutchinson, 1984), pp. 85–116. 19 Hempton, Methodism and Politics in British Society, p. 59; John Wigger, Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 7. 20 Jea, Life, p. 56. 21 Nathan Hatch, ‘The Puzzle of American Methodism,’ Church History, 63:2 (1994), p. 188. 22 Jea, Life, p. 63. 23 David Kazanjian, ‘Mercantile Exchanges, Mercantilist Enclosures: Racial Capitalism in the Black Mariner Narratives of Venture Smith and John Jea,’ The New Centennial Review, 3:1 (2003), pp. 162, 167. •


Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery pation from sin, as much as from chattel slavery, as a matter of individual responsibility. In Liverpool during the first years of the nineteenth century, such an emphasis on personal advancement and entrepreneurship was evidently a key aspect of prevalent local identity narratives. Local surgeon William Moss declared in 1784 that it was ‘COMMERCE’ which had ‘enabled the inhabitants of Liverpool to make greater efforts for its improvement and extension, than are to be met with in most, perhaps any, other parts of the kingdom.’24 At least by the time Jea arrived in Liverpool in 1801, these narratives had become something of a local orthodoxy. In 1800, the directors of the Liverpool Mechanics’ Institution cited ‘its prominent position as a commercial town, – as the second port in the kingdom,’ in support of their memorial to the town council to establish a school for civil engineers.25 A panegyric entitled ‘Liverpool: a poem,’ published in the Liverpool Chronicle on 24 August 1803 hailed ‘propitious commerce’ as the source from which ‘the town in all its splendour rose.’ Similarly, an 1805 visitor’s guide attributed the town’s ‘perfect prosperity’ to the ‘spirit of enterprize’ shared by its inhabitants.26 As late as 1795, Liverpool’s dominance in British slave trading specifically had been celebrated as both manifesting the local spirit of enterprise and as a crucial foundation stone of British economic development as a whole.27 In appealing to this much-vaunted commercial spirit in his sermons, Jea also appealed to a very specific source of local pride. Entrepreneurship and the ideology of independent enterprise were seen not only as having made Liverpool a great provincial city, but qualitatively the best provincial city. While this emphasis on individualism was not one particularly seized upon by the Wesleyans during the first years of the nineteenth century, local Methodists were nevertheless grateful to have Jea preaching in their town. When he arrived, members of the local connexion brought him into their home to recover from a ‘pleurisy’ he had contracted at sea, and helped him to travel around the town once he had regained his health.28 The governors 24 William Moss, A Familiar Medical Survey of Liverpool: Addressed to the Inhabitants of the Town at Large (Liverpool: H. Hodgson, 1784), p. 10. 25 Anon., To the Honourable the Town Council, the Memorial of the Directors of the Liverpool Mechanics’ Institution (Liverpool: D. Marples, 1800), p. 10. 26 Liverpool Chronicle, 24 August 1803, cited in Anon., The Picture of Liverpool; or, Stranger’s Guide (Liverpool: W. Jones and C. Woodward, 1805), pp. 145–46, 149–56. 27 James Wallace, A General and Descriptive History of the Ancient and Present State, of the Town of Liverpool (Liverpool: R. Phillips, 1795), pp. 193–255; see Jessica Moody, ‘The Memory of Slavery in Liverpool in Public Discourse from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day,’ PhD thesis, University of York, 2014, pp. 107–08. 28 Jea, Life, p. 56. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery of the Chester Wesleyan ‘circuit,’ of which Liverpool was a part, clearly saw the town as a difficult place to attract new members during the period. This was possibly due to the high number of Roman Catholics immigrating from Ireland, and the fact that much of the working-class community (estimated by Paul Laxton and John Langton to represent 25 per cent of the entire Liverpool population) comprised of mariners and sailors.29 For an expansionist church like the Wesleyans, sailors presented a particular challenge in that they prevented the establishment of continuous long-term congregational support and a reliable stream of donations of the sort seen in other large Lancashire towns like Manchester and Bolton, essential for the upkeep of chapels and payment of preachers. The response of the church was to station both the Chester circuit’s most senior ‘superintendent’ preachers, Adam Clarke and James Wood, in Liverpool, supported by the largest number of ordained Wesleyan ministers of any of the local towns. Unlike the other two largest towns in the circuit, Manchester and Bolton, no trainee preachers were stationed in Liverpool.30 While this tactic ensured that only the most experienced preachers were sent into this challenging environment, it hardly helped locally to counter the emerging reputation of the church as authoritarian and hierarchical. As a visiting preacher, Jea thus helped to address a deficiency in the connexion’s local offer, especially among the working-class maritime workers of Liverpool. In particular, Jea’s having preached to all-black and majority-black congregations in New England, and his personal experiences of slavery and emancipation, gave him a unique appeal among Liverpool’s black churchgoers. Norma Myers, concurring with Paul Laxton’s research, tentatively places the proportion of black people in Liverpool in 1801 at around 1.5–2.0 per cent of the total population, making it the most significant black urban population outside London at the time.31 Most of this population – such as the large proportion of ‘black Loyalists’ who fought for Britain during the American Revolution in exchange for their emancipation – came to the town from the Americas ultimately through their relationship with slavery.32 MEC sermons like the ones Jea 29 John Belcham places the number of Irish-born immigrants in Liverpool in 1800 at 4,950, or 15–20 per cent of the total population. John Belcham, Irish, Catholic and Scouse: The History of the Liverpool Irish, 1800–1939 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007), p. 7; John Langton and Paul Laxton, ‘Parish Registers and Urban Structure: The Example of Late-Eighteenth Century Liverpool,’ Urban History, 5 (1978), p. 80. 30 Methodist Magazine, 24 (October 1801) p. 562; Methodist Magazine, 25 (October 1802), p. 478. 31 Norma Myers, Reconstructing the Black Past: Blacks in Britain, 1780–1830 (London: Routledge, 1996), p. 22. 32 See Ray Costello, Black Liverpool: The Early History of Britain’s Oldest Black •


Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery offered had already proven particularly popular among black congregants in post-Revolutionary America. By 1800, 21 per cent of the MEC’s official membership was black, while many more enslaved people regularly attended sermons unrecorded, without the consent of their ‘masters.’33 In particular, the MEC’s focus on personal revelation and rebirth, as much as its insistence on the corporeal freedom of the individual to choose a life without sin, resonated well with enslaved and formerly enslaved individuals. The reasons for this are well rehearsed in the historiography of early black churches in America, but it is easy enough to understand the appeal of spiritual rebirth to those whose putatively irretrievable spiritual wretchedness had been used in an attempt to justify their physical enslavement.34 Jea’s iterations of these themes during his time in Liverpool imagined a racially equalised and essentially social vision of life after death. In the last sermon he gave at Liverpool, around 1805, he presented a vision of heaven defined against the harshness of slavery and discrimination: [W]e shall meet in heaven around his throne: where parting shall be no more, where all trials and troubles shall have an end, where sorrow and sighing shall flee away, where the tears shall be for ever wiped from our eyes, where our wearied souls shall be at rest, where the wicked shall cease troubling us, and where our souls shall rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and join with all the host of heaven, in singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, hallelujahs, and praises unto God for ever and ever.35

Here the physical and psychological ‘trials and troubles’ associated with slavery – parting from loved ones, fatigue, misery, abuse at the hands of the ‘wicked’ – were replaced by demonstrative types of religious fervour favoured by American evangelical churches like the MEC. In other words, Jea’s vision of heaven replaced the drudgery and alienation of slavery with singing and rejoicing strikingly redolent of an MEC sermon. Social unity underlined the whole paradisiac scene; the use of the first-person collective pronoun delineated a shared spiritual consciousness, inviting Jea’s congregants to Community 1730–1918 (Liverpool: Picton Press, 2001), pp. 8–10, 13–19. 33 Dee Andrews, Methodists and Revolutionary America, 1760–1800: The Shaping of an Evangelical Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), p. 123. 34 See, for example, James Campbell, Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 3–31; C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990), pp. 1–19, 47–75; Andrews, Methodists in Revolutionary America, pp. 123–54. 35 Jea, Life, p. 75. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery ‘join with all the host of heaven.’ If the references to physical hardship seem generic, they gained particular resonance with the mention of Moses, who led an enslaved race of people to freedom. The story of Moses was a mainstay for many black Methodists and had featured extensively in early black autobiography in Britain as well as America.36 Jea mentioned Moses four times in his own autobiography, twice in reference to his Liverpool sermons.37 As well as the ‘Moses and the Lamb’ speech, he cited 1 Corinthians 10 in another sermon delivered in a chapel on Byrom Street.38 ‘I would not have them to be ignorant,’ he preached, ‘how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.’39 This citation was unmodified from the King James Bible, and his choice was clearly significant as it recalled the infamous middle passage endured by many of his congregants and/or, literally, their ‘fathers.’ For Jea’s black congregants, the socially atomising effects of transportation from Africa to America were transformed into signifiers of inclusion in a new sociality, based on common experiences rather than shared cultures, customs and kin. True to the revivalist tradition, Jea’s deployment of 1 Corinthians 10 in this context transformed the Pattersonian ‘social death’ of slavery into social rebirth into an inclusive, transatlantic black spiritual community.40 Why then, only a couple of years before the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807, did Jea feel the need to express his anti-slavery sentiments in metaphors and Biblical surrogates? The answer lies in early nineteenth-century Liverpool’s peculiar and complex relationship with the national abolitionist movement. While Liverpool had its own group of ‘saints’ working against the slave trade, they were far less outspoken than their counterparts in Clapham.41 Pro-slavery lobbyists were, as Brian Howman puts it, ‘numerous, active and potentially violent’ in late eighteenthand early nineteenth-century Liverpool.42 Seymour Drescher has pointed 36 Ottobah Cugoano, for example, mentioned Moses over a dozen times in his autobiographical jeremiad. Ottobah Cugoano, Thoughts and Sentiments (London: n.p., 1787). 37 Jea, Life, pp. 86, 95, 71, 75. 38 The text has ‘Byram Street.’ Jea, Life, p. 71. 39 Jea, Life, pp. 71–72. 40 See Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 1–14. 41 See F. E. Sanderson, ‘The Liverpool Abolitionists,’ in Roger Anstey and P. E. H. Hair (eds), Liverpool, the African Slave Trade, and Abolition (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1976), pp. 196–98; Brian Howman, ‘Abolitionism in Liverpool,’ in Richardson, Schwarz and Tibbles (eds), Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery, pp. 277–96. 42 Howman, ‘Abolitionism in Liverpool,’ p. 279. •


Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery out that, between 1787 and 1807, merchants and manufacturers from the town ‘unfailingly petitioned against every new abolitionist movement in parliament, whether partial or total, immediate or gradual, regulatory or prohibitive.’43 But anti-abolitionist activity was not restricted to the town’s economic elite. Famously, when Thomas Clarkson visited the town on his tour of the country in 1787, he and his entourage were pushed ‘within a yard of the precipice’ overhanging the docks by disgruntled workers.44 Of all the major manufacturing towns in Lancashire, Liverpool alone did not send a mass abolitionist petition to Parliament before 1814, well after the transatlantic slave trade had ceased (directly) generating local jobs.45 In any case, when Jea first came to Liverpool in 1801, popular support for abolition nationwide was in abeyance. It was not until the reintroduction of slavery in the French colonies in 1804 that the subject regained its status at the forefront of British popular politics, and even then levels of support in Liverpool were well below those elsewhere in the country.46 The lack of support for abolition from Liverpool’s working-class population is hardly surprising, since many relied on it for work. Although, in terms of shipping, slavery-dependent businesses were dwarfed by salt import and export, one did not need to sail aboard a slaver to depend upon the triangular trade. Secondary industries related to, for example, sugar refinement, cotton spinning, and tobacco storage and distribution accounted for a significant proportion of the employment infrastructure for local labourers and artisans.47 Jane Longmore has suggested that roughly one in eight Liverpool families were dependent upon the slave trade for their main source of income by 1790.48 During the 1807 local election, a pamphlet decrying William Roscoe’s abolitionist sympathies tapped into the apprehensions of many working people when it sarcastically stated that ‘we desire all those, who may suffer from the loss of the Slave Trade, to be under no apprehensions of getting their living, as [the Pope] will enable the said W. R. to work miracles, to supply them with daily bread, without 43 Seymour Drescher, ‘The Slaving Capital of the World: Liverpool and National Opinion in the Age of Abolition,’ Slavery & Abolition, 9:2 (1988), p. 130. 44 Thomas Clarkson, The History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade (London: Longman et al., 1808) vol. 1, pp. 409–10. 45 Drescher, ‘The Slaving Capital of the World,’ p. 140. 46 Drescher, ‘The Slaving Capital of the World,’ pp. 136–40. 47 See Michael Power, ‘The Growth of Liverpool,’ in John Belcham (ed.), Popular Politics, Riot and Labour: Essays in Liverpool History, 1790–1940 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1992), pp. 22–39. 48 Jane Longmore, ‘“Cemented by the Blood of a Negro”? The Impact of the Slave Trade on Eighteenth-Century Liverpool,’ in Richardson, Schwarz and Tibbles (eds), Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery, p. 243. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery the necessity of labouring.’49 It was one of many anti-abolitionist pamphlets released during that year’s elections. Jea could therefore not expect to find much success preaching openly for the abolition of the slave trade in Liverpool when he lived there between 1801 and 1805. To do so might literally have endangered his safety. This explains why his sermons there sometimes emphasised the importance of submission, deferring emancipation until the afterlife. In one sermon, for example, he ‘could not forget God’s promises to his people if they were obedient, that he would send blessings upon them.’50 God’s ‘people,’ in the context of Jea’s reliance on the Moses metaphor, were an enslaved people. Similarly, he linked rebellion with slavery and suggested that the only path to emancipation was through faith in God, citing Psalm 67: Because they rebelled against the word of God, and contemned the counsel of the Most High: Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.51

Jea was caught between preaching against slavery and the political reality that many of his local congregants depended upon its continuation for work. In the end, he compromised. The resultant fatalistic, pacifist attitude towards emancipation in Jea’s Liverpool sermons thus reflected the textures of local working-class politics in the first years of the nineteenth century. His tactic of approaching the sensitive topic of slavery through Bible stories and metaphors ensured that he could continue to preach safely in the town. By the time Jea left Liverpool around 1805, he had gone from actively participating in slaves’ elopements to preaching passive obedience. However, in order to fully appreciate the extent to which this approach was influenced by Liverpool’s local and temporal contexts, it is necessary to examine the discursive features of his preaching in a radically different historical and political setting.

49 Anon., A Collection of Addresses, Songs, Squibs &C., Published at Liverpool, During the Election for Members of Parliament, in May, 1807 (Liverpool: Isleman, 1807), p. 12. Roscoe’s support for Catholic emancipation proved hugely unpopular in Liverpool and, along with his abolitionism, became a great source of ammunition for his political enemies. 50 Jea, Life, p. 68. 51 Jea, Life, p. 52. •


Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery

Jea in Portsmouth, 1814–1817 The ten years between leaving Liverpool in 1805 and coming to settle in Portsmouth around 1814 were eventful for Jea. He had travelled around North America, the East Indies, South America, the West Indies and finally Ireland, serving aboard privateers and Royal Navy vessels as a cook.52 On 22 August 1811, en route from the Cove of Cork to New Brunswick via Portsmouth, his ship, the Izette, was taken by the French brig Petit Charles, and he spent the next four years being moved around northern France before he was released at the close of the Napoleonic wars.53 Throughout his travels, Jea continued to preach the gospel to his fellow servicemen and prisoners, honing his exhortatory skills in the most challenging environments. This experience served him well once he settled in Portsea – technically a separate township but a de facto area of Portsmouth by 1815 – to set up a chapel with the assistance of his Methodist friends there. As his premises on Hawke Street were about 200 yards from the dock wall, the vast majority of his congregants would have been military men and those working in supporting and secondary industries around the docks, such as sailmakers, labourers, carpenters, publicans and prostitutes. Hymns such as ‘God’s Dominion over the Sea,’ ‘Its God that Rules the Sea,’ ‘God Rules both Earth and Sea’ and ‘For Mariners’ demonstrate how Jea targeted his preaching to a maritime congregation.54 Geographically, west Portsea was intersected by Queen Street, a busy commercial road running east out of the dockyard towards the more well-to-do east end. Rank-and-file soldiers and sailors would take up accommodations in what John Field describes as ‘overcrowded lodging houses in the alleys and rows that ran at right angles to Queen Street,’ including Hawke Street.55 Queen Street itself was a tumultuous place, ‘equalled but in few places for business and bustle.’56 At Portsea, Jea preached within earshot of the commerce and carousing taking place along this thoroughfare just a few dozen yards away. His work was made even more difficult by the cramped conditions of his preaching-place. The overcrowding made west Portsea, in John Vickers’s estimation, ‘the only area at all comparable to the situation in London and the new industrial towns of the Midlands and the North.’57 52 Jea, Life, pp. 75–87. 53 Jea, Life, pp. 88–92; Liverpool Mercury, 20 September 1811. 54 Jea, Hymns, pp. 215–18. 55 John Field, ‘Bourgeois Portsmouth: Social Relations in a Victorian Dockyard Town, 1815–75,’ PhD thesis, University of Warwick, 1979, p. 12. 56 Anon., The Ancient, and Modern History of Portsemouth, p. 47. 57 John Vickers, ‘Methodism and Society in Central Southern England 1740–1851,’ PhD thesis, University of Southampton (1986), p. 34. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery It is likely that Jea preached from a flophouse or illegal inn, since the only registered business on Hawke Street at the time was a brewery, which could hardly have made it easier for him to preach abstinence to the sailors.58 Rents were so cheap that an entire house could be let for a mere three shillings per month. At least, this was the amount paid by John Dickens for 16 Hawke Street, when he lived there in 1812–1813 with his wife Elizabeth, daughter Frances and son, the young Charles Dickens.59 It is understandable that the family moved out after only a few months at Hawke Street; west Portsea was far better suited to the needs of sailors than families. Indeed, the role of the military base as the primary employer in Portsea was a key factor in developing the area’s distinctive, working-class character, especially so near the docks.60 It is apparent from a cursory reading of contemporaneous visitors’ guides that in the early nineteenth century the area had something of an image problem, at least for those hoping to tempt wealthy tourists to Portsmouth. ‘The idle prejudices to which sea ports and particularly this, are liable; and the unpardonable misrepresentations of the careless and inattentive […] which have deterred many from visiting it,’ reassured one such publication in 1800, ‘will easily be removed by a personal inspection.’ The nature of these ‘unpardonable misrepresentations’ was made clear in the way they were downplayed – the guide reminded the reader that there were, after all, few British towns ‘where the contagious influence of Vice is not predominant’ and ‘that this place is peculiarly exposed to these ills, may fairly be denied; all scenes of tumultuous revelry being confined to particular districts.’ 61 It seems likely that Jea’s preaching-house was situated in one of these ‘particular districts.’ While Portsmouth’s status as a largely military rather than commercial port necessarily differentiated its professional demography from Liverpool’s, Jea continued to aim his preaching towards people of lower socioeconomic status. His Hymns, published in 1817 to be sung in his preaching-house in Hawke Street, targeted the types of ‘vice’ most associated with sailors on leave and working-class communities in port towns. In ‘A Warning to the Young,’ for example, he cautioned that ‘If you delight to please / Your carnal appetites / with wanton songs, and mirth, and wine / remember judgement is not far.’62 ‘Advice to Youth’ meted out similarly 58 Anon., Dickensian Portsmouth (Portsmouth circa 1812) (Portsmouth: WEA Portsmouth Local History Group, 2012), p. 3. 59 Anon., Dickensian Portsmouth, p. 3. 60 See Field, ‘Bourgeois Portsmouth,’ pp. 6–9. 61 Anon., The Ancient, and Modern History of Portesmouth, Portsea, Gosport, and their Environs (Gosport: J. Watts, [1800]), p. vii. 62 Jea, Hymns, p. 213. •


Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery sobering advice: ‘Ye men and women, old and young / Who cheered your hearts with wine and rum […] The vengeance of your holy due / Shall strike your heart with terror through.’63 While it is hard to imagine these hymns as crowd-pleasers, their intended audience was manifestly a working-class maritime one. Clearly, they targeted the types of ‘immoral’ behaviour – lewd songs, rum drinking – that were (rightly or wrongly) more readily associated with low-ranking soldiers and sailors than bourgeois or aristocratic sinners. This type of environment was, predictably, seen as a hotbed of moral iniquity by the Wesleyan connexion. In the years since Jea left Liverpool, the Wesleyans had set their course towards courting establishment respectability under the increasing influence of their new leader, Jabez Bunting. In a number of areas (particularly the industrial towns of northern England) this led to the secession of several large groups, such as the Methodist New Connexion and the Primitive Methodists, who sought a return to the more egalitarian character of eighteenth-century Arminianism. Such groups were often conceived of as an ecclesiastical accompaniment to working-class radicalism.64 This was not, however, the case during the first decades of the nineteenth century in Portsmouth, where Wesleyan Methodism expanded rapidly, relatively untroubled by the encroachments of secessionist groups.65 Again, the presence of such a large number of military men suggests itself as a likely reason for the rejection of evangelical movements allied to anti-establishment radicalism, even while those same connexions were expanding aggressively in other areas with comparable socioeconomic conditions. Certainly, the core of Wesleyan (as against secessionist Methodist) support in Portsmouth came from soldiers and sailors, to the extent that John Aikenhead, a local preacher, expressed fears in a letter of 21 May 1814 that the end of the Napoleonic Wars would diminish congregation sizes along with the local population.66 Wesleyanism was so popular by 1811 that a new chapel had to be built in Green Row at an expense of £7,000 because the existing one in Oyster Street was too small.67 63 Jea, Hymns, p. 214. 64 A classic study of the relationship between Methodism and political radicalism in Lancashire is Gowland, Methodist Secessions. For Wesleyan Methodism and popular radicalism, see, for example, David Hempton, Methodism and Politics in British Society, pp. 104–10. 65 The only dedicated local study of Methodism in Portsmouth, now quite dated, is W. Donald Cooper, Methodism in Portsmouth, 1750–1932 (Portsmouth: Portsmouth City Council, 1973). See pp. 3–5. 66 ‘John Aikenhead to Isaac Keeling, 21 May 1814,’ John Rylands Library, Methodist Collections, 1977/655. 67 Henry Slight and Julian Slight, Chronicles of Portsmouth (London: Lupton Relfe, 1828), p. 93. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery By the second decade of the nineteenth century, Wesleyanism in Portsmouth was booming. In this context, Jea had fewer identifiable associations with the mainstream Wesleyan connexion in Hampshire than he had had in Lancashire ten years earlier. For example, when he visited Bolton around 1804, he travelled with Christopher Hopper, a friend of John Wesley and one of the grandees of Lancashire Arminianism, as well as the younger preacher Thomas Cooper.68 In Hampshire, he named no assisting preachers. Clearly, Jea’s fiery evangelicalism was too far out of step with the adjusted needs of a more cautious Wesleyan connexion in the far more contentious political environment of the ‘Peterloo years’ of the late 1810s. His MEC evangelicalism bore too close a resemblance to the politically outlying and potentially dangerous new secessionist groups. Graham Russell Hodges has suggested that Jea’s theology allied him with ‘early manifestations of Primitive Methodism,’ and thus by association to British working-class radicalism.69 But while his preaching style bore some similarities with that favoured by the Primitives, there is no evidence to suggest that Jea had any formal connection to the group. Moreover, their reach had not extended that far south by the time Jea was living in Portsmouth – by their first general meeting in 1819, only four circuits existed: Tunstall, Nottingham, Loughborough and Hull.70 Jea’s connections to any local Methodists, of any faction, were informal and extra-organisational. Mainstream Wesleyans in Portsmouth may have been hesitant to establish any formal ties with Jea because of an incident which took place in Winchester, about 25 miles from Portsmouth, on 24 March 1817. According to the Law Officers’ report, ‘a stranger (a Black Man),’ having advertised in advance, came into the centre of town the day before, stood on a stool and started preaching a sermon to ‘an immence crowd of people.’ He repeated his sermon three times that day, each time to a larger crowd. The following day, when he took to his stool once again, he was interrupted by Dr Sewbell, a local magistrate, who told him that he was preaching illegally. The black preacher ‘immediately descended from the stool very civilly took his book and went away, when the Mob came to being very riotous hustling and even assaulting the Doctor and in all probability would have done him 68 Rendered ‘Mr. Hooper’ and ‘Christopher Cooper’ in the Life. Cross-references with the Methodist Magazine, listing the stations of Wesleyan preachers for the period, suggest that these refer to Hopper and Cooper. See Jea, Life, p. 57; Methodist Magazine, 26 (1803), p. 395. 69 Graham Russell Hodges, ‘Introduction,’ in Hodges, Black Itinerants, p. 32. 70 Anon., Minutes of a Meeting […] Primitive Methodists (Hull: John Hutchinson, 1819), p. 2. •


Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery some serious injury had he not made his escape thro’ the premises of a neighbouring gentleman.’71 Sewbell wrote to the local Law Officer, Albert Pell, to seek his opinion as to whether he could pursue a prosecution against the preacher under the 1812 Toleration Act, which prevented dissenting groups from worshipping outside the walls of their churches. Pell responded that the black preacher could only be prosecuted under this act if he was licenced; if he was not, then he had organised an unlawful assembly and could be tried under much more punitive sedition laws. There is little reason to doubt, given the timing, location and relative novelty of a black dissenting preacher, that the person Sewbell and Pell were discussing was Jea; certainly, he was the only black itinerant preacher known to have been touring Hampshire in 1817. There is equally little reason to doubt that Sewbell and Pell’s fears that Jea was using dissenting worship as a cover for political radicalism were genuine. At around this time, black radicals in London like Jamaican-born Robert Wedderburn had themselves ordained as Unitarian ministers in order to hold overtly political meetings in licenced ‘chapels,’ thereby avoiding prosecution under both sedition and dissenting toleration laws.72 Wedderburn in particular used his own experiences of slavery to inflect his political discourse and add personal vindication to his calls for various types of liberty.73 He was (in)famous enough to become the subject of several satirical (and generically racist) depictions during the first quarter of the nineteenth century.74 Provincial magistrates like Sewbell were concerned that subversive radical polemic would begin to infiltrate their towns under the guise of dissenting religious worship and anti-slavery activism. Fear over the reappropriation of dissenting worship for political speeches, in Hampshire especially, was demonstrated by extensive local media coverage of the Sedition Bills being debated in the Commons at almost the exact time Jea was preaching in Winchester.75 Ultimately, his 71 ‘Case and Opinion of Albert Pell, Counsel, 21 April 1817,’ Hampshire Record Office, W/D6/14, f.1. 72 The best study on Wedderburn and his circle is Iain McCalman, Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries and Pornographers in London, 1795–1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). 73 See Iain McCalman, ‘Anti-Slavery and Ultra-Radicalism in Early NineteenthCentury England: The Case of Robert Wedderburn,’ Slavery & Abolition, 7:2 (1986), pp. 99–117. Wedderburn’s anti-slavery works are collected in Robert Wedderburn, The Horrors of Slavery and Other Writings, ed. Iain McCalman (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1991). 74 For example, George Cruikshank, ‘A Peep into the City of London Tavern by an Irish Amateur,’ engraving on paper, 1817. 75 See, for example, the lengthy report in The Hampshire Telegraph and Daily Chronicle, 3 March 1817. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery intention was only ever to preach the gospel, but when Jea took to his stool in the square, local authorities would have feared him as a surrogate for the type of political radicalism that Wedderburn embodied. The Winchester authorities were mistaken in their apprehensions that Jea was a subversive political radical. In particular, his treatment of slavery, especially in the hymns he wrote to be sung at his Hawke Street chapel in Portsea, revealed appreciable support for patriotic identity narratives, based quite explicitly on the naval suppression of the slave trade. For example, in ‘Works of Creation,’ Jea characterised the rank and file of the Royal Navy as executors of God’s will on Earth. Addressed to ‘Africa nations, great and small,’ the hymn declared: ’Tis God above, who did in love Your souls and bodies free, By British men with life in hand, The gospel did decree. By God’s free grace they run the race, And did his glory see, To preach the gospel to our race, The gospel Liberty.76

The fatalistic approach to emancipation Jea had deployed at Liverpool was still palpable here, but mixed with a celebration of Britain’s active role in suppressing the slave trade. The seamen who made up most of Jea’s congregations were refigured not merely as soldiers, but crusaders against oppression. The military process of seizing slave ships was recast as a missionary enterprise, strengthening associations between Methodism, patriotism, loyalist politics, and spiritual and political species of liberty. In Portsmouth in 1816, these claims had significant resonance for the local congregants. The suppression of the transatlantic slave trade was after all a military matter, and though the Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron was in its infancy, it was comprised largely of Portsmouth ships, such as the 32-gun HMS Solebay, among the first Royal Navy ships assigned to the task.77 While the operational base for the squadron was in Sierra Leone, ships were fitted out, repaired and manned at Portsmouth before embarking for the West African coast.78 When a vessel was lost in the act of suppressing the slave trade (as with the Solebay, which was shipwrecked 76 Jea, Hymns, p. 182. 77 See TNA, Admiralty Records, ADM 1/163, ‘Minutes of Admiralty Board, Jun–Sep 1808,’ n. pag. 78 For an overview of the squadron’s administration at Sierra Leone, see Mary •


Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery off the coast of Senegal on 11 July 1809), much of the human cost was felt by friends and family left behind in Portsmouth.79 Jea’s writing reflected the basic propaganda of the Royal Navy in that it presented a binary opposition between anti-slavery Britain and its pro-slavery enemies. Jea used these associations in tandem with his fairly unusual status as an ex-slave to increase the popularity of his sermons as well as boost his own credibility. He coupled Britain’s naval enemies with the evil of slavery more explicitly when he recounted how his application for a passport to travel to England at the close of the wars in 1814 was denied by ‘Mr. Dyeott’ at the American consul in Morlaix: he denied me, and said that he would keep me in France until he could send me to America, for he said that I was an American, that I lied in saying I was married in England, and that I was no African. I told him with a broken heart, and crying, that I was an African, and that I was married in England.80

Dyeott’s transparent threat to re-enslave Jea highlighted a number of issues linking British foreign policy, naval conflict and the transatlantic slave trade. Britain’s insistence on the right to search American commercial vessels after 1808 for illicit slaves was a contributing factor in the breakdown of relations that ultimately led to the War of 1812.81 As Gene Smith and Alan Taylor have demonstrated, many slaves fought on the British side in exchange for their freedom once the conflict got underway, just as they had during the American Revolution.82 Similarly, a concession in the first Treaty of Paris, allowing France to continue trading slaves until 1819, sparked popular outrage in Britain, on both sides of the emancipation debate.83 Jea’s insistence that he was an African, and married in England, not only pointed to the Royal Navy’s new image of itself as a protector of African people throughout the Wills, ‘The Royal Navy and the Suppression of the Atlantic Slave Trade, c. 1807–1867: Anti-Slavery, Empire and Identity,’ PhD thesis, University of Hull, 2012, pp. 14–45. 79 J. J. Colledge and Ben Warlow, Ships of the Royal Navy (London: Casemate, 2010), p. 376. 80 Jea, Life, p. 92. 81 See Matthew Mason, ‘Keeping up Appearances: The International Politics of Slave Trade Abolition in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World,’ William and Mary Quarterly, 66:4 (2009), pp. 809–32. 82 Gene Smith, The Slaves’ Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp. 85–114; Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832 (London: W. W. Norton, 2013), pp. 245–317. 83 See Paul Kielstra, The Politics of Slave Trade Suppression in Britain and France, 1814–48: Diplomacy, Morality and Economics (London: Macmillan, 2000), pp. 25–36. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Atlantic world, but accentuated this view by drawing it into contrast with the moral bankruptcy of other global powers. The patriotic narrative expressed in Jea’s hymns resurfaced in relation to the question of slavery when he recounted his time as a prisoner in France: As soon as we arrived at Brest we were sent on board of a French corvette, under American colours, to go and fight against the English, but twenty, out of near two hundred that were sent on board, would not enlist under the banner of the tyrants of this world; for far be it from me ever to fight against Old England, unless it be with the sword of the gospel, under the captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ.84

Jea articulated his refusal to fight on the side of the Franco-American alliance in the War of 1812 in terms redolent of anti-radical polemic, pitting the tyrannical, illiberal naval enemies of Britain against a sentimentalised ‘Old England.’ The species of tyranny to which he referred did not remain in question for long. He described a French or American warship as ‘a floating hell,’ which became visually reminiscent of a slave ship with the superimposition of Jea’s black, bound body upon it. He insisted ‘that if they carried me on board in irons I would lay there and die before I would do the least work. I had been on board four weeks before, laying upon the bare deck, without bed or blankets.’85 His defiance of impressment would have resonated with his Portsmouth congregation at two frequencies. First, his refusal to be pressed into service illustrated a morally defensible, even laudable, escape from crimping – a constant danger for many Portsmouth men. Second, his resistance of French and American ‘tyranny’ (i.e., their attempts to force him into bound labour) recalled the Royal Navy’s role in combating the slave trade. While he was in Portsea, Jea was freer to condemn those who participated in the slave trade than he had been in Liverpool. His hymns and sermons from the post-war period lionised British slave trade suppression as the binary moral opposite of the tyranny of France and America, whose continued investment in slavery came to represent their essentially illiberal national characters. Local support for the suppression of the slave trade helped to foster an equivalence in the minds of many of Jea’s congregants, between belonging to Portsmouth’s loyalist, Wesleyan community and standing for British liberty on the high seas.

84 Jea, Life, p. 89. 85 Jea, Life, p. 92. •


Methodism and Working-Class Attitudes to Slavery

Conclusion Both the tone and the substantive content of John Jea’s anti-slavery preaching was profoundly influenced by local and historical circumstances unique to the port towns of Liverpool and Portsmouth during the decades framing the abolition of the British slave trade. Although he preached to working-class congregations of similar economic backgrounds in both towns, Jea tailored his discourse according to his perception of the needs, wants and desires of each group. In Liverpool, when the town’s investment in the transatlantic slave trade was greater than ever, he had to strike a balance. Many of his local congregants were dependent on the continuation of the slave trade to support themselves and their families. This was no cause for embarrassment – the town’s commercial spirit was bound up in its self-image, and entrepreneurship was seen as one of the characteristics that made Liverpool unique. Jea’s preaching incorporated an egalitarian but individualistic approach to worship, borrowing from the ideology of free market capitalism to fill the spiritual void left behind locally once the Wesleyans shifted towards more paternalistic and hierarchical structures. At the same time, his preaching experience, style and connexional affiliations marked him out as well-suited to attend to the needs of the town’s significant black population, many of whom had, like him, suffered under slavery themselves. In this environment Jea’s anti-slavery work shifted from the direct forms of intervention he had described during his time in America, becoming more subtle, more rhetorical and more devotional in nature. His depiction of emancipation was carefully mediated to suggest that, while slavery and its socially atomising effects would ultimately be reversed by God, the best course of action for slaves was obedience. Just over a decade later in Portsmouth, working-class attitudes towards slavery were inflected by an entirely different set of contexts. Here, Jea needed to be less equivocal in his anti-slavery rhetoric and more supportive of patriotic narratives of British national identity based on martial sacrifice and anti-slavery humanitarianism. While his exhortatory style may have cost him the direct support of local Wesleyans against a national backdrop of increasing political unrest, Jea moulded the content of his Portsmouth sermons to positively valorise the Royal Navy’s suppression of the slave trade as nothing less than a crusade. By contrasting the ‘tyranny’ of slaveholding America and France with the liberty of abolitionist ‘Old England,’ he tapped into another local source of pride: Portsmouth ships’ role in the suppression of the slave trade. As in Liverpool, by remaining sensitive to prevalent local attitudes and preoccupations, Jea was able to maximise the impact of his preaching, garnering support for both his evangelising mission and his anti-slavery activism. •


3 Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family The Staniforths of Liverpool Jane Longmore Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family

Introduction In 1769 Joseph Wright of Derby painted an unusual portrait of Thomas Staniforth, a Liverpool merchant with interests in rope-making, Greenland whaling and the African slave trade (see Image 3.1). The face has livid hues of yellows, reds and pinks, an artistic experiment that Wright rarely repeated.1 Apart from this astonishing portrait, Staniforth disappeared from the mainstream historical record along with many of his mercantile contemporaries from eighteenth-century Liverpool.2 Even when the portrait was displayed at the Tate Gallery after its purchase in 1965 there was only an oblique reference to Staniforth’s mercantile concerns, exemplifying the somewhat myopic public attitude to the slave trade which remained widespread until the bicentenary of its abolition in 2007.3 By May 2007 there had been a significant shift, the display caption on the Tate’s website noting: Although the slave trade is now considered despicable, there is nothing in Staniforth’s portrait to suggest the source of his wealth. Can we detect a hint of cruelty in his cool gaze? […] Wright’s portrait seems simply to 1 E. E. Barker and A. Kidson, Joseph Wright of Derby in Liverpool (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2007), p. 146. 2 The location of the Goore/Staniforth family graves re-emerged from obscurity during an archaeological excavation of the site of the former St Thomas’s church, Liverpool in 2010, Archaeological Watching Brief Report (Oxford Archaeology North, July 2010), pp. 35–36. 3 Joseph Wright of Derby in Liverpool, Touring Exhibition, 2007–2008. •


Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family represent a businessman keen to project the sense of hard-nosed realism that was necessary to succeed in this highly risky trade.4

These speculative observations underline the fact that remarkably little is known about the mentality of these key agents in the transfer of thousands of Africans into slavery in the second half of the eighteenth century. Although Liverpool dominated the slave trade in this period, the attitudes of the core of major investors are difficult to discern, despite the fact that slavery became an increasingly contested issue from the 1780s. David Pope has analysed 1,724 investors in Liverpool slaving vessels in the period 1750–1807 and identified approximately 247 individuals who were involved in 20 or more voyages. Pope’s meticulous scholarship has also revealed some of the biographical details of his core group of leading slave traders, including their parentage, the value of their personal estates on death and property ownership indicated by the Lists of Lancashire Freeholders of 1794–1795 and the Land Tax Assessments of 1798.5 Yet, despite this wealth of data, frustratingly little is revealed about the mindset of the Liverpool slave trader, especially major investors such as Thomas Staniforth, who was among the group of the 70 largest traders with 50 or more voyages. This study will argue that participation in the trade was normalised for such individuals in the aggressively commercial environment of eighteenthcentury Liverpool. Wright’s portrait hints at a key source of evidence about Staniforth and his family. The intense young man is seated leaning over the back of his chair with a well-thumbed memorandum book in his left hand. Two hundred and forty years after Wright completed his portrait, it is possible to locate a similar memorandum book (perhaps the same memorandum book?) among a collection of notebooks, diaries and letter books belonging to the Staniforth family, now lodged in the Liverpool Record Office.6 Page after page of neatly written notes, personal reminiscences, references to appointments, family birthdays, marriages and deaths offer rare insights into a long-forgotten and shadowy community and begin to provide a more nuanced understanding of this ‘national sin.’ The day-to-day records of a single slave-trading 4 See Thomas Staniforth of Darnall, Co. York, Joseph Wright of Derby: display caption, [accessed 8 August 2014]. 5 David Pope, ‘The Wealth and Social Aspirations of Liverpool’s Slave Merchants of the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century,’ in David Richardson, Suzanne Schwarz and Anthony Tibbles (eds), Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007), pp. 164–226. 6 The papers are catalogued at 920 STI, Records of the Staniforth Family, 1763–1843 and comprise the records of Thomas Staniforth (between 1763 and 1803), Samuel Staniforth (between 1804 and 1847) and Mary, wife of Samuel Staniforth (1820). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Image 3.2: Darnall Hall, near Sheffield, rebuilt on the foundations of an earlier house by Thomas Staniforth’s father, Samuel, in 1723. Thomas was born at Darnall on 27 March 1735 and spent his childhood there until his mother’s death in June 1750. The house was gutted by fire in April 2010 and survives as a virtual ruin awaiting a buyer at the time of writing. Image used with permission from Sheffield Local Studies Library,

family offer a different perspective from the high-profile parliamentary abolitionist debates and from the business archives of plantation-owning merchant capitalists, such as the Lascelles.7 They reveal the world of an anti-abolitionist and his family, their broad social and cultural interests, their heavy involvement in civic politics and local philanthropy, and their rare engagement with high politics in opposition to abolition. The papers comprise 47 individual items, spanning eight decades in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and include Thomas Staniforth’s general memorandum books from July 1766 to his death in 1803. They are, of course, highly personal documents which were almost certainly never intended for publication and, as such, they need to be treated with due caution. As Joe Moran has written recently: ‘Private diaries best illuminate their historical 7 S. D. Smith, Slavery, Family and Gentry Capitalism in the British Atlantic: The World of the Lascelles, 1648–1834 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). •


Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family moment when we recognize that the key thing about them is that they are private – which makes them odd, enigmatic and, ultimately, unknowable.’8 But Moran also accepts that diaries and memorandum books can throw light on forgotten lives, forming part of a wider history. In Staniforth’s case, it is possible to reconstruct some of that wider history in order to contextualise these family papers and thereby help to gain a deeper understanding of the mentality of a key family within Liverpool’s slave-trading community. The complex interplay between different types of commercial activity starts to emerge, as well as the relationship between family and business networks, and the normalising of engagement in the slave trade.

Family Networks and the Business of Slavery in Northern England The commercial context was one of rapid growth and almost limitless opportunity for traders: Liverpool had become the fastest-growing town in Georgian England. By the time of an unofficial census in 1773, the population had reached 34,407; less than three decades later, the first official census revealed that Liverpool had 83,000 inhabitants. The prospect of commercial success had attracted thousands from Lancashire, Cheshire, North Wales and beyond, drawn by the rapid growth of Liverpool’s international trade in tobacco, slaves and sugar. Among these hopeful migrants was the young Thomas Staniforth, who arrived in Liverpool in January 1751 at the age of 15, having recently lost both his parents. But the first point of note is that Thomas was not a poor orphan. His relatives were affluent gentry in the town of Darnall, east of Sheffield, with interests in coal mining and agriculture. Thomas’s father had rebuilt the old family house, Darnall Hall, in 1723 as a substantial residence. His mother had wanted her eldest son to study for the legal profession but her death in June 1750, only 19 months after her husband, left the decisions about Thomas’s future to his 27-year-old sister, Elizabeth. Her husband, John Younge of Sheffield, may have had business connections with Liverpool and was probably responsible for arranging Thomas’s apprenticeship to a long-established merchant, Charles Goore. A wonderful portrait of Charles Goore has survived, also painted by Joseph Wright, in 1769, which shows a sprightly old merchant in the rather staid clothes of his generation (see Image 3.3). It suggests that Elizabeth and John had made a careful choice for their young charge. Staniforth arrived in Liverpool at an interesting moment. Construction of a second major dock, the four-and-a-half-acre South Dock, was coming to a close, providing additional commercial facilities for corn and timber 8 Quoted from the Gresham Lecture ‘The Private Diary and Public History’ given by Professor Joe Moran on 29 October 2013. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery imports; the existing Old Dock was bustling with Irish and Mediterranean traders and was also the berth for increasing numbers of West India and Africa vessels. The town had just overtaken Bristol as the leading British port in the transatlantic slave trade with investments from virtually every major merchant in this potentially lucrative business. Goore was no exception: although he had previously traded predominantly in tobacco from North America, he dispatched his first ships to the coast of Africa in 1748.9 The year before Staniforth’s arrival, Goore had also commenced his involvement in the Greenland trade, using a captured French ship as a whaling vessel.10 Yet even a merchant as successful as Goore exhibited the contemporary anxiety about continued growth: in a comment recorded in the family papers, he speculated that the town had reached ‘its highest point of prosperity and might be about to decline.’11 This sense of the fragility of commercial fortunes was an important aspect of the outlook of eighteenthcentury Liverpool merchants, helping to explain their obsessive work ethic and their enduring commitment to the slave trade even as it was to become an increasingly discredited branch of commerce. Goore had three sons and a daughter, Elizabeth, so there was no lack of company for the young apprentice, who became part of their household in Old Churchyard, within a stone’s throw of the River Mersey and the Exchange. The Goore’s home was built in ‘a very handsome and expensive style’ with two rooms either side of the entrance and one upstairs ‘wainscoated with Dantzic Oak [sic], which was then much prized.’ Mrs Goore appears to have shown affection to the orphaned youth, who later recorded that she was ‘my best friend next to my dear wife.’12 He would have recognised this later description of her bedchamber and dressing room, 9 Charles Goore was listed as a joint owner for slave voyages between 1749 and 1755 in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database compiled by D. Eltis, S. D. Behrendt, D. Richardson and H. S. Klein, [accessed 15 December 2012]. At a meeting in George’s Coffee House to discuss African and American affairs in December 1765, Alderman Charles Goore was appointed Vice-President of the American Committee. See The Liverpool General Advertiser, 1:2, Friday 3 January 1766. 10 Kate Jordan, ‘The Captains and Crews of Liverpool’s Northern Whaling Trade,’ International Journal of Maritime History, 22:1 (2012), pp. 185–204 has identified 420 Liverpool whaling voyages between 1750 and the end of the port’s participation in the trade in 1823. 11 F. M. Hext, Staniforthiana: or Recollections of the Family of Staniforth of Darnall in Yorkshire (Bristol, 1863), p. 60. Frances Margery Hext was the youngest of Thomas Staniforth’s grandchildren. 12 Liverpool Record Office (LRO), 920 STI Records of the Staniforth Family, 1763–1843. This entry is made on 12 August 1776. It records the death of Margery Goore: 920 STI/1/3/1, General Memorandums, No. 1, 23 July 1766 to 29 July 1782. •


Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family

Image 3.4: Liverpool Old Dock, 1770. The first commercial enclosed dock in the world, Old Dock was constructed by the Liverpool Corporation between 1709 and 1715. It was used by ships trading to Africa and the West Indies, as well as Portugal, Spain, the Mediterranean and Ireland. The Custom House can be seen on the left and St Thomas’s church, site of the Staniforth family burial plot, is in the centre. Courtesy of the Liverpool Record Office, Liverpool Libraries

which would have been typical of a prosperous mid-eighteenth-century merchant’s wife: Mrs Goore’s bedroom was hung with Spanish leather, embossed and gilt, the design on it representing a stag hunt.13 Through this room was a lesser one, which she used as her dressing-room: it was fitted up with a variety of ornamental bijouterie. The toilette-table was old and curious: the hangings to the glass and dressing-table were of Indian muslin, trimmed with old point lace; on the table stood some glass scent bottles, set in filigree silver stands.14

Staniforth appears to have been a model apprentice who took readily to trade and decided to pursue a career working with the Goores. His appetite for 13 An example of this type of wall hanging survives in the dining room of Bateman’s, Rudyard Kipling’s former home in East Sussex, now owned by the National Trust. 14 Hext, Staniforthiana, p. 79. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery risk became evident even before the end of his apprenticeship: he is listed in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database as one of the owners in two slaving voyages in 1757 and 1758 undertaken in partnership with 15 other, more established Liverpool merchants. The partnership’s vessel was a ten-year-old ship of 100 tons, the Liberty, built at Philadelphia, which conveyed over 1,000 slaves on the two voyages. It may have been the profitability of these voyages which convinced Goore that his former apprentice now had sufficient prospects to be accepted as his son-in-law: Thomas married Elizabeth at St Thomas church on 12 June 1760. Initially the newlyweds lived with her parents but rented a house in nearby Union Street after the birth of their first child, Thomas, in June 1761. Union Street was occupied by prosperous merchants and craftsmen: the houses were substantial and well built. Thomas and Elizabeth were able to keep a servant, Betty Winder, who was to live with them for nearly 23 years; as a mark of their affection for her, when she died after a stroke in 1784 she was buried with their first son, who had only survived into infanthood. This was not their only bereavement: the couple had to endure the loss of five of their seven children, three in infancy and two in their twenties. Staniforth’s acceptance into the Goore family had given him a critical advantage in a mercantile environment where contacts and trust were the key elements of any business network. The importance of his immediate family network became even more apparent as Staniforth began to take further steps as a slave trader: the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database records that he was involved in ten voyages between 1761 and 1766, a remarkable rate of investment which probably would have been impossible without the support of his father-in-law, from whom Staniforth’s notebook records small loans in 1763 and 1764. Also key to his growing business concerns were the Exchange and surrounding district, offering ready access to commercial intelligence and networks in the coffee houses, newsrooms and inns. At this stage it is likely that Staniforth was still a junior member of a trading partnership, although the database listing of the co-owners of the ten vessels mentioned above demonstrates that he had been accepted into a circle of far more experienced investors, such as the merchants Arthur and Benjamin Heywood, and William Boats. These partners were critical for the young merchant as considerable capital was required to fund slaving voyages with no return for a period of 12 to 18 months and all the attendant risks of tropical disease, shipwreck or capture by the enemy during conflicts such as the Seven Years’ War. Staniforth’s own family also played a part in giving him the major advantage of a wider commercial network supplying his Liverpool concerns. There is ample evidence that his younger brother, Samuel, based in Manchester, was absolutely critical to his success. A bond for Samuel from a Liverpool merchant, John Atherton Esq. is recorded in the notebook in •


Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family 1767, perhaps helping Samuel to establish his business. Samuel was to be his brother’s main partner for many years, supplying goods for the slaving voyages and procuring items such as cutlery and knives from family contacts in Sheffield. The nature of the regular dealings between the two brothers is captured in a series of closely written letter books starting in 1778 which record a relentless flow of orders, remittances and bills of exchange. The tone of the letters sent by Thomas suggests an unequal relationship with his younger brother. In January 1779, for example, he wrote a long letter advising Samuel not to enter into a proposed partnership and giving some insight into his commercial mentality: ‘I cannot sufficiently thank the Lord for the dangers I have escaped but it has made me resolve never to enter into a partnership hereafter but where there is a fortune at least.’15 The network of trusted family contacts was reinforced by visits to and from Sheffield and Manchester. Regular contact was crucial to success in business: as well as maintaining a steady stream of correspondence, his brother Samuel would often come for a week-long stay in Liverpool. At least once a year, Thomas would visit Yorkshire for a month, visiting relations, securing new house servants and keeping his stable supplied with good horses.16 The condition of the family home and estate at Darnall continued to be monitored: Thomas wrote to the tenant, Henry Howard Esq., complaining that he had not maintained the gardens or the house over the past six years despite the ‘trifling rent.’17 The Staniforth papers demonstrate the strong connections which were retained between families and their place of origin in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century: Samuel Staniforth eventually retired to the house at Darnall as his brother’s tenant and died there, unmarried, in 1820. Bound by his close familial and business ties to the Goore family and by his promising commercial prospects, Thomas remained in his adopted home of Liverpool. His prospects increased substantially after the death of all three of Goore’s sons between 1760 and 1771, leaving only his son-in-law to take over his thriving business concerns. Perhaps the bereaved, elderly Goore drew consolation from his four Staniforth grandchildren, who were now in need of a larger home. He turned his considerable energies to the construction of a 15 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/2/1, Letterbook, 1778–1779. ‘Memorandums of letters wrote to sundry persons which were not copied’. Letter to Samuel Staniforth, 19 January 1779. 16 Unlike other slave traders, there is no evidence that the Staniforths kept any former slaves as house servants; the papers record precise details of annual wages agreed for the house servants brought back from Yorkshire. 17 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/2/1, Letterbook, 1778–1779, Letter to Henry Howard Esq., 23 February 1779. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Image 3.5: Thomas Staniforth’s house on Ranelagh Street, built by his father-in-law Charles Goore in the early 1770s. This watercolour by W. G. Herdman dates from 1867, when the property had become the Lynn’s Waterloo Hotel. It was subsequently demolished to make way for Liverpool Central Station, which opened in 1874. Courtesy of the Liverpool Record Office, Liverpool Libraries

new house for them in the midst of a large garden in the fashionable area of Ranelagh Street on the south side of the town: The building of this house was a constant source of amusement to Mr Goore, who was now in his 71st year, and the object of his daily walk or ride, and when cold or rheumatism prevented his getting there in either of those ways, he was carried in a sedan-chair. So particular was he that everything should be thoroughly well done that he provided himself with a stick ferruled in a particular manner, with which he used to test the bricks, and if he found one which was soft and insufficiently baked, he made the workmen take down the wall, wherever it might be, and replace it with a good one. He also had shoes shod in a particular way for the man to wear who ‘trod the mortar.’18

The house was finished in 1774 and the Staniforth family took up residence 18 Hext, Staniforthiana, p. 81. Goore probably used the sedan chair stand located at the south-east corner of the Town Hall. See R. Brooke, Liverpool as it was during the last quarter of the eighteenth century (Liverpool, 1853), p. 455. •


Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family on 10 September. It was a bold statement of both Goore’s success and his ambition for his family: a substantial double-fronted residence in a prime position. There was a porticoed entrance flanked by a striking three-storeyed wing; the interior included a dining room and a servants’ hall and the whole building was sufficiently spacious for conversion to a hotel when the area became less agreeable 40 years later. In the 1770s, however, the location was ideal. Goore’s ropery was at the rear of the house, the whalebone warehouse was on the corner of nearby Hanover Street and the docks were within a few hundred yards. Proximity to the docks was important as Staniforth’s trading activities were accelerating: eight slave ships are listed in his accounts for 1774 carrying a total of 1,627 slaves and in the following year he transported 1,513 slaves in six voyages from Africa. Between 1758 and 1803 Thomas Staniforth’s name is listed against 79 definite voyages in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, in partnership with other leading Liverpool merchants such as Thomas Case, William Boats, Joseph Brooks (junior), Benjamin and Arthur Heywood, William Davenport, John Bolton, George Warren Watts and Moses Benson.19 In the 1750s these partnerships could comprise as many as 16 members but in the 1760s and 1770s they dropped to ten and six respectively. The intensity of Staniforth’s involvement on the African coast during four and a half decades is clear: over 24,000 slaves were carried in the voyages listed against his name in the database. The average length of the notorious ‘middle passage’ for these voyages was just under 50 days and the total slave deaths in transit numbered 2,040 men, women and children. Even more soberingly, these figures are probably an underestimate of his engagement in the slave trade. One of the most significant notebooks in the Staniforth collection, covering the shorter period 1763–1793, lists a total of 85 voyages to Africa, commencing with two entries in 1763 and occasionally listing the number of slaves transported to their destination in the West Indies or Americas.20 Comparison with the database for the same period shows a total of 61 voyages, a shortfall of 28 per cent against Staniforth’s own meticulous records. This suggests that Staniforth may have been responsible for the transportation of as many as 30,000 Africans and that over 2,600 people may have died in transit. 19 It should be noted that David Pope also underestimates Staniforth’s involvement in the slave trade. He lists a total of 71 ‘definite’ and nine ‘possible’ slave voyages over the longer period from 1757 to 1798. See Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery, p. 205. 20 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/4/1, Notebook 1763–93. The first voyage listed was the ‘Ingram,’ which sailed to Anomabu on the Gold Coast on 24 September 1763, arrived in the West Indies on 8 August 1764 and returned to Liverpool on 9 December 1764. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Table 1: Thomas Staniforth’s Voyages, 1763–1793 83 to Africa


36 to Greenland


8 to Europe


7 to North America


1 to London


5 privateering cruises


Total: 140 voyages

Source: LivRO, 920STI/1/4/1, Thomas Staniforth’s notebook, 1763–93.

Profit, Diversification and Expansion It is clearly difficult to align the stark human tragedy resulting from Staniforth’s activities as a slave trader with his family’s description of him as a man of ‘great liberality […] unvarying good temper and quaint humour.’21 In common with many of his contemporaries, he pursued a legitimate trade with an overwhelming commercial rationale; for Staniforth, profit appears to have overridden the ethical concerns of the abolitionist movement right up to his death in 1803. While the exact profitability of the slave trade has been heavily debated by historians,22 the measures of Staniforth’s commercial success are the large sums routinely mentioned in his correspondence: on 9 June 1780, for example, he referred to the recent purchase of hemp for the ropery ‘to the amount of £3000.’23 It is impossible, however, to determine the exact profitability of each part of Staniforth’s business as his profits were drawn from a number of sources. The notebook which spanned three decades of his business life reveals that, although the majority (85) of the 140 voyages listed were to Africa, he was not only a slave trader (see Table 1 above). In 1774–1775, for example, he was also involved in three whaling voyages, one American ship bringing tobacco, pig iron and oil, and one European voyage bringing iron and ‘whales.’ One quarter of the voyages listed in the notebook were to the whaling fisheries, one tenth were to America or European destinations and five were private ships of war or ‘privateers.’ When the 21 Hext, Staniforthiana, p. 86. 22 For a discussion of the arguments about profitability, see K. Morgan, Slavery, Atlantic Trade and the British Economy, 1660–1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). 23 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/2/2, Letterbook, 1779–81. Letter to Samuel Staniforth, 9 June 1780. •


Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family outbreak of war with America in 1775 disrupted the Africa trade, Staniforth appears to have struggled financially and had to switch to engagement in privateering: between 1779 and 1781 he was involved in five such ‘cruises.’ He invested in the privateer Enterprise in late 1778, noting: ‘The Enterprise went into the River last Tuesday and as we have got all our men I hope will be at sea in a few days. God grant us success.’24 A fortnight later, he mentioned his inability to pay one of his creditors: ‘I have invested the money on the Enterprise and it is not possible to get any money here at present but I will let them have it as soon as I can.’25 It is almost possible to hear the relief in his diary entry three months later when he announced that the Enterprise had taken two prizes worth an extraordinary £20,000. He was also involved with the Rumbold, launched in 1777, which had taken three successful prizes by 1781.26 Despite these successes, Staniforth does not appear to have enjoyed the high-risk business of privateering: when he sold the Enterprise for £2,050 in April 1779 he commented, ‘she is worth more but yet so much depends on the goodness of the captain. I am well satisfied to close the concern.’27 Wartime also offered the opportunity to sell his old whaling ship for a significant profit: Staniforth notes a trip to London in January 1779 ‘to endeavour to get the Golden Lion into the Victualling Service and settle Rumbold’s Prize.’28 He had secured the latter by August 1779 and finally sold the Golden Lion in February 1781 for £3,000, a sum which may have fuelled his rapid resumption of slave trading in the 1780s: he notes the launch of a new ship, the Brookes, on 22 August 1781. This ship marked a significant scaling up of Staniforth’s activities at 297 tons and with a crew of 58; she sailed for Africa in October 1781 and picked up 650 slaves the following spring. Three subsequent voyages in 1783, 1785 and 1786 carried similar numbers of enslaved Africans. In fact, the 1780s were to be Staniforth’s most intensive period of slave trading activity with 26 voyages compared to the 18 undertaken in the previous, war-disrupted decade. Prizes such as the Edward were used and former privateer the Rumbold was refitted for the slave trade and renamed the Darnell in 1783.29 But even at this peak of activity Staniforth was never reliant solely on the slave trade. He dispatched at least one vessel to the whaling grounds every year between 1766 and 24 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/2/1, Letterbook 1778, 26 November 1778. 25 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/2/1, Letterbook 1778, 9 December 1778. 26 G. Williams, History of the Liverpool Privateers 1744–1812 (London and Liverpool, 1897), p. 229. 27 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/2/1, Letterbook 1778, 14 August 1779. 28 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/3/1, General Memorandums, No. 1, 23 July 1766–29 July 1782, 29 January 1779. 29 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/3/1, General Memorandums, No. 1, 23 July 1766–29 July 1782, the entry on 5 July 1777 was annotated with ‘now the Darnell 1783’. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery 1793, supplying the ‘Oil house’ at the southern edge of the town with whale blubber and providing whalebone for the increasingly fashionable female corsets and hooped skirts. In addition to his shipping interests, Staniforth’s ropery was a steady source of income. At any one time dozens of ships in the port needed new or replacement rigging: in June 1780, for example, Thomas Staniforth’s bill for cordage for the privateer Enterprise, now under new ownership, was £221 10s 6d (£221.53).30 Joseph Wright’s portrait had captured the confidence and restless energy of the young merchant; both are reinforced in his closely written memorandum books, letter books and diaries. As well as offering an opportunity to disentangle his various business interests, these neat records provide a rare insight into the mentality of a slave trader. They demonstrate very clearly that success required a range of concerns and a spreading of risk rather than exclusive focus on one branch of trade. Indeed, it is doubtful whether Staniforth would have called himself a slave trader. This was not indicative of any angst regarding the trade as, typically, those with a range of commercial interests were listed more generically as ‘merchants’ in the Liverpool directories which had commenced publication in 1766. More significantly, within the notebooks, there are only oblique references to the trade itself or to the debates which increasingly surrounded those engaged in it, especially after the abolitionist cause gained momentum in the 1780s. The contrast with the diary of the Liverpool dissenter Hannah Lightbody could not be more marked: on 28 January 1788 she recorded details of the sermon preached by the dissenting minister Reverend John Yates on the theme ‘Have we not all one Father? – and hath not one Lord created us?’ a rare public attack on slavery in late eighteenthcentury Liverpool.31 Two days after Yates’s sermon Staniforth’s new slave ship, the Aeolus, left Liverpool for the Windward Coast and carried over 300 slaves to St Vincent, the first of five slave voyages in the same year. This was to be one of the most commercially successful of Staniforth’s ships, completing 11 voyages between 1788 and 1806. Yet Staniforth’s papers make no reference to the Aeolus: at this point his memorandum book was full of personal news, such as the death of his old acquaintance Joseph Brooks Esq., in February 1788. The complexity of the familial links between the slave traders and those involved in abolition is underlined by the fact that the same Brooks was brother of Hannah Lightbody’s aunt Anna, through marriage, and uncle of the Reverend John Yates’s wife, Elizabeth. Staniforth enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the Brooks family. One of his partners in the voyage of the Aeolus was Joseph Brooks junior, 30 Williams, History, pp. 662–63. 31 D. Sekers (ed.), The Diary of Hannah Lightbody, 1786–1790 (Aberystwyth: Martin Fitzpatrick and James Dybikowsk, 2008), pp. 57–58. •


Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family

Image 3.6: Diagram of the stowage plan for the slave ship Brookes, published by the bookseller James Phillips, George Yard, Lombard Street, London, 1787. This image was redrawn and issued as a poster by the London Committee of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1789. It has become one of the most widely known representations of the horror of the ‘middle passage’ although its use has recently drawn criticism for providing a limited view of the enslaved as passive victims. It depicts the number of slaves the ship could legally hold (454), although every voyage recorded in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database exceeded this number. Thomas Staniforth was one of the key investors in this vessel. Copyright © The British Library Board

nephew of the deceased. Brooks junior and Staniforth had also been partners in the 1781, 1783, 1785 and 1786 voyages of the Brooks, a vessel which was destined to play a particularly fateful part in their relationship.32 It had returned quietly to Liverpool after its fourth voyage on 8 February 1788, having taken 590 slaves to Jamaica. Within nine months, however, the Brooks had become the subject for a notorious image of a crowded slave ship. This representation, created by abolitionist campaigners in December 1788, was to become one of the most powerful and long-lasting weapons of the anti-slavery movement; more than 7,000 posters were printed and widely circulated during 1789. They evoked a wave of revulsion and may have increased family pressure on Joseph Brooks junior, possibly accounting for his disappearance from the lists of investors in slave ships after a voyage in 1791 which delivered only 191 of the 265 slaves who had been embarked on the African coast.33 As the local doctor and covert abolitionist James Currie wrote in a letter in March 1788 about ‘our polite negro dealers,’ The general discussion of the slavery of the negros [sic] has produced much unhappiness in Liverpool. Men are awakening to their situation, and 32 The spelling ‘Brooks’ appears in the Staniforth Papers, while the poster uses the form ‘Brookes’. 33 Details taken from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, http://www. [accessed 3 September 2013]. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery the struggle between interest and humanity has made great havoc in the happiness of many families.34

There is nothing in the family papers to suggest that Staniforth had such qualms, although the abolitionist campaign may account for the gradual diversification of his business interests in the late 1780s and 1790s. In May 1786, probably with surplus funds to invest from a string of commercial successes in privateering, whaling and a dozen slaving voyages within five years, Staniforth recorded the purchase of a landed estate in the parish of Middle, Shropshire. Within ten years this was yielding a valuable return through the sale of crops and timber.35 This investment offers a reminder of the fact that many eighteenth-century merchants retained close links with their landed origins: the gulf between town and countryside was not yet deeply pronounced. Indeed, the ultimate expression of Staniforth’s enduring attachment to the countryside came with the purchase of a farm at Broad Green, four miles east of Liverpool, in January 1789 for £1,150.36 The Staniforths were to use this ‘picturesque black and white cottage’ as ‘an occasional favourite country residence, where they went when they wished to get away from the bustle of the town.’37 Such rural retreats were highly fashionable among mercantile families, allowing them to engage in aristocratic field pursuits and domestic entertaining at a convenient distance from the heart of business.38 Always with an eye to profit, Staniforth had enclosed the adjoining fields by the following summer and was creating an estate which was productive as well as a source of pleasure; a harvest of 48 loads of hay was later recorded from the three crofts at Broad Green.39 Throughout the 1790s he continued to make alterations at the property, adding a new dining room in 1795 and adding further land to his holding in the same year. By 1798 he was looking at plans brought by a local surveyor and architect, 34 LRO, Currie Papers, 920 CUR/108, Letter from Dr James Currie to Admiral Sir Graham Moore, 23 March 1788. 35 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/3/2, Memorandum, 28 May 1786. The entry is annotated with ‘sold by Mr Staniforth’s great-great-grandson, 1895’. Further details of the Shropshire estate are found in the Cumbria Record Office, WD AG/Box 66. 36 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/3/3, General Memorandums, No. 3, 2 October 1787–10 July 1795. In an entry dated 30 January 1789 Staniforth records that he bought the farm from Mr John Chorley of Prescot. 37 Hext, Staniforthiana, p. 87. 38 For further details of the country homes purchased or built by Liverpool slave merchants in the late eighteenth century, see J. Longmore, ‘Rural Retreats: Liverpool Slave Traders and their Country Houses’, in M. Dresser and A. Hann (eds), Slavery and the British Country House (Swindon: English Heritage, 2013), pp. 30–45. 39 LRO, Staniforth Papers, 920 STI/1/1/3, Diary 1801. •


Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family John Foster, and may have been remodelling the original house.40 Perhaps this explains the later description of ‘Broad Green Hall’ as ‘architecturally one of the most beautiful halls in the neighbourhood.’41 Property was not Staniforth’s only alternative investment. In November 1791 he formed a banking partnership with a group of old acquaintances, Messrs Ingram, Bold and Daltera. Francis Ingram had been a partner in a number of Staniforth’s slave-trading voyages in the 1780s, including the Brooks. The timing of the new venture was poor: by 1793 there was a major credit crisis in Liverpool after the declaration of war with France, so it is unsurprising that the partnership was dissolved by mutual consent in 1795.42 Reverting to the familiar, Staniforth resumed his involvement in the slave trade. Despite the risks of wartime he undertook 13 voyages in the 1790s alongside his continuing interest in Greenland whaling. The late 1780s and 1790s were an exceptionally busy period for Staniforth: bound by business links to many of the most prominent citizens of Liverpool, he had also become engaged in the political life of the town. A freeman through his earlier apprenticeship, he was eligible for membership of the oligarchic Common Council and was elected on 3 October 1787. Within six months he was asked to join the powerful Select Committee which had control of the substantial street improvement schemes of the 1780s and 1790s. These schemes were to transform the centre of Liverpool, widening the narrow medieval streets and creating a more modern commercial environment.

The Private World of a Liverpool Slave Trader Although he had reached his sixties by 1794, Staniforth gave no sign of retiring from business and permanently relocating from the house in Ranelagh Street. It was quite the reverse: in 1797 Staniforth was elected Mayor of the powerful Corporation and his diary for 1798 records his attendance at Council meetings, the Africa Committee, the Board of the Liverpool Infirmary, the Ladies’ Charity, the Dispensary and the Quarter Sessions. With his professional, social and cultural concerns centred on Liverpool, Staniforth maintained his address in Ranelagh Street up to his death in 1803. It was not unusual for Liverpool merchants in this period to have two addresses recorded in the street directories but throughout his papers Staniforth refers very explicitly to the Ranelagh Street house as 40 LRO, Staniforth Papers, 920 STI/1/1/1, Diary 1798, entry dated 12 May 1798. 41 James Hoult, West Derby, Old Swan and Wavertree (Liverpool: C. Tinling & Co., 1913), p. 83. 42 John Hughes, Liverpool Banks and Bankers, 1760–1837 (Liverpool: Henry Young & Sons, 1906). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery ‘home’ and it is clear that he resided principally in Liverpool. He would occasionally ride out to Broad Green on a Saturday or Sunday, attend services at Childwall Church and return to town by the Sunday evening. There is no sense in the notebooks that he regarded Broad Green as anything other than an occasional weekend retreat, ensuring no disruption to his primary business and social concerns. Staniforth’s writings record many of the most prominent merchants in Liverpool among his acquaintances; the depth of these personal friendships was evident in the numerous references to him acting as a bearer at funerals of fellow merchants. One dramatic example typifies these important connections: in April 1779 Staniforth noted that his ‘good friend’ H. Hindley Leigh had broken his leg falling into one of the Graving Docks. Two weeks later the leg had to be amputated and the unfortunate man died five days later. He was buried in the family vault at St Nicholas’s church on 16 May with the slave traders Thomas Staniforth, Thomas Tarleton, George Warren Watts, Alexander Nottingham, Thomas Earle and William Pole as bearers.43 More cheerfully, Staniforth enjoyed the social and cultural rounds of the late eighteenth-century town and, on occasion, further afield. In September 1777 he recorded a trip with a party of gentlemen to see the new section of the Bridgewater Canal which had been built to link up with the Trent and Mersey Canal at Preston Brook. They ‘dined at Preston, supper and slept at Frodsham, next day went to the tunnel at Preston on the Hills, then to London Bridge on the boat, dined at Mrs. Dales at Warrington, drank tea at Prescot and went home in the evening.’44 His calendar was marked by frequent (and often very long) visits from friends to stay in the house in Ranelagh Street, attendance at the summer season of plays at the Theatre Royal in Williamson Square, concerts at the music rooms in nearby Bold Street and occasional assemblies at the Exchange or a ball at the Athenaeum. His delight in the novel or extraordinary is evident. On 20 July 1785 he recorded: ‘Mr Lunardi ascended in a balloon this afternoon from the fort. The weather was delightful. He was visible about 50 minutes and then dropped near Ormskirk. I never saw one before and was highly pleased.’45 The papers also reveal another interesting aspect of Thomas Staniforth’s character: he retained a strong interest in the natural world derived from 43 LRO, Staniforth Papers, 920 STI/1/3/1, General Memorandums, No. 1, 26 April 1779. Captain Richard Smith and Richard Statham were also bearers. 44 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/3/1, General Memorandums, No. 1, 9 September 1777. 45 LRO, Staniforth Papers, 920 STI/1/3/2, General Memorandums, No. 2, 20 July 1785. •


Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family his rural childhood on the outskirts of Sheffield. There are entries relating to apple and peach trees, gooseberry bushes, roses and a hyacinth bed in his town garden.46 He notes the arrival of some American plants ‘sent me from Philadelphia by the order of Mr Benjamin Roebuck of Sheffield.’ His awareness of the changing seasons is also apparent. In April 1790, for example, he observed the arrival of the first swallows and a year later spring was heralded by the sight of a cuckoo and cutting a cucumber at Broad Green.47 Staniforth’s devotion to his family is clear from numerous entries, whether documenting their various trips to and from Liverpool, noting his children’s language lessons or recording births, marriages and occasional deaths. Although there was little time in the life of a busy merchant for polite accomplishments, Staniforth and his daughter Alethea began to learn French in October 1778.48 The centrality of commerce to Staniforth was emphasised by the choice of education for his sons Charles and Samuel. Rather than attending public schools and university they were sent away to a small school in Clitheroe and were in their father’s counting house by April 1786.49 After the sad loss of Alethea and his son Henry in the 1790s, it was no doubt a relief to record the marriages of his remaining children. His daughter Elizabeth married in 1800 and moved to her new husband’s home in Cornwall. His son Samuel married Mary Littledale at St Thomas’s church in April 1801 and lived in a new house on the increasingly fashionable Rodney Street.50 After December 1802 there were no further diary entries in Thomas Staniforth’s hand but, almost a year later, Samuel was present at the death of ‘the kindest father and best of friends, aged 68 years.’ He described it as ‘in the most Christian like manner, by the quietest death.’51

46 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/3/2, General Memorandums, No. 2, 15 August 1782–26 September 1787: ‘Got some ripe apples off the small tree at the bottom of the hyacinth bed in the garden’ (11 August 1784). 47 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/3/2, General Memorandums, No. 3, 24 April 1790 and 16 April 1791. 48 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/3/1, General Memorandums, No. 1, 6 October 1778. 49 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/3/2, General Memorandums, No. 2, 29 April 1786. 50 LRO, Staniforth Papers, 920 STI/1/3/4, General Memorandums, No. 4, 1795 to 1806, entry dated 13 June 1801. 51 LRO, Staniforth Papers, 920 STI/1/3/1, General Memorandums, No. 4, 8 and 15 December 1803. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

The Next Generation of Staniforths After Thomas Staniforth’s death in 1803, Samuel and his wife moved back into the family house on Ranelagh Street and the widowed Mrs Staniforth made Broad Green her ‘constant residence’ for the next 12 years. Samuel continued his father’s habit of keeping a notebook, although he was less meticulous about maintaining a daily record. This might have been indicative of a less entrepreneurial character: he was certainly far less successful than his father in his commercial dealings and lacked his skills. He noted that he had taken over his father’s role as Collector of Customs by February 1804 but there are numerous references throughout the diaries to his interest in fox hunting. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database records his involvement in 13 voyages between 1795 and 1806 but these were joint investments, mainly with his father and other merchants. After the death of his father, it is possible to sense his nervousness from the entry in his notebook on 14 March 1804 when his whaling vessel The Lion sailed for Greenland: ‘my first sole adventure. God grant her good success.’52 Success was unlikely, however, as he had taken over the Greenland whaling concern at a time of terminal decline in the industry.53 It is probably no coincidence that he was trying to sell the lease of a colliery in the Hill Fields at Darnall in December 1804. Again his lack of commercial acumen is evident: ‘my earnest desire was to be at peace with all my neighbours […] I would sell it to them for less than anyone else.’54 When the slave trade ended, at least legally, in 1807 ‘Sulky Sam,’ as he was known locally, spent more and more time at Broad Green. Within ten years he had let the house on Ranelagh Street, which was ‘so surrounded by streets that it had ceased to be agreeable for a private dwelling,’ and moved to the fashionable suburb of Everton, marking his withdrawal from mercantile affairs.55 Simultaneously he accepted the role of Head Distributor of Stamps in Liverpool, which he was to retain until two years before his death in 1851. His intermittent diary entries continued to provide a melancholy note of the anniversaries of family deaths, such as those of ‘my dear brother Charles’ and ‘my revered mother.’ Samuel’s son Thomas had been born in February 1806; at his christening one of his godfathers was the wealthy merchant John Bolton, who was to send out one of the last legal slave ships from Liverpool before abolition 52 LRO, Staniforth Papers, 920 STI/1/3/4, General Memorandums, No. 4, 14 March 1804. 53 Jordan notes the fatal conservatism of the Liverpool whalers in continuing to fish in the depleted seas off East Greenland (‘Captains,’ p. 188). 54 LRO, Staniforth Papers, 920 STI/2/1/2, Darnall Diary, December 1804. 55 Hext, Staniforthiana, p. 82. •


Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family in 1807.56 Unlike his father, Thomas was educated at Eton and Oxford and ordained in 1830, finally breaking the direct family links with commerce. This was not quite the end, however, as John Bolton died childless in 1837 and left his considerable estate at Storrs Hall in Windermere to his godson.57 This substantial inheritance was added to the output of the coalmines near Sheffield and other estates at Darnall, as well as the rents from the Shropshire estates purchased with the proceeds of trade. Subsequent generations continued to benefit from this complex legacy of slavery, although the direct links with Liverpool were gradually severed. In the 1840s Broad Green Hall was relinquished and in 1845 the old family home, Darnall Hall, was sold, becoming a lunatic asylum. Both houses were to be absorbed by the growth of their respective cities. Broad Green Hall was demolished in 1951 but Darnall Hall lingered on, surrounded by a sea of terraced houses, until it was gutted in a disastrous fire in April 2010.

Abolition and Anti-Abolition in Liverpool The world of the Staniforth papers is one in which family, social and commercial concerns dominate. Thomas Staniforth, son of a prosperous family with landed and industrial interests, was typical of those who were apprenticed to leading merchants in the bustling ports of Georgian England. Self-confident and ambitious, their energies were consumed by commerce. They relied on a continuous flow of correspondence with partners and business contacts. Constant sociability was a vital ingredient of their commercial success and their cultural and charitable pursuits were an extension of their business networks. Within the hundreds of pages of diaries, memorandum books and letter books, the Staniforths make no direct mention of their attitude to the slave trade, their participation in the anti-abolitionist campaign or, ultimately, their response to abolition in 1807. The only tantalising glimpse of Thomas Staniforth’s awareness that times were changing lies in his annotation of the list of voyages in the notebook which Wright might have painted: up to 1777, Staniforth lists the number of ‘slaves’ carried on each voyage, after that date he carefully changes his wording to ‘negroes.’ Was this an indication that the Mansfield judgement of 1772, which abolished slavery in England and Wales, had some impact on his thinking? As a member of the Council in the late 1780s, Thomas Staniforth would have been aware of the numerous Liverpool petitions against the abolition of the slave trade: in May 1789, for example, there were petitions 56 LRO, Staniforth Papers, 920 STI/1/3/4, General Memorandums, No. 4, 28 April 1806. 57 Thomas Staniforth inherited the estate after the death of Bolton’s wife in 1848. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery from planters, merchants, manufacturers, sailmakers, joiners, shipwrights, ropemakers, coopers, gunmakers, blockmakers, bakers and the Corporation itself, yet the memorandum book refers only to ‘a most elegant ball at the Exchange’ on 4 June 1789 in honour of the king’s birthday.58 Two years later, on 20 April 1791, Staniforth merely records the bare facts of the House of Commons’ vote on Wilberforce’s motion for the abolition of the slave trade: ‘for the motion, 88, against it 163, majority 75.’ He made no further comment on the outcome of the vote but, on the same day, he was careful to note that ‘swallows appeared at Childwall.’59 Relationships between abolitionists and anti-abolitionists were exceptionally complex in Liverpool in the 1790s. William Roscoe, the author of a poem entitled ‘The Wrongs of Africa’ and a prominent Liverpool member of the Society for the Abolition of the African Slave Trade was a vigorous public campaigner against slavery. His private relationships were more nuanced, however, as is evident in his letter of 12 July 1792 to an acquaintance, Captain William Lace of the slave ship Joshua in Angola. Both men were enthusiastic botanists and Roscoe had written to ask William to collect seeds and bulbs for him in Africa and the West Indies. He then added: I cannot omit this opportunity of expressing my hearty wishes for your return in safety and health to your friends […] I have observed, with pleasure, that your natural disposition is kind and liberal, and you can never have a fitter opportunity of exerting those qualities than your present situation affords […] May God bless you and all under your care, whatever may be their complexion, and believe me, my dear friend, ever affectionately yours, W. Roscoe.60

The professional and personal concerns of abolitionists and anti-abolitionists were deeply entwined in late eighteenth-century Liverpool. Only the Quakers maintained unwavering distinctions of the sort demonstrated by the Liverpool timber merchant William Rathbone, who was reported to be unwilling to sell his timber for use in the construction of slave ships.61

58 The petitions are listed in the Journal of the House of Commons, Vol. XLIV, 20 November 1788–10 December 1789, pp. 381–83, 20 May 1789. 59 LRO, Staniforth Papers, 920 STI/1/3/3, General Memorandums, No. 3, 2 October 1787 to 10 July 1795, 20 April 1791. 60 Quoted in Williams (1897), pp. 614–15. 61 Williams, History, p. 579. •


Portrait of a Slave-Trading Family

Conclusion As Mayor in 1797–1798 and a member of the Africa Committee, Thomas Staniforth would undoubtedly have been active in the anti-abolition campaign, yet his papers are frustratingly silent on the subject. This is all the more remarkable as 1799 was a peak year with over 45,000 slaves being transported in 134 ships from Liverpool.62 Why is there so little reference to the Staniforths’ personal views on a trade in which they had significant involvement for over half a century? Is the longevity of their involvement part of the answer? From a young age, Thomas had been acculturated into the commercial world of the Goores, absorbing the patterns of trade and the habits of the counting house and perhaps feeling no need to discuss the morality of long-established and widely shared business practices. His letter books and diaries reveal the inner world of a man who had a passion for nature, whose charitable instincts were recorded in donations to ‘a poor woman to enable her to go to Northwich’ or to ‘an old soldier, top of Lord Street,’ 63 a man whose extreme sensibility was painfully exposed on the death of his daughter Alethea at the age of 26 in February 1791 – ‘the severest affliction I ever experienced’ 64 – yet who carried thousands of Africans into slavery without comment. Part of the explanation may lie in the career trajectory which he shared with much of the Liverpool slave-trading community. Thomas Staniforth’s route into the trade was through apprenticeship to a major Liverpool merchant rather than through experience gained during slave voyages. A number of Liverpool slave traders, such as William Boats and Robert Bostock, had served initially as captains in the trade before making the transition to merchants. In contrast, Staniforth and many of his commercial peers had no experience of the day-to-day realities of the trade, despite their intense interest in the conditions on the African coast and in any other information which provided commercial advantage to the Liverpool slave-trading community. With only a few abolitionists active in Liverpool in the late 1780s and strong support evident in the numbers of local signatories to the petitions against abolition, Liverpool slave traders may have felt that their activities were less morally repugnant than their external critics suggested.65 Their interrelated 62 Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, [accessed 26 August 2013]. 63 LRO, Staniforth Papers, 920 STI/1/1/1, Diary, 9 February 1798 and 6 March 1798. 64 LRO, Staniforth papers, 920 STI/1/1/3, General Memorandums, No. 3, 2 October 1787 to 10 July 1795. 65 Liverpool Record Office, 920 MD 2-3, Petitions relating to the slave trade, 1796 and (?) 1804. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery commercial, social and cultural worlds may have helped to normalise the slave trade and reinforce their belief in its centrality to the economic health of the town. The following reference to the slave trade in a guidebook published by a local doctor in 1796 probably typified contemporary anti-abolitionist attitudes in Liverpool: The merits of this Trade, in a moral and political light, have long been a subject of earnest contention by the legislature and individuals of this country. As a simple moral question, considered in the abstract, it can meet with no countenance. In a political point of view, everything favours it.66

In fact, it has been suggested that Liverpool increased its slaving clearances by nearly 70 per cent during the final years prior to abolition as the approaching end of the trade created the opportunity for greater profits.67 Given the prevailing practices of their mercantile community, is it so surprising that the Staniforths made no overt comments on the rights or wrongs of slavery in their writings? One other, darker possibility remains: that the Staniforths never thought that the trade was wrong and resented the staunch criticism of those such as the Quaker timber merchants, the Rathbones. There is perhaps one shred of evidence for this attitude of morally blind defiance. In January 1797 Thomas Staniforth and five long-standing partners sent out a ship for Anomabu on the Gold Coast. They embarked 388 slaves, of whom 355 survived the Atlantic crossing but the vessel was captured before disembarking the slaves and rerouted to Guadeloupe. It had all started as a standard slaving voyage for Staniforth but with one notable feature: the vessel was named the ‘Quaker.’

66 W. Moss, The Liverpool Guide (Liverpool, 1796), p. 100. 67 J. A. Rawley, London, Metropolis of the Slave Trade (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2003), p. 39. •


4 Forgotten Women Anna Eliza Elletson and Absentee Slave Ownership Hannah Young Forgotten Women

Late eighteenth-century representations of the absentee slave owner depict a rich, ostentatious and often dissolute figure. Novels, plays and newspapers of the period presented caricatures of this West Indian ‘type.’1 Passionate, haughty and extravagant, this figure, almost exclusively male, represented a particular kind of foppish masculinity. In his 1771 novel Humphry Clinker, Tobias Smollett vividly described these ‘planters, negro-drivers and hucksters’ as ‘men of low birth, and no breeding.’ Having ‘found themselves suddenly translated into a state of affluence unknown to former ages,’ he suggests that ‘their brains’ had been ‘intoxicated with pride, vanity, and presumption.’2 Yet not only does this crude stereotype belie the extent to which many slave-holding men were able to successfully present themselves as polite and respectable gentlemen, it also fails to acknowledge that women, like Jamaican slave owner Anna Eliza Elletson, were actively involved in the slave-owning enterprise.3 Although he portrayed the West Indian absentee as uncouth, self-indulgent and male, Smollett had himself married a Jamaican heiress and was economically reliant on remittances from the Caribbean. This was hardly uncommon in late eighteenth-century society. By the 1830s, 1 Wylie Sypher, ‘The West-Indian as a “Character” in the Eighteenth Century,’ Studies in Philology, 36:3 (1939), p. 503. 2 Tobias Smollett, Humphrey Clinker [1771] (London: Penguin, 2008), p. 44. 3 Linda L. Sturtz has produced the only other examination of the plantation ownership of Anna Eliza Elletson. I have found her illuminating research exceptionally helpful. See ‘The “Dimduke” and the Duchess of Chandos: Gender and Power in Jamaican Plantation Management – a Case Study or, a Different Story of “A Man [and his wife] from a Place Called Hope,”’ Revista/Review Interamericana, 29 (1999), http:// [accessed 26 August 2015]. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery when slavery was abolished in the British colonies, there were over 3,000 absentees living in metropolitan Britain and although it is difficult to discern concrete figures for the earlier period, rates of absenteeism grew exponentially as the eighteenth century progressed.4 Yet absentees were, as Douglas Hall has demonstrated, ‘a heterogenous lot.’5 While returning to the metropole was an increasingly attractive proposition for those who had made their fortunes in the Caribbean, other British absentees had inherited plantations and slaves – or annuities and legacies secured on this property – or were mortgagees who had foreclosed on West Indian estates.6 Absentees, in all their diverse forms, occupied an increasingly prominent role in British society. The West Indian colonies, and Jamaica in particular, lay at the heart of an imperial network reaching the zenith of its profit and prosperity. They were ‘shining Trophies […] extend[ing] the Fame, display[ing] the Power, and support[ing] the Commerce of Great Britain.’7 The production of sugar was a huge industrial enterprise, underpinned by an exploited and enslaved workforce. As European sugar consumption rose, exports from the West Indies reached new heights. By the early 1770s, 36,000 tons of sugar were being exported from Jamaica each year.8 The effects of the American Revolutionary War meant that the years 1775 to 1783 were difficult and tumultuous, but the West Indian colonies continued to be profitable.9 The majority of Britons continued to see slavery as fundamental to the maintenance of British commercial supremacy and national prosperity.10 4 Catherine Hall, Nicholas Draper, Keith McClelland, Katie Donington and Rachel Lang, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), p. 35; Trevor Burnard, ‘Passengers Only: The extent and significance of absenteeism in eighteenth century Jamaica,’ Atlantic Studies, 1:2 (2004), p. 181. 5 Douglas Hall, ‘Absentee Proprietorship in the British West Indies, to about 1850,’ Journal of Caribbean History, 35:1 (2001), p. 101. 6 Nicholas Draper, The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 140, 186. 7 John Campbell, A Political Survey of Great Britain, Vol. 2 (London, 1774), p. 567. 8 B. W. Higman, A Concise History of the Caribbean (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 104. 9 Cut off from North American supplies, Jamaica, like much of the British West Indies, experienced acute shortages of food, while the threat of French invasion loomed large in the imagination. Selwyn H. H. Carrington, ‘The American Revolution and the British West Indies’ Economy,’ Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 17:4 (1987), p. 82; Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), p. 170. 10 Srividhya Swaminathan, ‘Developing the West Indian Proslavery Position after •


Forgotten Women Like metropolitan commentators, West Indian planters conceived of slave ownership as a male undertaking. Antiguan planter Samuel Martin’s bestselling manual Essay Upon Plantership was dedicated to ‘All the Planters of the British Sugar Colonies,’ whom he described as ‘Gentlemen.’ He believed himself tasked with ‘sharpen[ing] the ingenuity of other men, in service of their country’ and offered his aid to ‘every man […] who wishes to grow rich with ease.’11 Nor was Martin unique. West Indian planters who wrote about their experiences almost exclusively defined the slave owner as male.12 This is perhaps to be expected, particularly in the latter decades of the eighteenth century, when gendered attitudes and expectations were continuing to harden. As Scottish Presbyterian Minister and conduct book writer James Fordyce argued, where ‘war, commerce, politics, exercises of strength and dexterity,’ were deemed ‘most properly the province of men’, a woman’s ‘empire’ was ‘that which has the heart for its object […] secured by meekness and modesty, by soft attraction and virtuous love.’13 Yet despite the proliferation of conduct books that required them to conform to these standards of behaviour, women – particularly those in elite circles – could wield significant power. In an eighteenth-century world where political and familial interests were intertwined, elite women were expected to play a role in political life, whether through participating in salons, establishing familial and friendship networks and alliances, getting involved in election campaigns or by intervening in systems of patronage.14 However, these women always occupied a borderline status: they acted, often skilfully, in the political arena but their activities, and political identities, were fragile and unstable, ‘comprised of multiple and sometimes conflicting currents.’15 K. D. Reynolds, in her study of aristocratic women in the nineteenth century, has also demonstrated that women were regularly involved in the economic affairs of the family estate, arguing that to neglect the Somerset Decision,’ Slavery and Abolition, 24:3 (2003), p. 41. See also Srividhya Swaminathan, Debating the Slave Trade: Rhetoric of British National Identity, 1759–1815 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), ch. 4. 11 Samuel Martin, An Essay Upon Plantership, 5th ed. (London, 1773), pp. v–vi, 3. 12 Jamaican planter Thomas Roughley, for example, warned of the dangers which faced an absentee who ‘seldom or ever visit[s] the island or his estates,’ arguing that consequently ‘he understands little of the resources it possesses.’ Thomas Roughley, The Jamaica Planter’s Guide; Or, A System For Planting and Managing a Sugar Estate (London, 1823), p. 19. 13 James Forydce, Sermons to Young Women, Vol. 1, 3rd ed. (Dublin, 1766), p. 258. 14 Elaine Chalus, Elite Women in English Political Life, c. 1754–1790 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2005), p. 17. 15 Kathryn Gleadle, Borderline Citizens: Women, Gender and Political Culture in Britain, 1815–1867 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 2. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery women’s involvement in estate business is to ignore a crucial component of the management of rural society. Although Reynolds’s research focuses on the Victorian era, she recognises that there were many continuities between this and the earlier period.16 Women in the late eighteenth century were active politically and economically. But these activities were also contingent, filled with complexity and contradiction. The structure of slave ownership, like property ownership more broadly, was inherently gendered. Women were less likely to be absentee plantation owners than their male counterparts, tending to be smaller-scale, resident, urban slave owners.17 However, there were still considerable numbers of female absentees managing vast Caribbean estates from metropolitan Britain. While the role women played in the abolition movement has been examined extensively, their pro-slavery counterparts have remained virtually invisible in the historiography of slavery and absenteeism.18 These slaveowning women living at the heart of British society have been entirely forgotten.

Anna Eliza Elletson/Brydges Anna Eliza Elletson was one such woman. From her stylish Mayfair town house, Anna Eliza was actively involved in the long-distance management of Hope Estate, her Jamaican plantation. Between December 1775 and March 1780 she regularly corresponded with John Pool and Edward East, her Caribbean attorneys who were responsible for the supervision of the plantation, the provision of plantation supplies and the shipment of the sugar. This extensive correspondence contains detailed discussions of the 16 K. D. Reynolds, Aristocratic Women and Political Society in Victorian Britain (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998), pp. 42–60. 17 Although still relatively small in size, there is a growing scholarship on female slave ownership in the Caribbean, including: Lucille Mathurin Mair, A Historical Study of Women in Jamaica (Mona: University of West India Press, 2006); Hilary Beckles, Centering Women: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Society (Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 1999); Kathleen Mary Butler, The Economics of Emancipation: Jamaica and Barbados, 1823–1843 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); Cecily Jones, Engendering Whiteness: White Women and Colonialism in Barbados and North Carolina, 1627–1865 (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2007); Christine Walker ‘Pursuing her Profits: Women in Jamaica, Atlantic Slavery and a Globalising Market, 1700–60,’ Gender and History, 26:3 (2014), pp. 478–501. 18 Two works have been particularly influential: Clare Midgley, Women against Slavery: The British Campaigns, 1780–1870 (London: Routledge, 1992); Moira Ferguson, Subject to Others: British Women Writers and Colonial Slavery, 1670–1834 (New York: Routledge, 1992). •


Forgotten Women practicalities of running an estate and provides a unique insight into the mindset of a late eighteenth-century absentee who also happened to be a woman. Examining Elletson’s slave ownership involves delving beyond the stereotype of the lavish and profligate absentee and challenging traditional conceptions of the plantation owner as necessarily male. In exploring how gendered attitudes and behaviour underpinned absentee slave ownership, forgotten women like Elletson can begin to be reintegrated into Britain’s national memory of slavery.19 An affluent member of the Hertfordshire landed gentry, it was Anna Eliza’s marriage to Roger Hope Elletson, a Jamaican-born slave owner, that enabled her to acquire Hope Estate. As both ‘devisee and sole executrix to his will,’ upon her husband’s death in 1775 she inherited Hope, a sugar plantation upon which worked 385 enslaved men, women and children.20 Anna Eliza’s widowhood was a necessary part of the acquisition of her Caribbean property. Under the common law principle of coverture, a married woman’s legal existence was subsumed within that of her husband. She could not own property in her own right. Yet following Roger’s death, his widow was able to assume complete and sole ownership of the estate.21 Anna Eliza never visited Jamaica, nor ever expressed any desire to do so. Her relationship with the plantation, and the people enslaved upon it, was entirely epistolary. This was, in essence, an imagined place, what Catherine Hall has termed a ‘Jamaica of the mind.’22 Anna Eliza’s correspondence with her attorneys was heavily gendered. She recognised the atypicality of her position as a female plantation owner and believed this placed her at a disadvantage. In one of her earliest letters to Pool and East she admitted that planting ‘seldom happens to be the subject of 19 The relative paucity of studies concerning the slave ownership of British women contrasts dramatically with the extensive literature exploring US women’s involvement in slavery. Catherine Clinton’s The Plantation Mistress is just one of many monographs that examines the contribution of white women in the plantation societies of the Antebellum South. Cecily Jones’ excellent comparison of North Carolina and Barbados shows that in both societies white women played an important role both as active economic agents and in helping to construct and reproduce the boundaries of whiteness which underpinned colonial rule. See Catherine Clinton, The Plantation Mistress: Women’s World in the Old South (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), p. 15; Cecily Jones, Engendering Whiteness, p. 2. 20 National Library of Jamaica [hereafter NLJ] MS29A, AEE to Mrs Staker, 11 December 1775; Huntington Library [hereafter HL], San Marino, CA. Stowe Papers, West Indies Box 3, A List of Negroes on Hope Plantation, 1 January 1776. 21 Veront M. Satchell, Hope Transformed: A Historical Sketch of the Hope Landscape, St. Andrew, Jamaica, 1660–1960 (Mona: University of the West Indies Press, 2012), p. 77. 22 Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830–1867 (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002), p. 174. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery contemplation with Women,’ arguing that ‘our mode of Education does not qualify us for such employments.’23 Regular articulations of her insecurity suggest that she feared her own ignorance could have a detrimental effect on the success of the plantation. Requesting information from her attorneys about Hope, she was careful to establish that her desire to ‘in any Degree […] render myself mistress of this subject’ was motivated by a wish to better understand their letters, not because she had any inclination to take charge herself.24 Whether through expressing to her attorneys her relief at having ‘such Gentlemen as you’ to manage her Jamaican affairs or praising their ‘strong and masterly’ reasoning, scattered throughout her letters are numerous articulations of the gendered assumptions which underpinned contemporary understandings of plantation ownership.25 There is a danger, however, in overstating Anna Eliza’s gendered sense of subservience. She may have claimed to have known ‘but little of plantation business’ but her knowledgeable, detailed and forthright letters suggest otherwise.26 Throughout her correspondence there are many examples of her actively engaging with the practicalities of plantership. Complaining about the dark colour of the sugar, directing her attorneys on how to deal with complex legal cases, providing agricultural advice; Anna Eliza’s orders were clear and authoritative. An intelligent and ambitious woman, she was, despite her protestations, extremely knowledgeable about the minutiae of plantation ownership. Even her claim that the deficiencies in women’s education made them unqualified for plantership was followed by a comprehensive and specific list of instructions regarding manure, the manner in which the sugar cane was to be planted and ‘the labour of the Negroes.’27 Anna Eliza may have represented herself as unqualified for the position as owner and manager of a Jamaican plantation but this did not prevent her from engaging fully and resolutely with the task in hand. Indeed, it is possible that her claims of ignorance were grounded in an understanding that such proclamations were to be expected rather than in any accurate expression of her own abilities. Anna Eliza’s marriage was necessary not only in facilitating the acquisition of her Jamaican property but in enabling her to acquire the knowledge required to become a successful plantation and slave owner. Evidently, Anna Eliza acted as both confidante and advisor to her ‘[d]ear husband and […] 23 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 17 January 1776. 24 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 17 January 1776. 25 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 7 December 1775; AEE to East, 13 June 1776. 26 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 12 March 1780. 27 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 17 January 1776; Sturtz, ‘The “Dimduke” and the Duchess of Chandos,’ p. 10. •


Forgotten Women only certain friend.’28 His willingness to share his knowledge about planting and slave ownership with his wife enabled her to ably adopt the mantle of absentee planter after his death. That a letter she wrote to Bristol merchant Mr Gordon emphasised that ‘Mr Elletson was always so well satisfied with your manner of doing business’ highlights that Anna Eliza was well informed of the opinions of her late husband.29 This was also evident in her assurance to overseer Mr Ballard that a recommendation by John Pool had meant ‘we were prepossessed in your favour.’30 Making others conscious that she had been aware of Hope Elletson’s views allowed Anna Eliza to derive her own authority from that of her husband.31 Yet this did not preclude independent thought and action. Less than a fortnight after his death, Anna Eliza referred to Hope as ‘my Estate’ and commented that, despite her grief-stricken state of mind, she had not had a spare moment ‘from writing the necessary letters that are gone to Jamaica.’32 When corresponding with those who had been used to dealing with her husband, she was careful to emphasise that ‘I now answer on my own account.’33 Neither did she always unthinkingly adopt the opinions of Hope Elletson, even on occasion implicitly criticising the decision-making of her late husband. She initiated a discussion with Pool and East, for example, about the possibility of sending over an English ploughman to direct the agricultural work on the estate, despite being fully aware that Roger Hope Elletson had not supported the idea.34 Her husband may have provided Anna Eliza with the necessary knowledge to undertake the long-distance management of Hope, but she was unafraid of making her own decisions. A disappointing crop may have led her to lament ‘[a]s a planter I have begun my reign most unsuccessfully’ but the monarchical undertones of such language illustrate a great deal about how she conceived herself.35 It is also possible that Anna Eliza’s professions of ignorance were rooted as much in her status as an absentee as her position as a woman. She believed that her Jamaican-born husband had been ‘a good understanding planter’ but in contrast presented herself as ‘a mere novice,’ noting that anyone would struggle to cultivate a country with which they were unacquainted.36 Having 28 NLJ MS29A, AEE to East, 7 December 1775. 29 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Gordon, 26 December 1775. 30 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Mr. Ballard, 13 January 1776. 31 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 17 January 1776. 32 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 7 December 1775; AEE to Mrs Staker, 11 December 1775. 33 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Mr. Ballard, 13 January 1776. 34 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 17 January 1776. 35 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 23 January 1777. 36 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 23 January 1777. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery received several letters from her attorneys shortly after the death of Hope Elletson, Anna Eliza confessed that ‘they tread on a subject of which I am not so perfectly Mistress as I ought to be.’37 Far from indicating that she believed her gender made her fundamentally unsuited to or unqualified for plantation ownership, this suggests that Anna Eliza believed any deficiencies could, and indeed should, be remedied. Constantly demanding more information, she clearly believed that through instruction and research she could become a knowledgeable, and consequently successful, plantation owner. Elletson was certainly dependent on Pool and East for the implementation of her ideas and instructions. Writing from across the Atlantic, almost 5,000 miles from a plantation she had never visited, she recognised that she was ‘indebted’ to the ‘good management’ of her attorneys.38 While both contemporaries and historians have argued that many attorneys were lazy, profligate and deceitful, Anna Eliza seemed pleased with the conduct of Pool and East, assuring them that Hope ‘cannot fail to prosper under such good management.’39 That she was reliant on the trust and capabilities of others was in no way unique: there were thousands of Caribbean plantation owners living in metropolitan Britain in the late eighteenth century and the endeavours of their attorneys were critical to their success. However, it is noticeable that this dependency is couched in implicitly gendered terms not echoed in the correspondence of male absentees. The same kinds of profession of ignorance, for example, are not evident in the letters of fellow absentee Thomas Lane. Nor did he use the same language of dependence, instead referring to the ‘obligation’ he felt towards his attorneys.40 Anna Eliza, on the other hand, assured Pool and East that she was ‘relying on your protection’ and thanked them for helping to ‘protect the property of the Defenceless’ and thus ‘act[ing] a noble part.’41 Her orders and instructions may have been forthright and knowledgeable but underlying this rhetoric 37 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 26 January 1776. 38 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 17 January 1776. 39 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 6 March 1776. Thomas Roughley, for example, argued that most attorneys were ‘engrossed by their own interested speculations […] too ostentatious, proud and supine to contribute to the good of their constituents.’ Roughley, The Jamaica Planter’s Guide, p. 7. Studies that have emphasised the general incompetence of attorneys include Lowell Joseph Ragatz, ‘Absentee Landlordism in the British Caribbean, 1750–1833,’ Agricultural History, 5:1 (1931), pp. 7–24; Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (London: Deutsch, 1964); Orlando Patterson, The Sociology of Slavery: An Analysis of the Origins, Development and Structure of Negro Slave Society in Jamaica (London: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1967). 40 Senate House Library, MS523/967, T Lane to Sir J Alleyne, 3 May 1796; T Lane to R Haynes, 1 January 1805. 41 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 23 January 1777. •


Forgotten Women was the assumption of a male protector and female dependent. This contradiction underpinned much of Anna Eliza’s correspondence as she attempted to negotiate her position as woman and slave owner. In 1777 Anna Eliza married James Brydges, joining the highest ranks of the English aristocracy. Shortly after, Brydges inherited the dukedom of Chandos and Anna Eliza became a duchess. That a marriage between the head of one of England’s most prominent aristocratic families and a gentry-born Jamaican absentee appears to have been met with little disapproval suggests that the dividing lines between different ranks of society, although firm, were not impenetrably rigid. An annual income of around £6,000 could make these divisions considerably more porous.42 In an eighteenth-century world where the Caribbean colonies were still one of the most vital areas for British wealth creation, a marriage between landed wealth – still a beacon of British status and influence – and colonial commerce could be mutually beneficial.43 Although under the common law principle of coverture, ‘by marriage those chattels which belonged to the woman before marriage, are by act of law vested in her husband,’ under the laws of equity a married woman could be permitted to own her own ‘sole and separate estate’ in the form of a trust.44 These trusts gave wives limited property rights, protected their independent interests during marriage and even occasionally gave women the power to bequeath property as they wished. The extent to which marriage settlements gave any real power to women has been hotly debated, and trusts often contained severe restrictions.45 Unfortunately, it has been difficult to discover the contents of the settlement between Anna Eliza and James Brydges. However, in Anna Eliza’s will – admittedly written in 42 HL, Stowe Papers, West Indies Box 2. Hope Plantation, Jamaica. ‘Accounts of Production, Sales and Shipping of Sugar and Rum, 1758–1784.’ 43 P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins, ‘Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas I. The Old Colonial System, 1688–1850,’ The Economic History Review, 39:4 (1986), p. 518; G. E. Mingay, English Landed Society in the Eighteenth Century (London: Routledge, 1963), pp. 28–29. 44 J. Johnson, The Laws Respecting Women (London, 1777), p. 149. 45 Those engaged in this debate have included Maxine Berg, ‘Women’s Property and the Industrial Revolution,’ The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 24:2 (1993), pp. 233–50; Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2002); Amy Erickson, Men, Women and Property in England, 1780–1870 (London: Routledge, 1993); Alistair Owens, ‘Property, Gender and the Life Course: Inheritance and Family Welfare Provision in Early Nineteenth-Century England,’ Social History, 26:3 (2001), pp. 299–317; R. J. Morris, Men, Women and Property in England, 1780–1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery 1789, after Brydges’s death – she bequeathed Hope to be settled upon her only surviving child, a daughter also named Anna Eliza, who would later become the Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos. The laws of equity not only provided some married women with access to property but could also enable them to transmit it intergenerationally, to daughters as well as sons.46 Anna Eliza did not relinquish control of Hope when she remarried.47 The regular communication between Pool, East and the new duchess continued unabated. Although Pool and East sent several letters to Brydges in courtesy, until at least 1782 the majority of correspondence continued to be addressed to Anna Eliza. Indeed, the first letter she sent after her second marriage apologised that ‘that event’ had meant she had neglected to answer several letters, but this was the only allusion to her marriage. She then continued to discuss estate matters as usual.48 The tone of Pool and East’s correspondence, however, did change. While they always employed a courteous and considerate tone, when she became a duchess, their language immediately became more explicitly deferential and they used increasingly long and florid subscriptions: an important part of letter-writing etiquette used to distinguish hierarchies of rank.49 As an elite and high-ranking woman, Anna Eliza wielded significant power. Within the world of transatlantic commerce, hierarchies of class could be as significant as those of gender.

Gentlemanly Networks Gentlemanly networks of planters, merchants and financiers were crucial to the practice of absentee ownership. As David Hancock argues, focusing solely on one individual can be misleading, as they were ‘only one piece of a large puzzle, one character in a complicated story.’50 Informal gentlemanly networks sustained both the West Indian sugar enterprise and the wider British Empire in the late eighteenth century. Crossing metropole and colony, these networks were held together by ties of commerce, politics, 46 HL, Stowe Papers, West Indies Box 5. Settlement of Estates in Ireland & Jamaica and Appointment by His Grace the Duke of Buckingham & Chandos and the Marquis of Chandos, 3 May 1828. 47 Satchell, Hope Transformed, p. 83. 48 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 6 October 1777. 49 Eve Taylor Bannet, Empire of Letters: Letter Manuals and Transatlantic Correspondence, 1688–1820 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 65. 50 David Hancock, Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community, 1735–1785 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 10. •


Forgotten Women culture and sociability.51 Absentees thus often located themselves within a wider transatlantic fraternity of West India gentlemen. New acquaintances or employees tended to be friends or connections of others, and personal introductions, whether by epistolary or direct means, were necessary to establish relationships. Barbadian absentee Thomas Lane’s response to a warning he had received about an unknown Mr Goodridge shows the significance of these pre-established networks. ‘I receive your caution as to this Gentleman with thanks,’ he insisted, ‘but you might be assured I shod. [sic] not enter into much serious conversation with a Stranger.’52 It is unsurprising that without access to these kinds of networks, female slave owners could face considerable impediments. Anna Eliza was clearly disadvantaged in this respect when the men of the Jamaican Assembly attempted to pass a bill which would allow them to convey water from Hope to the nearly town of Kingston. They had been friends of Roger Hope Elletson during his time as Governor and waited until after his death before attempting to pass this bill, the implications of which would prove exceedingly detrimental to Hope Estate. She may have heard her husband ‘speak of his friends in Jamaica with so much affection’ but as a woman and an absentee, Anna Eliza did not enjoy the same attachment with these men – or they with her – and thus found herself in a vulnerable position. This was something she well understood, admitting to her attorneys: ‘my property is in a country whence I have not the happening of having any friends to protect it save you.’53 Although Anna Eliza did not have access to the same kinds of gentlemanly networks as many male absentees, she did have a close relationship with her attorneys, men she described as ‘steadfast friends.’54 Naomi Tadmor has brought attention to the plurality of eighteenthcentury meanings of friendship, highlighting that the term could apply to economic and occupational connections as well as sentimental, sociable and kinship attachments and there is no doubt that this ostensibly professional 51 Katie Donington, ‘The Benevolent Merchant? George Hibbert and the Representation of West Indian Mercantile Identity,’ PhD thesis, University College London, 2013, p. 29. 52 Senate House Library, MS523/967, T Lane to S Wood, 23 May 1802. 53 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 26 March 1776. Anna Eliza was extremely irate at the behaviour of the men of the Jamaican Assembly, convinced they were exploiting her. Aware of her rights as a property holder, she deemed the Act ‘totally repugnant to the Laws of this country’ and believed it would be ‘reversed here, should it be carried out against me in Jamaica,’ a prediction which was ultimately proved correct. NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool, 13 June 1776. 54 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 12 March 1780. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery enterprise was underpinned by personal ties.55 Anna Eliza had known East before he travelled to Jamaica. While he was managing her Jamaican estate, she was heavily involved in the upbringing of his son ‘Neddy’ in Britain. As well as conversations about planting, sugar and the enslaved, the correspondence between the two contained many discussions about Ned, his behaviour and his schooling.56 Anna Eliza spoke about Ned with great warmth, assuring East that ‘your son is very well, and promising to be everything you can possibly wish him to be,’ and the close relationship between the two families was to continue for decades.57 That Elletson was unashamed to proclaim, ‘You are not mere attornies to me, you are in fact my best friends’ suggests that although she might not have had access to the same kinds of gentlemanly networks as her male counterparts, her close relationship with Pool and East was crucial to her plantation ownership. Far from being mutually exclusive, friendship and business were intimately interlinked, even when the slave owner was female.58

Managing Hope Despite her gender, her distance from Hope, her claims of ignorance and her dependence on her attorneys, Anna Eliza did not hesitate to proclaim her own opinions regarding the plantation. Organising the system of planting was a considerable commitment. Aware of the unpredictable weather and the area’s propensity for drought, she understood the importance of implementing an efficient watering system.59 ‘I have little to count on, unless the scheme of watering is carried into execution,’ she implored.60 Anna Eliza’s instructions were knowledgeable, detailed and precise. Behind the politely and innocuously written ‘I presume you will order the trenches to be dug Crosswise instead of perpendicular, and to bank the trenches up,’ was a clear order.61 Such specific and specialist knowledge suggests that, influenced by the spirit of agricultural improvement evident on British landed estates, she was a reader of contemporary agricultural advice books, such as Jethro Tull’s bestselling The New Horse-Houghing Husbandry.62 55 Naomi Tadmor, Family and Friends in Eighteenth-Century England: Household, Kinship and Patronage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 167. 56 NLJ MS29A, East to AE, 28 March 1777. 57 NLJ MS29A, AEE to East, 13 June 1776. 58 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 23 January 1777. 59 NLJ MS29A, AEE to East, 13 June 1776. 60 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool, 13 June 1776. 61 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 17 January 1776. 62 Nor was Anna Eliza the only absentee to undertake such a scheme. Susanne Seymour, Stephen Daniels and Charles Watkins have shown how Sir George Cornewall •


Forgotten Women While Richard B. Sheridan has suggested that the lack of attention paid to agricultural improvement was one of the ‘eroding effects of absentee landlordism,’ it does not appear to be the case that absentees were universally disinterested in ‘improving’ their Caribbean estates.63 Anna Eliza paid meticulous attention to the accounts she received from Jamaica and put forward a range of methods and techniques to improve the quality and quantity of the sugar produced at Hope. Modernising the estate’s agricultural practices was a perennial preoccupation. Departing from the wishes of her late husband, her attempts to send a ploughman to Hope ‘to Direct the Negroes in our method of plowing, and Harrowing,’ reveal her initiative and independent action.64 On several occasions she suggested employing specialists to oversee the implementation of new agricultural techniques, such as ‘a person from Hispaniola,’ where she believed the French had had success ‘long before it was ever thought of in Jamaica.’ 65 Certainly, Anna Eliza lacked neither ambition nor imagination, even asking her attorneys whether it was ‘feasible to water [the land] by fire engine?’ There was perhaps a naivety in her minimisation of the significance of all the extra expense involved in undertaking these endeavours. Believing that ‘it will amply repay me,’ she did not appear to have quite comprehended the difficulties involved.66 However, this does suggest that instilled in Anna Eliza was a spirit of agricultural improvement which, Justin Roberts argues, swept through Britain’s plantation colonies in the late eighteenth century.67 Agricultural innovation was not indiscriminately rejected. Indeed, it was often embraced.68 was involved in projects of agricultural improvement on both his Grenadian and Hertfordshire estates, highlighting many overlapping concerns in the management of land, labour and finance. See Susanne Seymour, Stephen Daniels and Charles Watkins, ‘Estate and Empire: Sir George Cornewall’s Management of Moccas, Hertfordshire and La Taste, Grenada, 1771–1819.’ Journal of Historical Geography, 24:3 (1998), p. 341. 63 R.B.  Sheridan, ‘The Rise of a Colonial Gentry: A Case Study of Antigua, 1730–1775,’ The Economic History Review, 13:3 (1961), p. 354. 64 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 17 January 1776. Ploughing was a relatively recent innovation in Jamaica. In 1772 agriculturalist Arthur Young commented that ploughing would be ‘a more advantageous form of cultivation’ in the West Indian colonies than the standard practice of hoeing by hand. Arthur Young, Political Essays Concerning the Present State of the British Empire (London, 1772), p. 278. 65 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 23 January 1777. 66 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool, 13 June 1776. 67 Justin Roberts, Slavery and the Enlightenment in the British Atlantic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 1. 68 W. A. Green, ‘The Planter Class and British West Indian Sugar Production, before and after Emancipation,’ The Economic History Review, 26:3 (1973), p. 448. One Jamaican land surveyor argued in 1796 that the recent agricultural improvements in Jamaica ‘had •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Anna Eliza’s orders about how to deal with the sugar once it had been reaped and refined were also extremely precise. Her letters were full of a variety of instructions, from how to insure the sugar to who should ship it and which merchants it should be sold to. Although she dealt with merchant houses in both London and Bristol, unusually, she preferred her sugar to be sold at the latter. ‘I have always understood that sugar bears a better price at Bristol, than at London, unless the market is overstocked,’ she wrote to merchant Robert Gordon – a belief that seems to have been borne out by the fact that ‘there is a Difference of from five to six shillings per hogshead, in the sales that have been made at Bristol.’ 69 Nor was Elletson hesitant to share her opinions when unimpressed with any aspect of the sugar enterprise. Of repeated concern was the colour of the sugar. Demanding early on that ‘the sugar be made as white as possible’ she frequently expressed her disappointment with the quality of what had been produced.70 The 1778 sugar crop was, in Anna Eliza’s opinion, a ‘very bad colour’ and she instructed her attorneys ‘to take particular care to obviate it.’71 She may have professed that her attorneys were ‘the more competent judges’ of the decisions to be made, but the frequency of her own suggestions, directions and instructions completely contradicts this claim. That Anna Eliza valued the planation so highly is hardly surprising given the vast wealth Hope produced. Between 1777 and 1783, 1,589 hogsheads of sugar were shipped to London and Bristol from Hope at a total value of £46,557 6s 4½d. Although there was considerable annual variation, that represents an average of around £6,651-worth of sugar per year.72 Nor was this money considered in abstract or isolated terms; Anna Eliza was pleased to hear that the 1776 crop was going to be a good one, ‘as I shall have several sums of money to pay from it in England.’73 The wealth that Anna Eliza generated from her Jamaican sugar plantation alone would have placed her amongst the richest in British society. In his interestingly-titled been very great.’ Nicholas Robson, Hints for a General View of the Agricultural State of the Parish of Saint James, in the Island of Jamaica (London: John Stockade, 1796), p. 12. 69 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Gordon, 13 March 1776; AEE to Ballard, 13 January 1776. 70 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Ballard, 13 January 1776. 71 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 7 November 1778. 72 HL, Stowe Papers, West Indies Box 2. Hope Plantation, Jamaica. ‘Accounts of Production, Sales and Shipping of Sugar and Rum, 1758–1784.’ This sum is consistent with that provided by Anna Eliza’s committees who, in a 1791 petition for a maintenance allowance for the Duchess of Chandos, who had in that year been classified ‘a lunatic,’ argued that this ‘Plantation in Jamaica … has generally cleared £6,000 per Annum.’ HL, Stowe Papers, STB Personal Box 8/7 ‘Petition for maintenance allowance for Anna Eliza, Duchess of Chandos, 1791.’ 73 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 17 January 1776. •


Forgotten Women Men of Property, W. D. Rubinstein cites contemporaneous evidence from tax returns which suggests that in 1801 there were only 1,020 people in Britain earning an annual income over £5,000, though he also admits that this is probably an underestimate.74 That Elletson was able to amass such wealth and, significantly, without the cultural baggage associated with the West Indian ‘type,’ was crucial in enabling her to marry into the highest echelons of the English aristocracy.

Attitude towards the Enslaved One of the most important aspects of managing Hope was governing the enslaved people who worked on the estate. A racial ideology underpinned the institution of slave ownership.75 The reification of whiteness was a key underpinning of colonial rule in the British Caribbean and the writings of contemporary West Indians display an articulation of racial difference where physical, cultural and intellectual attributes are clearly conflated. ‘The negro is possessed of passions not only strong, but ungovernable’ wrote Hector M’Neill in 1788, ‘a mind dauntless, warlike and unmerciful; a temper extremely irascible; a disposition violent, selfish and deceitful.’76 Yet Anna Eliza’s correspondence was not filled with explicitly dehumanising language. Linda Sturtz has demonstrated how important it was to her to be 74 W. D. Rubinstein, Men of Property: The Very Wealthy in Britain since the Industrial Revolution (London: Social Affairs Unit, 2006), p. 62. 75 Robin Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern (London: Verso, 1997), pp. 12–15; Christer Petley, Slaveowners in Jamaica (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2009), p. 50. Edward Long’s infamous History of Jamaica contained this ditty: The general order, since the whole began, Is kept in nature, and is kept in man. Order is heaven’s first law; and this confest, Some are and must be, greater than the rest. Quoted in Hall, Civilising Subjects, p. 75. It is important, however, to recognise that eighteenth-century understandings of race were complex and uneven. Roxanne Wheeler has shown that ideas about difference associated with culture, civility and religion were as important to the way Britons viewed themselves as were physical characteristics like skin colour or hair texture. She argues that it was only towards the end of the eighteenth century that skin colour became ‘the primary signifier of human difference.’ See Roxann Wheeler, The Complexion of Race: Categories of Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Culture (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), p. 7. 76 Hector Macneill, Observations on the Treatment of the Negroes in the Island of Jamaica (London, 1788), p. 28. This echoes Edward Long’s assertion that the tempers of ‘negroes’ were ‘in general irascible, conceited, proud, indolent, lascivious, credulous, and very artful.’ Edward Long, The History of Jamaica, Vol. II (London, 1774), pp. 407, 365. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery conceived as a paternalistic mistress.77 She implored her overseer to ensure that the enslaved were ‘well taken care of in sickness or health, and their […] situations rendered as comfortable as possible.’78 Similarly, she ordered Edward East to treat them with ‘humanity and tenderness,’ adding that ‘it is a matter of the greatest consequence to me that they should be content.’79 Economic self-interest was certainly a prime motivation. Anna Eliza drew attention, for example, to the fact that she was ‘extremely concerned at the loss of the Negro Bacchus,’ but it is evident that this concern was not rooted in any concern for him or his family: ‘he was so essential to the Still House,’ she complained, hoping ‘that the loss is not irreplaceable.’80 Yet, pleased to hear that ‘the Negroes received the melancholy news of their Master’s death with great concern,’ Anna Eliza certainly saw herself as a benevolent planter.81 Her use of a paternalistic rhetoric and her apparent interest in the welfare of the enslaved also hints at the ambiguous position of the absentee slave owner. Geographic removal from the site of exploitation allowed absentees to distance themselves psychologically from the violent horrors of the slave system. Anna Eliza’s orders to treat the enslaved people ‘with goodness and humanity’ were, however, accompanied by one telling caveat. She may have ostensibly instructed her overseer to ‘continue that humane plan, and never to use any Correction to them,’ but this was followed by an important qualifier: ‘unless you see it absolutely necessary, to preserve that authority with which you are invested.’82 Contemporaries recognised that Caribbean slave society was a place where an ‘absolute coercive necessity […] supersedes all questions of right.’83 Anna Eliza’s ‘negroes’ were therefore characterised 77 Sturtz, ‘The “Dimduke” and the Duchess of Chandos,’ p. 6. 78 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Ballard, 13 January 1776. 79 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Ballard, 13 January 1776. 80 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 17 January 1776. 81 NLJ MS29A, East to AEE, 10 February 1776. As Katie Donington argues, absentee slave owners used the trope of the benevolent planter to present slavery as ‘a benign institution’ and the relationship between the enslaver and the enslaved as characterised by patriarchal beneficence. She draws attention to Thomas Bellamy’s 1789 play The Benevolent Planters which, according to one review, succeeded in ‘exhibit[ing] the humanity of the worthy Planter in a pleasing light.’ Of course, this archetype was itself gendered. ‘Generous men! Humanity confers dignity upon authority,’ announced one of Bellamy’s ‘benevolent planters.’ Katie Donington, ‘The Benevolent Merchant?,’ p. 37; The Monthly Review, 81 (1789), p. 371; Thomas Bellamy, The Benevolent Planters (London: J. Debrett, 1789), p. 3. 82 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Ballard, 13 January 1776. 83 Bryan Edwards, The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies, Vol. 1, 2nd ed. (London, 1793), p. 13, quoted in Trevor Burnard, Mastery, Tyranny and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World (Chapel Hill, •


Forgotten Women first and foremost by their enslavement; their treatment, however ostensibly generous, has to be conceived within these parameters. Underpinning Anna Eliza’s paternalistic rhetoric was a sense of absolute authority and control, which was imbued with racial connotations. Despite having no first-hand knowledge, she complained about the ‘well known obstinacy of the Negroes,’ suggesting that their activity would remain limited unless they had a white person to direct them, who, ‘being absolute over them obliges them to submit.’84 Although she argued that ‘they are born to labour in a manner peculiar to their colour,’ Elletson did suggest that ‘we who reap the fruits of that labour, ought to soften it for them’ – the only hint in her entire correspondence of an underlying discomfort with this system of forced labour. Yet even here, there was another important caveat: ‘as much as possible.’85 Despite the lack of explicitly dehumanising language, there is little doubt that Anna Eliza’s slave ownership was rooted in a hierarchically conceived assumption of racial difference. Her language of paternalism and protection contained an implicit assumption of superiority that was itself racialised. This raises questions about the way we think about the gendering of slave ownership and the expression of authority. While speaking to white male social equals, even inferiors, Anna Eliza employed, at least in part, a language of dependency and protection. Yet she simultaneously used paternalistic rhetoric to establish her authority over those who worked on her Jamaican plantation. In this context, it was her whiteness that lay at the heart of her power over the enslaved. Her gender was less significant than her position at the top of a racialised hierarchy; issues of gender were overdetermined by those of race. Ultimately, the enslaved people of Hope plantation were first and foremost conceived of as property. ‘You will please order a regular list of the Negroes, specifying their names and age as near as possible […] to be annually sent to me,’ Anna Eliza ordered.86 The values of ten enslaved people leased to Mr Collard, for example, were listed in an ‘appraisement of negroes belonging to the Estate of Roger Hope Elletson Esq. deceased’ undertaken at the end of the lease. All we know of these people is their names and how much they were deemed to be worth: Godfrey at £95, Benneba at £5, and everyone else

NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), p. 138. Thomas Thistlewood’s cruelty and brutality have been well documented. But, as Burnard notes, Thistlewood’s diaries suggest that his behaviour was far from unique or particularly aberrant. See Burnard, Mastery, Tyranny and Desire, p. 150. 84 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 23 January 1777. 85 NLJ MS29A, AEE to East, 13 June 1776. 86 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 7 November 1778. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery somewhere in between.87 These people were considered to be little more than units of economic value.88 That Anna Eliza ordered that ‘particular care may be taken of the breeding Women and their Children, for you well know that on the number and health of the Negroes, depends the success of a plantation’ shows the extent to which the fertility of the female slaves was deemed quantifiable.89 Anna Eliza’s correspondence hints at the contradictions between person and property embodied by the figure of the slave. She may have tried to distance herself from the darker side of the slave system but it is impossible to ignore that this particular form of property ownership was property in people.

Conclusion Jamaican plantation and slave ownership in the late eighteenth century was a complex and multifaceted endeavour, particularly for the absentee. These proprietors had to engage with an extensive range of interests, from personal, familial, political and military concerns to those explicitly pertaining to the running of a plantation, slavery, agriculture, trade and finance.90 Absentee plantation owners certainly encountered problems their resident counterparts did not, but an examination of Anna Eliza’s correspondence has shown that far from being passive, uninterested, even negligent, absentee plantation owners could and did take an active interest in the management of their estates. A good deal more work needs to be undertaken on female slave owners before we can be confident about Anna Eliza’s typicality.91 Nonetheless, examining figures like Anna Eliza does help us to explore the relationship between gender and absenteeism. There is no doubt that her letters were inherently gendered. Her repeated professions of ignorance and subservient language suggest that the idea of the knowledgeable male provider and the 87 HL, Stowe Papers, West Indies Box 3, ‘Lists of Negro Slaves, Vital Statistics etc., 1776–1788’. 88 Michael Craton and James Walvin, A Jamaican Plantation: The History of Worthy Park, 1670–1970 (London: W. H. Allen, 1970), p. 126. 89 NLJ MS29A, AEE to Pool and East, 23 January 1777. 90 Richard B. Sheridan, ‘Samuel Martin, Innovation Sugar Planter of Antigua 1750–1776,’ Agricultural History, 34:3 (1960), p. 128. 91 Erin Trahey’s work on fellow Jamaican absentee Eliza Virgo Scarlett, however, does show that Scarlett had a similar interest in agricultural improvement, while also, rather inaccurately, emphasising her own business and managerial incompetence. See Erin Trahey, ‘The Plantation Management of Eliza Virgo Scarlett: Female Proprietorship and the Jamaica Economy, 1798–1821.’ Unpublished conference paper, Women, Land and the Making of the British Landscape, 1300–1900, 19–20 June 2015, University of Hull. •


Forgotten Women unassuming female dependent was a powerful one. Although all absentees were reliant on their West Indian attorneys for help and support in the management of their plantations, Anna Eliza couched her far from unique dependence in particularly gendered terms. However, that her correspondence also contains detailed, specific and forthright orders about the management of Hope also shows that eighteenth-century ideas about gender were unstable and inconsistent. Anna Eliza demonstrates that although women were not presumed to be active economic agents or to be able to manage any property they owned, they certainly did so. Women like Elletson could variously, and even simultaneously, buttress, modify, manipulate and undermine societies’ gendered assumptions and expectations. Anna Eliza’s authority as a plantation owner may have been circumscribed by her position as a woman, but examination of her correspondence also demonstrates the danger of focusing solely on her gender. Doing so would merely reinforce the notion of some kind of ahistorical female subjectivity. Anna Eliza’s gender certainly had an important impact on the way she wrote, thought and behaved. But this cannot be clearly separated from the other hierarchical markers of difference that also underpinned her attitudes, assumptions and authority. In the case of Anna Eliza Elletson, these different categories of identity cross-cut in a number of ways, enabling her, as a rich, white, upper-class female absentee plantation owner, to display her authority, while also limiting the terms of this engagement. These letters demonstrate that hierarchies of gender, race and class were not distinct or separable. Rather, they were mutually constitutive, not necessarily coalescing but intersecting in a number of ways in the processes of plantation and slave ownership.92 An examination of individuals such as Anna Eliza challenges the notion that absentee slave ownership was a necessarily male endeavour. It allows us to delve beyond the tired stereotype of the West Indian absentee. Clearly, Anna Eliza bears little resemblance to the ‘[u]pstarts[s] of fortune’ and ‘men of low birth’ Tobias Smollett described.93 It is important to examine how these slave-owning women thought, acted and behaved in this gentlemanly world. Only then can these forgotten female absentees begin to be reintegrated into the history of British slavery.

92 Gerda Lerner, ‘Reconceptualizing Differences Among Women,’ Journal of Women’s History, 1:3 (1990), p. 116. 93 Smollett, Humphrey Clinker, p. 44. •


5 East Meets West Exploring the Connections between Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company, c. 1757–1857 Chris Jeppesen Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company ‘certain families serve India generation after generation, as dolphins follow in line across the open sea.’

Rudyard Kipling, The Tomb of His Ancestors (1897)

On 16 June 1836 in Cawnpore, Cornet Matthew Lushington of the East India Company (EIC) Army’s 7 th Regiment of Light Cavalry faced a court martial on three charges of ‘conduct unbecoming of the character of an officer and prejudicial to military discipline.’1 Lushington’s pedigree – he hailed from one of the EIC’s most prominent families – provided no protection; he was found guilty on all counts and dismissed in disgrace from the Company’s service. Originally from Kent, by the late eighteenth century the Lushingtons were a family of global reach. Matthew’s grandfather, Sir Stephen Lushington, had been an EIC official, Chairman and MP; three great-uncles, one uncle, three brothers and over 30 cousins had served across all branches of the EIC from the 1750s onwards. Several held shares in the Company, deploying their patronage to advance younger relatives. Such was the family’s standing in the history of British India that in 1933 genealogist of the Raj V. C. P. Hodson celebrated their status as one of the foremost Anglo-Indian dynasties, for whom Matthew was presumably just one unfortunate blunder.2 Yet this narrative glosses misleadingly over the family’s rapacious involvement in a very different sphere of empire. On returning from India in the 1770s Sir Stephen Lushington became a partner in the London 1 Asiatic Journal, 21 (1836), p. 250. 2 Major V. C. P. Hodson, ‘Some Families with a long East Indian Connection,’ Genealogists Magazine (March 1932–December 1933). •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company banking house of his father-in-law, John Boldero. Boldero & Lushington built a global investment portfolio embedded in the provision of mortgages for West Indian planters. Sir Stephen’s eldest son and Matthew’s father, Sir  Henry Lushington, did not progress to India but instead entered the banking house, where he continued to expand the firm’s West Indian investments. In 1799 he married Frances Maria Lewis, daughter of Matthew Lewis of Jamaica and sister of the writer Matthew ‘Monk’ Lewis, from whom she inherited a share in Cornwall and Hordley plantations in 1818. It was to Jamaica that Matthew Lushington was despatched having departed India in shame and there that he died three years later.3 Across India, the Caribbean and England, Lushingtons occupied positions of privilege and authority, confidently traversing empire in pursuit of profit and power. By the 1820s family members owned plantations in Grenada, Jamaica and Mustique, counting hundreds of slaves among their property, alongside occupying high office in the EIC and Britain. Complicating this family portrait further was Sir Stephen Lushington’s second son, Dr Stephen Lushington, one of the leading voices within the abolitionist movement.4 Spread across three continents, this complex kinship network accumulated resources that smoothed access to the highest strata of the British elite. By the mid-nineteenth century the family so embodied Victorian imperial success that Francis Galton used them as a case study in his essay on ‘hereditary talent and character.’5 This chapter argues that Matthew Lushington’s Indo-Caribbean career, far from being exceptional in linking Britain’s Asian and Caribbean empires, reveals a largely ignored facet of pre-Victorian imperial history: the intricate networks woven by individuals, families and firms between the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds.6 Studies of the economic, social and cultural contexts of these two imperial geographies frequently make tantalising allusions to the importance of global connections lurking just beyond the horizon.7 Yet scholars have tended to be constrained by the parameters of regional specialisation even as their work 3 Gentleman’s Magazine, 12 (1839), p. 215. 4 S. M. Waddams, Law, Politics and the Church of England: The Career of Stephen Lushington 1782–1873 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 63–99. 5 Francis Galton, Macmillan’s Magazine, 12 (1865), p. 163. 6 On a networked conceptualisation of empire, see David Lambert and Alan Lester (eds), Colonial Lives across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 8–16. 7 For instance, see David Armitage and Michael Braddick (eds), The British Atlantic World, 1500–1800, 2nd ed. (London: Palgrave, 2009). This edition includes a valuable additional chapter considering the Atlantic world’s global context. David Hancock, Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community, 1735–1785 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 121–22, 218–20; •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery suggests important parallels with other parts of empire. Where attention has been paid to global imperial perspectives during this period it has most often concentrated upon ideological or structural forms of authority, which tend to accentuate the distinctions between the Atlantic world and India.8 Nevertheless, recent work highlights how global connections were more important to the pre-Victorian empire than has been recognised.9 In exploring the ‘decentralized, networked and self-organized world’ of Madeira wine, David Hancock emphasises the fluidity of individual action beyond state parameters.10 Such transnational networks facilitated the movement of people, goods, capital and ideas, not only around but between the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds.11 Wealth from across the empire opened new vistas of opportunity for those who brought it back to Britain. For the Nabob reinvesting eastern riches, the absentee planter seeking respectable employ for his sons or the speculative London financier, both the Indian and Atlantic Ocean worlds provided countless possibilities.12 The Legacies of British Slave-Ownership database has already identified over 200 individuals claiming compensation in the 1830s who had a personal connection to the East India Company, while a search of the British Library’s (BL) India Family Search database produces over a hundred others. H. V. Bowen, John McAleer, Robert J. Blyth (eds), Monsoon Traders: the Maritime World of the East India Company (London: Scala, 2011). 8 Peter Marshall, The Making and Unmaking of Empires: Britain, India, and America c. 1750–1783 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). 9 Over the last decade considerable effort has been made to challenge this dichotomy. See Peter Marshall, ‘The Caribbean and India in the Later Eighteenth Century,’ in Peter Marshall, “A Free though Conquering People”: Eighteenth-Century Britain and its Empire (Aldershot: Variorum, 2003), Essay X. Huw Bowen has demanded an interconnected approach, arguing that if analyses are structured around maritime rather than territorial empires, a very different picture emerges. See H. V. Bowen, E. Mancke and J. G. Reid (eds), Britain’s Oceanic Empire: Atlantic and Indian Ocean Worlds, c. 1550–1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). See also Philip J. Stern, ‘British Asia and British Atlantic: Comparisons and Connections,’ William and Mary Quarterly, 63:4 (2006), pp. 693–712. 10 David Hancock, Oceans of Wine: Madeira and the Emergence of American Trade and Taste (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), pp. xvi–xxv. 11 Maya Jasanoff, Liberty’s Exiles: The Loss of America and the Remaking of the British Empire (London: HarperPress, 2011); Christopher Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780–1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004), p. 129. 12 See Tillman Nechtman, Nabobs: Empire and Identity in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Perry Gauci, Emporium of the World: The Merchants of London 1660–1800 (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007); Maxine Berg, Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Matthew Parker, The Sugar Barons (London: Windmill Books, 2011). •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company Interrogating elite family trees from the early eighteenth century onwards reveals scores more nestled amongst their branches.13 Catherine Hall has demonstrated that slavery’s omission from many nineteenth-century accounts of empire was the product of a carefully managed process of selective remembering and reinscription.14 These practices created the framework in which subsequent twentieth-century histories would largely reinforce the impression of two separate empires, one in North America and another in Asia.15 Historiographical tradition has been reinforced by the structure of imperial archives. The organisational logic of many archival collections continues to reflect the structures of imperial power through which they originated.16 EIC records survive largely intact as a coherent series within the India Office Records (IOR), which emphasises the bureaucratic and geographical continuity between the EIC and post-1858 Crown Raj. Such an archival arrangement has tended to draw scholars’ focus to the institutional and ideological frameworks of power within British India, which bear little superficial similarity to the structures of white authority in the Caribbean. No comparative archival collection documents the structures and processes of government in the Caribbean. The National Archives hold all British government files relating to the region but, unlike those of the EIC, local records were not repatriated en masse. One invaluable resource remains Kenneth Ingram’s guide Manuscript Sources for the History of the West Indies which, in listing all relevant collections worldwide, it underscores the disparate distribution of material.17 Using the BL’s collections, this chapter explores why narratives of British activity in the Indian and Atlantic Ocean worlds have become so segregated 13 See, for instance, Emma Rothschild, The Inner Life of Empires: An EighteenthCentury History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011); S. G. Checkland, The Gladstones: A Family Biography, 1764–1851 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), pp. 316–28; S. D. Smith, Slavery, Family and Gentry Capitalism in the British Atlantic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 155. 14 Catherine Hall, ‘Troubling Memories: Nineteenth-Century Histories of the Slave Trade and Slavery,’ Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6:21 (2011), p. 169. 15 V. T. Harlow, The Founding of the Second British Empire, 1763–1793 (London: Longmans Green, 1952), pp. 62–102. For a useful consideration of this historiographical division see Robert Travers, ‘Constitutions, Contact Zones and Imperial Ricochets: Sovereignty and Law in British Asia,’ in Bowen et al., Britain’s Oceanic Empire, pp. 106–07. 16 Antoinette Burton (ed.), Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), pp. 6–10. 17 Kenneth Ingram, Manuscript Sources for the History of the West Indies: with Special Reference to Jamaica in the National Library of Jamaica and Supplementary Sources in the West Indies, North America, and United Kingdom and Elsewhere (Mona, JM: University of West Indies Press, 2000). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery in the historiography of the British Empire. By shifting the focus from structures of formal authority onto the ‘imperial family,’ it suggests new perspectives on the pre-Victorian empire as an interconnected, global project.18 Using the family as the lens through which to scrutinise the imperial world reveals a crucial gendered dimension to how transnational networks functioned and sustained, as well as showing how individual, local, national and imperial histories intersected.19 Women were pivotal in coordinating family interaction and securing imperial opportunity and wealth in the metropole. Their active management of family prospects ensured status was protected in Britain while male members were overseas.20 East and West Indian resources often merged through marriage alliances, allowing imperial families to expand their activities and access fresh patronage networks. Alongside the transfer of people, the flow of goods between India and North America, and the complex histories of country estates in Britain, point to the key role of material culture in the remaking of local and national identities as empire returned home.21 This approach reflects the methodologies of the two projects that supported this research: The East India Company at Home and Legacies of British SlaveOwnership.22 Combining a ‘Big History’ approach utilising digital resources to sift vast quantities of data supported by detailed archival case studies, preliminary enquiries revealed many meaningful connections between the EIC and Caribbean slave economy. While this did not constitute a systematic survey, it did expose numerous kinship, trade, financial and material links. In so doing it encountered some of the methodological challenges in tracking these connections across one institution’s multiple archival collections. To illustrate these, the chapter concludes with a case study of the Martin family 18 Margot Finn, ‘Family Formations: Anglo India and the Familial Proto-State,’ in David Feldman and Jon Lawrence (eds), Structures and Transformations in Modern British History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 100–17; Sarah Pearsall, Atlantic Families: Lives and Letters in the Later Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), in particular pp. 4–55; Catherine Hall, ‘Gendering Property, Racing Capital,’ History Workshop Journal, 78:1 (2014), pp. 22–28. 19 Margot Finn, ‘Anglo-Indian Lives in the Later Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries,’ Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 33:1 (2010), p. 50. 20 Kate Smith, ‘Imperial Families: Women Writing Home in Georgian Britain,’ Women’s History Review, 24:6 (2015), pp. 844–45. 21 Helen Clifford, ‘Accommodating the East: Sir Lawrence Dundas as Nabob of the North?,’ East India Company at Home Project Case Study, aske-hall-yorkshire/ [accessed 17 September 2015]. 22 Catherine Hall, Keith McClelland, Nick Draper, Katie Donington and Rachel Lang, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company of Antigua – just one of the many examples of families who navigated the imperial world in pursuit of power, wealth and patronage.

Troubling Memories: Discovering and Forgetting Britain’s Global Empire Territorial gains across North America, Africa, Asia and Europe during the Seven Years’ War profoundly altered how empire was conceived in the British imagination.23 Contesting the idea of a ‘swing to the east’ at the start of the nineteenth century, Peter Marshall has identified the 1760s, not the ruptures associated with the loss of the North American colonies, as the crucial moment in which both official and popular attitudes shifted.24 No longer did a maritime empire of trade and liberty seem suitably attuned to expansionist territorial ambitions being unfurled in Asia. Military success in India and the growing presence of East Indian wealth in Britain established the subcontinent as an important imperial locus within a popular imagination.25 Simultaneously, great power rivalry ensured the massive growth of European military-fiscal states, which necessitated a more integrated approach towards imperial defence and revenue generation.26 In consequence, numerous opportunities were created for families like the Lushingtons to develop intricate networks spanning the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds. Until the 1780s the Nabob and West Indian planter alike confronted stigma in Britain. Characterised as dissolute, immoral and despotic, both faced revilement in domestic culture as the personification of empire’s corrupting effect upon British virtues. After the failed impeachment of Warren Hastings, former Governor-General of India, tighter parliamentary regulation combined with reform of the Company’s activities in India to drain energy from attacks on the Nabob.27 Lord Cornwallis moved from failure in North America to India in 1786, where he was charged with eradicating the worst abuses of power and profit. In contrast, from the 1780s onwards, the West Indian planter faced sustained attack from abolitionist 23 H. V. Bowen, ‘British Conceptions of Global Empire, 1756–83,’ Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 26:3 (1998), pp. 1–5. 24 Marshall, The Making and Unmaking of Empires, p. 1. 25 Peter Marshall, ‘The Making of an Imperial Icon: The Case of Warren Hastings,’ Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 27:3 (1999), p. 3. 26 Christopher Bayly, ‘The First Age of Global Imperialism, c. 1760–1830,’ Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 26:2 (1998), pp. 30–35. 27 On the impeachment trial of 1788 to 1795 see Nicholas Dirks, Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery critics, and promises of amelioration failed entirely to rehabilitate the image of slavery. Just when British rule in India appeared increasingly honourable, the West Indies provided the discomfiting juxtaposition of British imperialism at its worst. Even as significant numbers pursued trans-imperial profit and prestige, the separation of India and the Caribbean in the public imagination became ever more deeply entrenched in the decades leading up to emancipation.28 Central to this distinction was the ambiguous position of slavery.29 Slavery may have been embedded in the fabric of EIC rule yet it was frequently excused as a lingering stain of Mughal despotism. EIC officials not only failed to address the problem effectively but, before the Cornwallis reforms of the late 1780s, were active participants in its continuation and proliferation.30 Despite several attempts to outlaw the Indian Ocean slave trade after 1774, the EIC never exhibited a steadfast interest in suppressing its continued presence in domestic contexts. Revealingly, as Governor of Madras (1790–1794), Sir Charles Oakeley was closely associated with Cornwallis’s reforming zeal, including trying to eradicate the Southern Indian slave trade; however, he clearly saw little contradiction in investing in Jamaican plantations, establishing his son in the sugar trade or marrying his daughters to two successful West India merchants.31 Mirroring contemporaneous arguments in the West Indies, a defence of private property from state interference served to sustain labour regimes based upon human bondage in India. Even vocal opponents of Atlantic slavery sought to excuse its Indian counterpart as something markedly different. It was characterised as inherent to traditional caste structures, benign in its treatment of the enslaved and often a voluntary strategy through which Indians sought to alleviate material poverty.32 Comparisons with chattel slavery alone cannot explain this reticence. Following the sugar crisis of the 1790s, East India merchants lobbied for the equalisation of sugar duties favouring West Indian imports. These ambitions became increasingly intertwined with abolitionist campaigns to undermine the economic base of West Indian sugar. Gliding over the legal status of Indian plantation labourers and the conditions endured, abolitionists demanded that British consumers substitute West Indian for East Indian 28 Peter Marshall, ‘The Moral Swing to the East: British Humanitarianism, India and the West Indies,’ in Marshall, A Free Though Conquering People, Essay IX. 29 Margot Finn, ‘Slaves out of Context: Domestic Slavery and the Anglo-Indian Family, c. 1780–1830,’ Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6:19 (2009), pp. 183–84. 30 Andrea Major, Slavery, Abolitionism and Empire in India, 1772–1843 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012), pp. 52–69. 31 Major, Slavery, Abolitionism and Empire, p. 75; Legacies of British Slave-Ownership database, [accessed 17 September 2015].. 32 Finn, Slaves out of Context, p. 184. •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company sugar. In doing so they formed networks of communication and alliances with EIC officials and traders that served both political and commercial ambitions.33 The resurgent abolitionist campaign of the 1820s again implored abstention from West Indian sugar. Abolitionists combined public, political denunciations of slavery with domestic resistance through boycott and the production of household items, proclaiming East Indian sugar an ethical alternative.34 A fundamental distinction was drawn between the produce of free labour versus enslaved, with one 1828 pamphlet encouraging consumers to buy East Indian sugar because ‘[t]he earth which lavishly multiplies her productions under the hands of the free-born labourer, seems to shrink into barrenness under the sweat of the slave.’35 East Indian sugar’s symbolic importance within the campaign meant that very few abolitionists were prepared to scrutinise too closely the uncomfortable ambiguities surrounding its production. Unsurprisingly, the campaign drew rancorous criticism from West India interests. This, as Andrea Major observes, led to the unnerving irony that the most aggressive assault on slavery in India came from West India planters looking to defend their profits.36 In a war of pamphlets, the likes of Joseph Marryat and George Saintsbury lambasted their critics’ hypocrisy, deception and naivety. They contended that East Indian sugar was as much a product of slave labour as any produced in the West Indies, Saintsbury exclaiming: ‘The sugar of Bengal is cultivated by the slaves of Bengal.’ He even invoked Wilberforce to validate claims that the deplorable state of the Indian peasantry made them far greater victims than well-cared for slaves in the Caribbean.37 Condemnation focused upon the self-interest of many EIC officials, and East India merchants were accused of exploiting the moral zeal of abolition for their own enrichment. Several leading abolitionists, including men like James Cropper, had a significant vested interest in the East Indian sugar trade, while even more had family connections to serving EIC officials.38 For all their ire, however, West Indian attacks on East Indian sugar failed to gain significant traction in Britain as the image 33 Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (Durham, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1944), pp. 185–88. 34 Claire Midgley, Feminism and Empire: Women Activists in Imperial Britain, 1790–1865 (London: Routledge, 2007), p. 56. 35 William Naish, Reasons to Use East Indian Sugar; Printed for the Peckham Ladies’ African and Anti-Slavery Society (London: Howlett & Brimmer, 1828), p. 6. 36 Major, Slavery, Abolitionism and Empire in India, p. 309. 37 George Saintsbury, East India Slavery (London: C. Tilt, 1829). 38 David B. Davis, ‘James Cropper and the British Anti-Slavery Movement, 1821–1823,’ Journal of Negro History, 45:4 (1960), pp. 241–58; Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, pp. 83–88. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery of two distinct empires further crystallised in the public imagination. On the one hand, the West Indian sugar colonies were immoral anachronisms based upon the exploitation of humanity, on the other, as Thomas Babington Macaulay evocatively proclaimed in 1835, the Indian empire was a beneficent force for progress. In the decades following emancipation, this division became ever more ingrained. Accelerating evangelical activity in India after 1813, coupled with mounting public confidence that EIC rule promised moral uplift and material progress for the Indian peasant, ensured near universal acclamation in Britain. Despite ‘humanitarian campaigns’ against sati and infanticide, a sustained critique of Indian slavery failed to emerge. Not until the 1840s did this gain traction, at which stage it was framed as a continuation of abolitionist triumph. Narratives of abolition and imperial service blended together to reinscribe memories of earlier British involvement in the slave trade. In mid-nineteenth-century histories of the EIC, governmental achievements overshadowed more morally dubious activities during the eighteenth century.39 Global trading connections were elided in favour of a narrow focus on events within India. Those who recorded this history often had a deep vested interest in emphasising the institutional success of the EIC and drew on personal experience to narrate Company rule. As a result, numerous officials whose families had long associations with the Caribbean were subsumed and recast as valued participants in a tradition of nineteenthcentury imperial service resting upon integrity and duty.

Archival Rupture: Dividing the Empire With the EIC’s historiographical parameters established by the mid-nineteenth century, further definition came through the archiving of its records. Following the EIC’s dissolution in 1858, its papers passed into crown possession. Records were dispersed between several government departments, all of which were involved in the administration of Britain’s expanding empire. Initial attempts at classification were made in 1879 by former EIC and Indian Medical Service officer G. C. M. Birdwood, who catalogued the EIC’s seventeenth-century factory records, including one solitary reference to ‘Barbadoes [sic].’40 Still frustrated by the lack of an 39 For instance, J. W. Kaye, The Administration of the East India Company: A History of Progress (London: Richard Bentley, 1853); John Dickinson, India: Its Government under a Bureaucracy (London: Saunders and Stanford, 1853); J. C. Marshman, The History of India from the Earliest Period to the Close of Lord Dalhousie’s Administration, 3 vols (London: Longmans, Green, Reader & Dyer, 1867 [first published Serampore, India, 1863]. 40 G. C. M. Birdwood, Report on the Old Records of the India Office, with Supplementary •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company efficient archival system, F. C. Danvers, another India Office official and former EIC correspondence writer, proposed a more thorough rearrangement in 1883. Appointed Registrar and Superintendent of Records at the India Office, Danvers took responsibility for administering almost all records older than three years. In this capacity he assumed complete control of the EIC archive and in creating a new central register subsumed it into the structures of Britain’s imperial bureaucracy.41 Archival coherence ensured that the EIC became inescapably connected to the Crown Raj.42 Efforts to rationalise the archive were continued by W. F. Foster, who produced the first structured analysis of the EIC records in 1919.43 The department’s first professional archivist, Joan Lancaster, subsequently refined Foster’s system in the 1960s in preparation for the wholescale move of the EIC and IOR collections to Orbit House, Blackfriars.44 Physical separation from the offices of state allowed for a greater focus on research. Lancaster’s catalogue ordered the EIC and IOR materials into a coherent series, intended to make them more accessible to researchers. Her arrangement survives largely intact, even following the IOR’s incorporation into the BL’s collections in 1982. Subsequently, EIC records remain institutionally, organisationally and spatially imbricated with the Crown Raj; as Martin Moir records, in his still much-consulted readers’ guide, this reflects the ‘clear sense of their administrative cohesion and continuity.’45 Reflecting its origins, the archival logic behind situating the EIC collections within a coherent chronology of evolving Indian imperial administration conceals the Company’s global commercial activities.46 The IOR are now housed in the BL, alongside many records attesting to British activity in the Caribbean. Yet, despite occupying the same space, the BL’s physical layout and institutional structure reinforces a sense of segregation between archival Note and Appendices (London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1890), p. 76. 41 Arnold Kaminsky, The India Office, 1880–1910 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986), pp. 18–19. 42 Donna Holmes, ‘Passive Keepers or Active Shapers: A Comparative Case Study of Four Archival Practitioners at the End of the Nineteenth Century,’ Archival Science, 6 (2006), pp. 293–94. 43 W. F. Foster, A Guide to the India Office Records, 1600–1858 (London: India Office Records, 1919). 44 J. L. Geber, ‘The East India Company and Southern Africa: The East India Company and the Board of Control, 1600–1858,’ unpublished PhD thesis, UCL, 1998, pp. 180–81. 45 Martin Moir, A General Guide to the India Office Records (London: British Library, 1988), p. 279. 46 Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), pp. 9–10. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery collections. Antoinette Burton has iterated the impact archives have upon ‘shaping the imaginations of historians who rely upon them for the stories they tell, the (counter) narrative they craft, and the political interventions they make.’47 The BL’s Asian and African Studies, Maps and Manuscripts Room (where EIC records are accessed) are detached from other collections. Positioned on the library’s top floor, its distinct atmosphere, as Burton observes, recalls the lingering ghosts of the British Raj.48 Its position also obscures the connecting threads between British activities in India and the Caribbean. The separation of archives according to geographical or institutional content reinforces the image of an empire comprised of discrete territories and linear connections, forged by elite white men. Even when reading against the grain, archival structures can profoundly limit one’s ability to conceive of the empire as an integrated global network. In contrast to the EIC records, the BL’s Caribbean manuscripts are dispersed amongst numerous collections, accessible in different reading rooms and lacking an overall integrated catalogue. In the IOR an elaborate indexing system allows readers to cross-check references across the 16 km of files. Thus it is possible to quickly establish all instances where a particular EIC official appears in the records; however, this trail cannot be followed into the BL’s other collections, reducing the chances of revealing meaningful connections to the Caribbean. Digital catalogues have massively accelerated this process, but at present not all hand catalogues are fully integrated. Subsequently, it remains difficult to piece together the various parts of the jigsaw necessary to comprehend the global activities of families and firms. For instance, collections relating to the Lushingtons are held in the BL, both in the IOR and Manuscripts, numerous private and county archives across the UK, as well as in Jamaica and the US. Researching this one family history demands a global methodology and mobility that makes it a significant undertaking – attempting to track a cohort of 20,000 plus officials or merchants who were in India between 1757 and 1858 would be near impossible for one researcher. New digital resources and methodologies have profoundly altered the possibilities for this type of research, increasing scholars’ ability to interrogate the networks that gave empire a global perspective. Over the last decade numerous databases have become accessible online, offering the chance to circumvent the physical limitations of the archive and mine far larger amounts of information. New approaches to ‘Big History’ have 47 Antoinette Burton, ‘Archive Stories: Gender in the Making of Imperial and Colonial Histories,’ in Philippa Levine (ed.), Gender and Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 282. 48 Burton, ‘Archive Stories,’ p. 281. •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company not only addressed questions of scale, but are of importance in connecting individual, local, national and global histories.49 Combined with the recent boom in family history, and attendant online genealogical databases, these new resources have revolutionised prosopographical research methodologies. Previously hidden histories have exposed new questions about the social and racial heritage of superficially uncomplicated family trees.50 These detailed family studies reveal how individual and local histories intersected with, and contributed to, wider processes of social and cultural change on a global scale. Micro-histories offer new perspectives on established orthodoxies and facilitate a variegated appreciation of the local and regional nuances that sprang from engagement with empire.51 These indicate the pressing need to scrutinise more closely the unexpected and complex linkages between the EIC and the Caribbean. The electronic resources made available through the LBS database and the BL’s digitised records reveal the presence of individuals and families in multiple, unexpected contexts. These provide the means to move beyond anecdote and produce a robust systematic survey of the global parameters of the pre-Victorian empire, allowing new qualitative questions to be pursued in the archival papers of individuals, families, firms and institutions. From the City of London to Scottish country estates, and encompassing individuals from retired Nabobs to illegitimate mixed-race West Indian sons serving in the EIC Army, connections between the EIC and Caribbean formed and operated in myriad ways. The connected histories revealed are each in their own way personal, local, national, imperial and transnational. By reconnecting imperial phenomena that have become detached in British historiography, they offer fresh perspectives on capital, family and identity in the pre-Victorian empire. Importantly, these connections also provide a means to interrogate how popular perceptions of the British Empire have evolved over the last 200 years.52 Wider narratives of empire have been slow 49 Sebouh David Aslanian, Joyce E. Chaplin, Ann McGrath and Kristin Mann, ‘American Historical Review Conversation – how Size Matters: The Question of Scale in History,’ American Historical Review, 118:5 (2013), p. 1440. 50 Deborah Cohen, Family Secrets: The Things We Tried to Hide (London: Penguin, 2014), pp. 241–53. 51 On the importance of ‘the fragment’ in shaping new approaches in imperial history, see Durba Ghosh, ‘Another Set of Imperial Turns?,’ American Historical Review, 117:3 (2012), pp. 786–92. 52 On the multifaceted and ever-changing presence of empire within British culture, see Catherine Hall (ed.), At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Andrew S. Thompson, The Empire Strikes Back? The Impact of Imperialism on Britain from the Mid-Nineteenth Century (London: Routledge, 2005). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery to incorporate the exploitative, racialised violence of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade and Caribbean sugar economy into more celebratory accounts of imperial rule.53 In consequence, the image of a modernising, progressive, liberal empire (often rooted in assessments of abolition, the post-1858 Raj and British rule in Africa) has endured into the twenty-first century.54 Exposing the networks spanning British activity in the Caribbean and India makes it possible to establish more clearly the individual and family connections that not only traversed geographical distance but also endured over time. It is no coincidence that many families who first gained wealth through involvement in the eighteenth-century slave and sugar economy went on to trace a continuous line of involvement in empire right up until mid-twentieth-century decolonisation.55 Understanding how these linkages operated across space and time not only helps expose the sinews that bound empire together but also how they stretched across the epochal cleavages still central to many historical analyses of the British Empire. Just as the nineteenth century saw the emergence of archival technologies that obscured empire’s global connections, so new twenty-first-century technologies can help recapture the meridian dissecting the Caribbean, Britain and Indian Ocean world.

The Martins of Antigua: Tracking a West Indian Plantation Owning Family to India through the British Library’s Collections Fleeing Ireland after the Royalists’ defeat during the English Civil War, the Martin family first crossed the Atlantic in the mid-1600s. Branches spread across the Caribbean and the Carolinas, where many established 53 Madge Dresser, ‘Remembering Slavery and Abolition in Bristol,’ Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, 30:2 (2009), pp. 223–46. 54 For instance, David Cameron’s ‘Small Island Speech,’ St Petersburg, 5 September 2013. Reported in The Daily Telegraph as ‘David Cameron’s Love Actually Moment as he Defends Britain against “Small Island” Jibe’ 6 September 2013, http://www.telegraph. /news/worldnews/europe/russia/10290835/David-Camerons-Love-Actuallymoment-as-he-defends-Britain-against-small-island-jibe.html [accessed 2 January 2016]. For an academic recital of a similar narrative see, Niall Ferguson, Empire: how Britain Made the Modern World, 2nd ed. (London: Penguin, 2004). Dane Kennedy offers an insightful analysis of the contemporary agendas that energise such efforts to defend/ rehabilitate British imperialism in ‘The Imperial History Wars,’ Journal of British Studies, 54:1 (2015), pp. 5–22, esp. pp. 13–21. 55 For instance, Richard Dawkins, An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist (London: Bantam Press, 2013), pp. 1–82; Richard Dawkins, Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science (London: Penguin, 2015), pp. 229–32. •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company profitable plantations. For the Martins, North America represented a realm of opportunity in which new identities could be forged and family prospects cultivated. Like many others who left Europe during the seventeenth century, the family did so as outsiders on the periphery of national identity. Their Royalist sympathies saw them excluded from the political nation and alienated from their lands. Empire offered the chance to reconfigure identity by securing wealth, land and status overseas, frequently at the expense of indigenous peoples. By the mid-nineteenth century the Martins’ experiences across empire had established them at the centre of the British ruling elite. They procured wealth in the Caribbean as slave owners, political status in Britain as MPs, prominence in the Royal Navy, imperial authority in India and public recognition through landed titles. Over 200 years the family’s identity transformed from ostracised, peripatetic speculators operating on the periphery of empire, to members of an imperial elite standing at its very heart. In the context of exploring Caribbean and EIC connections, the Martins of Green Castle estate, Antigua hold particular interest.56 Letter books, wills, genealogical information and plantation records provide an intimate insight into the management of a plantation, the culture of the Caribbean planter elite and the challenges of maintaining relationships across vast geographical distances.57 As in many elite family networks, the Martin men achieved greater mobility than wives, sisters or daughters; however, this is not to underplay female family members’ own global perspectives or significance in providing the network’s essential connecting ties. Letters circulated around the Atlantic world between parents and children, siblings and kin, documenting the porousness of the publicprivate divide in furthering family prospects. Without the anchor points provided by female members within global kin networks, a family’s ability to function successfully across vast distances and protect interests in a range of locations was greatly undermined. A focus on the Martins’ Caribbean setting has tended to distract from their broader global context incorporating activities in India.58 Connecting these worlds can prove challenging. 56 For an excellent analysis of the family’s Caribbean situation see Natalie Zacek, Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Papers of Samuel Martin, 1694/5–1776, Relating to Antigua from the Collections of the British Library (2010), British Library (BL), Martin Papers (MP), Add/MS/41346-41475, [accessed 17 September 2015]. 57 Pearsall, Atlantic Families, pp. 28–55. 58 Richard B. Sheridan, ‘Samuel Martin, Innovating Sugar Planter of Antigua 1750–1776,’ Agricultural History, 34:3 (1960), pp. 126–39; Natalie Zacek, ‘Cultivating Virtue: Samuel Martin and the Paternal Ideal in the Eighteenth-Century English West Indies,’ Wadabagei: A Journal of the Caribbean and its Diasporas, 10:3 (2007), pp. 8–31. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Although no direct correspondence to or from family members in India survives in the collection, it is clear that news of those in the EIC was disseminated through the family network to form an important element of collective identity. Some of these gaps can be filled through recourse to the IOR. Patronage records, career summaries, marriage, death and birth records, along with official correspondence, provide a detailed picture of the Martin family in India. Excavating family histories alongside official archives generates new insights into how global perspectives were fashioned, operated and sustained. George Martin and his family arrived first on the north coast of South America (modern-day Suriname) in the 1650s. Following the Dutch invasion in 1667, his son Samuel migrated to Antigua, where British planters were just beginning to establish a permanent presence. Here Samuel established an estate named Green Castle. He went on to launch himself as a respected and prominent member of the island’s planter elite, serving as a colonel in the militia and Speaker of the Assembly. Samuel Martin’s reputation amongst his fellow planters did not spare him from a violent end when he was hacked to death by a group of his slaves in 1701. His seven-year-old son and heir, also named Samuel, survived after his enslaved nanny hid him from the attackers.59 The ensuing years saw the family entrench itself further within Antigua’s planter elite. Samuel’s widow remarried to Sir Edward Byam, Governor of the Leeward Islands, establishing a close and lasting connection to the Byam family.60 After his father’s death, the young Samuel Martin was despatched to Ireland and Green Castle was left in the control of relatives. Following an elite education in Britain, he returned to Antigua, where he married Frances Yeamans, the daughter of the Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor of the Leeward Islands. In 1728 the couple left again to raise their family in England, relying on the profits from the plantation to support the comfortable lifestyle of the landed gentry. Following Frances’s death around 1730, Samuel married Sarah, widow of William Irish of Montserrat and daughter of Edward Wyke, Lieutenant Governor of Montserrat. Samuel’s marriages testify to the family’s elevated status in island society. This was reflected by his younger brother Josiah, who also served in the island’s Assembly and owned a plantation; however, Josiah centred his business interests in New York, where he became a successful West India merchant. Left in the hands of managers and attorneys for 20 years from 1728 until the late 1740s, the Green Castle estate suffered the same deterioration 59 Travel Journal of Sir Henry William Martin, BL/MP/Add/MS/74757/135. 60 William Betham, The Baronetage of England, Vol. 4 (London: E. Lloyd, 1804), pp. 210–11. •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company as many other absentee-owned plantations. Frustrated by falling profits, Martin returned to Antigua determined to undertake the management of the plantation himself. Improvements in cultivation techniques and the living conditions of his slaves, combined with investment in infrastructure helped Samuel Martin restore Green Castle to profitability. In the 1750s he purchased 50 new slaves and by 1767 valued his estate at £31,416.61 During these years Martin became increasingly concerned by the dissolute culture of Antigua’s white planter society. Motivated to write an essay on good estate management as a lesson for young planters, he advocated a paternalistic approach towards one’s slaves, sobriety and dedication in attitude and careful management of finances – a combination that revealed ‘the art of managing a sugar-plantation to the best advantage.’ 62 Although his rebukes did not always elicit the positive improvements he had intended, Martin quickly established a reputation as a model planter with an estate to be envied.63 Like his father, Martin served as Speaker of Antigua’s Assembly and colonel of the island’s militia, and was commended with warm gratitude by the Assembly upon his retirement.64 Convinced that passing on the lessons of good management was the best way to ensure the plantation’s continued productivity, he frequently expressed the hope that one of his sons would assume the running of the estate upon his death.65 Over both his marriages Samuel Martin had a total of 21 children, of whom only five survived into adulthood. From his first marriage a son, again named Samuel, and a daughter, Henrietta; and from his second, three sons Henry, Josiah and William Byam Martin.66 In 1768 Samuel Martin completed an inventory of his plantation in preparation for sale, lamenting that ‘I am grown old, wishing to retire from the world, and no one of my children in all probability will reside here, I am willing to sell my whole property.’ Martin listed 605 acres of land – 400 of which were cane lands – valued at £30 an acre; a large stone boiling house with 12 copper boilers, a curing house, a very large still house, two stone windmills, 2 leaden pumps and a large well – improvements that had cost him £10,000 to build. Despite Martin’s repeated proclamations that owners should treat the enslaved with humanity and benevolence, there is little to suggest he 61 BL/MP/Add/MS/41353/82. 62 Samuel Martin, An Essay upon Plantership, 4th ed. (Antigua: Samuel Clapham, 1765); Zacek, Cultivating Virtue, pp. 14–15. 63 Richard Sheridan, Sugar and Slavery: An Economic History of the British West Indies, 1623–1775 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), pp. 200–03. 64 BL/MP/Add/MS/41353/73-74. 65 Samuel Martin Snr to Samuel Martin Jnr 25/6/1751, MP/BL/Add/MS/41346/22. 66 BL/MP/Add/MS/41474/2. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery ultimately conceived of them as anything other than property possessed to increase profitability. Their lives never emerge into focus in the family correspondence, remaining only a constant but indistinct backdrop to the family’s growing wealth and status. In the estate valuation Martin itemised 217 ‘working negroes […] at £45 per head,’ 28 ‘young negroes’ at £20 per head and 37 children at £5 per head. Slaves who had been trained as artisans and craftsmen commanded a higher price, while four ‘elderly women’ were valued at £20 per head. Following the inventory of his slaves, Martin listed livestock, slave living quarters and the cane stock, all of which came to a total value of £44,333 but which he was willing to sell for £32,000.67 Ultimately, the plantation was not sold; instead it was bequeathed in 1776 to his eldest son, Samuel.68 Despite their father’s hopes, none of Samuel Martin’s children returned permanently to Antigua. After three successive generations of direct involvement in the Caribbean plantation economy stretching back to the 1660s, Samuel Martin’s children looked elsewhere in the empire to establish successful careers. This did not mean the dissolution of the family’s Caribbean connections. Rather, these were woven into a far wider network of opportunity, news and wealth that spanned India, Britain and North America. Samuel’s daughter Henrietta provoked her father’s fury when she married Colonel John Fitzgerald, an Irish Catholic soldier in service of the Dutch.69 Ongoing financial difficulties, as well as the prospects and debts of their eldest son, William Thomas Fitzgerald (later a prominent Romantic poet), would prove a frequent source of family friction that traversed the Atlantic.70 Relations between Samuel Martin and his eldest son and heir were more congenial. Having gained prominence as an MP, Samuel Jnr also served as Deputy Agent for Antigua and Agent for Montserrat and for Nevis, in which role he was charged with protecting and lobbying for the islands’ interests in London. Even while his father was alive Samuel Jnr played a pivotal role in coordinating the family’s management. He acted as his father’s principal point of contact in England, and regularly received letters disclosing paternal concerns over the younger children’s prospects.71 Samuel Jnr assumed responsibility for supporting, scolding and furthering the prospects of his extended family network. Although never married, he organised his brothers’ education and careers, and managed their finances 67 BL/MP/Add/MS/41353/84-86. 68 Will of Samuel Martin Snr, BL/MP/Add/MS/41353/88-89. 69 Zacek, Cultivating Virtue, pp. 16–17. 70 Letters between Henrietta Fitzgerald (née Martin), Col. John Fitzgerald, their daughter Mary Ann and Samuel Martin Jnr, BL/MP/Add/MS/41353/111-121. 71 Letter books of Samuel Martin Jnr, BL/MP/Add/MS/41346-41348, 41353. •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company while their father was in Antigua, as well as later performing the same role for his nieces and nephews.72 Upon his death he bequeathed Green Castle to his younger brother Henry. Henry Martin entered the Royal Navy in 1751. After a slow start to his career, which concerned his father and brother, he eventually became Comptroller of the Navy. In 1790 he was elected MP for Southampton. Although he made little impact in Parliament, his successful naval career garnered him the Baronetcy of Lockynge in 1794, also the year of his death.73 Like his own father, Henry showed himself active and interested in shaping his children’s career prospects. He sought to obtain an East India appointment for his oldest son, Samuel, but deferred to his wish to join the Navy. Following Samuel’s early death while serving in the Caribbean, Sir Henry’s title, along with the family plantation and slaves, passed in trust to his second son Henry William.74 Despite inheriting his father’s considerable debts, Henry William retained ownership of Green Castle and also invested in EIC shares.75 In 1836–1837 he visited Antigua for the first time in 20 years, taking his own son with him. Their trip included a whirl of social engagements during a tour of the Windward and Leeward Islands, as well as visiting Green Castle. Henry’s account of the family planation offers a valuable insight into the character of Caribbean society in the immediate aftermath of emancipation. His outlook captured the sentimental detachment many absentee owners maintained from the harsh reality of daily life on the plantation. Sir Henry manifested palpable pride at the bountiful land, living quarters of former slaves and even the warm reception he received from many ‘black labourers.’76 Exhibiting a strain of paternalism of which his grandfather would have been proud, Henry described his family’s former slaves in much the same way as an English landowner surveying his tenant farmers.77 Indeed, he appeared mildly surprised that some were ‘a little refractory’: perhaps some twenty wanting more land tho they have all good gardens, more than sufficient. They said other estates gave more land and more pay 72 Exchange between Samuel Martin Jnr and Mary Eliza Fitzgerald and Tom Fitzgerald, BL/MP/Add/MS/41353/126-133. 73 Sir Henry Martin Papers, BL/MP/Add/MS/41364. 74 Will of Sir Henry Martin of Lockynge, written 19 June 1792. 75 Proprietors of East India Stock (London, 1806). 76 BL/MP/Add/MS/74757/87. 77 See Susanne Seymour, Stephen Daniels, and Charles Watkins, ‘Estate and Empire: Sir George Cornewall’s Management of Moccas, Herefordshire and La Taste, Grenada, 1771–1819,’ Journal of Historical Geography, 24:3 (1998), p. 329, pp. 336–41. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery and more advantages!! Well, I said, you are all free people! Therefore you had better give your month’s notice and hire yourselves to those estates, but remember if you go, you must bring back very good characters or you will never be received here again.

Sir Henry’s pomp had little effect in addressing the grievances and he quickly resorted to the more menacing discipline of his plantation manager. An ‘elderly woman, who spoke for the rest’ was identified as a ringleader and ordered to be taken before the magistrate to be punished with hard labour.78 Coercion remained an important means of controlling newly emancipated communities, even while many living in Britain reflected that it was only the generous conditions of employment that kept their ‘labourers’ on the plantation.79 Other family members also found success through Britain’s expanding imperial horizons. Henry William’s younger brother Thomas Byam Martin followed their father into the Navy, where he enjoyed a similarly flourishing career, also rising to the position of Comptroller. Although not directly connected with the Caribbean he nevertheless showed himself a keen supporter of the family’s West Indian interests in the build up to emancipation. In 1833 he spoke at a meeting of West India planters and merchants in the City of London, asserting that it was ‘the duty of every man to come forward and lend a helping hand to the cause of the colonists [slave owners] at a time when he saw them in a most perilous situation.’ 80 Another brother, Josiah, returned to Antigua as a Collector of Customs, and guarded his elder brother’s export interests, as well as supplying information on the weather and crops.81 After 18 years in the Caribbean, Josiah was eager to escape the climate for the sake of his health; his lobbying the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, to secure a post in Britain highlights the family’s access to the highest echelons of patronage.82 Initially, it had been intended that Samuel Martin’s third son, Josiah, would be trained in the management of the estate and established as a West India merchant; however, Samuel worried about his ‘mulish’ and ‘indolent’

78 BL/MP/Add/MS/74757/97-99. 79 Although most Caribbean islands instigated a period of compulsory apprenticeship after emancipation, Antigua did not. See Douglas Hall, Five of the Leewards, 1834–1870: The Major Problems of the Post-Emancipation Period in Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, Nevis, and St. Kitts (Kingston: Caribbean Universities Press, 1971), pp. 23–25. 80 Nicholas Draper, Price of Emancipation: Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 34. 81 BL/MP/Add/MS/41372/81. 82 BL/MP/Add/MS/38253/39. •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company temperament as a young man.83 At the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, Josiah returned to London to train as a barrister but soon decided instead to join the army as a ‘soldier of fortune.’84 Military service across North America culminated in Josiah becoming the final Royal Governor of North Carolina, a position secured through his brother Samuel’s connections in Westminster.85 Having failed to persuade North Carolina’s elite to remain loyal, Martin subsequently contributed to Britain’s southern strategy during the ensuing war and in 1780–1781 won the praise of Charles Cornwallis (the future Governor General of India). After the British defeat, Josiah returned with his family to London, where he settled alongside many other notable Caribbean families near Grosvenor Square. In 1761 he married his cousin Elizabeth, daughter of Josiah Martin of Antigua and New York. Together they had nine children, six of whom survived infancy. In England he was active in supporting American loyalists’ claims for compensation and, despite losing an estimated £6,500 himself, was still able to purchase a large country estate near Richmond, Surrey.86 While much of the above reveals fairly unexceptional family criss-crossing of the Atlantic world, it was Samuel Martin Snr’s youngest son who gave this network a global dimension. William Byam Martin moved east to make his fortune.87 Born in 1746, William Byam obtained an EIC writership through the patronage of director Charles Chambers in 1765. Chambers was a successful wine merchant in Madeira – a key nodal point between India, Britain and the Caribbean – and although the Martins’ connection with him remains unclear, it seems likely Samuel Martin Jnr, by then an MP, took responsibility for obtaining the appointment.88 Three years later Samuel Snr wrote to Samuel Jnr regarding William Byam’s prospects. The brothers had asked their father to advance William Byam his inheritance so that he could 83 BL/MP/Add/MS/41346/91. 84 BL/MP/Add/MS/41353/82. 85 Carole Watterson Troxler, ‘Martin, Josiah (1737–1786),’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), online ed., Jan. 2008. http://www. [accessed 17 September 2015]. 86 V. O. Stumpf, Josiah Martin: The Last Royal Governor of North Carolina (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 1986), p. 200. 87 There was an earlier family association with the EIC through Samuel Martin Snr’s cousin Matthew Martin, but this did not appear to influence William Byam’s career choice. Matthew Martin was a London merchant and an EIC director in the 1730s and several of whose own children joined the Company. However, he died in 1749 and it was William Byam’s appointment in 1765 that signalled the start of the Antigua Martins’ lasting connection with the EIC. 88 BL/IOR/J/1/5/159-64. On Chambers see Hancock, Oceans of Wine, p. 138. On EIC trade with Madeira, Hancock, Oceans of Wine, pp. 126–29. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery better establish himself in India. It was assumed that while he needed quick funds at the outset of his EIC career, William Byam would go on to make a considerable fortune and so have little need of his father’s legacy. Samuel Martin Snr fretted about whether his youngest son could be trusted with such a large amount. However, upon Samuel Jnr’s assurances, he eventually acquiesced and instructed his eldest son to arrange the transfer by selling £2,000 of invested stocks.89 William Byam served in the EIC for 15 years before returning to Britain in 1780. Unlike many contemporary Nabobs, upon his retirement he was commended in the press for his ‘most handsome fortune and very unblemished character.’90 During his time in India he benefited from the patronage of Warren Hastings, rising to the position of Resident at the Durbar in Bengal.91 Success and family connections bestowed patronage in India, and Samuel Jnr’s letter book contains missives from EIC officers acquainted with William, offering news and asking for preferment in London.92 Even as William’s finances thrived his father continued to worry about his marriage prospects. In 1776 he wrote to his daughter-in-law and wife of Sir Henry, Eliza Ann Martin, requesting that in her next letter to William Byam she implore him to ‘pay his addresses to the most sensible and good natured of General Claverin’s two daughters who are gone with him to India.’ Even so, he fretted that the young ladies may prove unenthusiastic as his son’s looks did not match his fortune.93 William married in Calcutta that same year, but to Charlotte Yorke, daughter of an artillery officer, with whom he had three sons.94 In July 1776 William Byam’s niece excitedly wrote to Samuel Martin Jnr informing him that she had received a letter from ‘a young lady in the East Indies, who says my Uncle Byam is well, and is resident at the Durbar, a place of great honour, as well as profit, and that she imagines he will come home in a very few years possessed of a splendid fortune.’95 William Byam Martin did indeed return possessed of a splendid fortune. Settling in Berkshire – ‘the English Hindoostan’ – he purchased the mansion and estate of White-Knights near Reading from 89 Samuel Martin Snr to Samuel Martin Jnr, 13/5/1768, BL/MP/Add/MS/41350/88. 90 Obituary for William Byam Martin, Gentleman’s Magazine (April 1806), p. 388. 91 James M. Holzman, The Nabobs in England: A Study of the Returned Anglo-Indian, 1760–1785 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1926), p. 153. 92 Captain Nevill Parker (EIC Army) to Samuel Martin Jnr, 5/12/1766, BL/MP/Add/ MS/41353/104-06. 93 Samuel Martin Snr to Eliza Ann Martin, 29/3/1776, BL/MP/Add/MS/41353/92-93. 94 BL/IOR/N/1/2 f.135. 95 Mary Ann Fitzgerald to Samuel Martin Jnr, 19/7/1776, BL/MP/Add/ MS/41353/124-125. •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company Sir Henry Charles Englefield for £13,400 and was made High Sheriff of Berkshire.96 William Byam’s success clearly endeared India to other family members. Two of his sons entered the EIC. His eldest and namesake, William Byam Jnr, left Eton and obtained a writership in 1799.97 He soon excelled at the new college at Fort William, established in 1798 to provide a more rigorous training for EIC officials.98 Posted initially to Fort Marlborough – the EIC’s base on Sumatra – in 1805, William Byam Jnr impressed as Assistant Resident to Thomas Parr. However, his career almost came to a premature end as the unsteady bounds of EIC control were tested by local resistance. In December 1807 Byam Martin, Parr, his wife and another EIC official George Murray, came under attack from a force of around 300 Malays in the service of the Pangeran of Soongey. Parr was murdered in his bed chamber but Byam Martin escaped to the servants’ quarters, where he organised a successful defence, for which he was commended by the Governor-General. His subsequent summary retribution proved more controversial after he ordered the destruction of a ‘fortified’ village in the vicinity of the Bencoolen River. More damaging still was Mrs Parr’s accusation of cowardice for abandoning her husband. Despite facing fierce criticism, Byam Martin was ultimately cleared of all charges by a formal committee of enquiry. Career success quickly followed and he was soon promoted away from Fort Marlborough to Bengal, receiving many positive commendations for his ‘abilities.’99 Byam Martin’s reputation continued to rise and in 1811 he returned to Sumatra as Resident of Amboyna for the duration of the British occupation of the Dutch East Indies during the Napoleonic Wars. Praise came once more when he oversaw the restoration of the Dutch Indies to the Netherlands, with Charles Lushington (the Secretary to the Government of Bengal and son of the Sir Stephen Lushington mentioned above) commending his ‘calm and patient resistance of immeasurable demands without departing from those principles of liberality and public honour which should ever characterize the proceedings of a British Representative.’100 This role reconnected him to older family traditions when responsible for managing and returning ‘slaves’ to their Dutch owners in 1817.101 For the next 20 years William Byam Martin Jnr served with success across India, occupying the prominent 96 New Reports of Cases Heard in the House of Lords, 6 (London, 1835), pp. 125–30. 97 BL/IOR/J/1/17/228-31. 98 Monthly Magazine (July 1804), pp. 566–68. 99 BL/IOR/O/6/7/787-800. 100 BL/IOR/6/7/801-804. 101 BL/IOR/6/7/800. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery positions of Resident to Hyderabad (1825–1830), Delhi (1830–1832) and Indore (1832–1834).102 His promotions brought ever-growing remuneration and although he never rivalled his father’s wealth, William Byam Martin Jnr earned a salary and allowances of 96,663 rupees as Resident of Delhi in 1831.103 In 1833 he was appointed to the Council in Bengal, but returned to England in 1834 on furlough before retiring from the EIC in 1836. He died unmarried in Surrey in 1869. Nowhere in his EIC records is any mention of his family connection to the Caribbean. Neither of his younger brothers enjoyed such success or longevity. Henry Yorke Martin joined the Madras cavalry as a cadet in 1801, but died of fever in 1808.104 The third brother, Samuel Coote, joined the regular army and was killed during the Peninsular War; his son William Henry Martin took India service into the third successive generation when he was appointed to a Bengal writership in 1826.105 Family connections were crucial to his obtaining an appointment: the nominating director, John Bebb, recorded: ‘Mrs Byam Martin is a very old friend of mine – Regard for her and for the memory of her deceased husband William Byam Martin were my inducements.’106 He served for nearly 20 years before resigning because of ill health and died in 1845.107 A cousin, Josiah Henry Martin, son of Governor Josiah Martin, also embarked on an EIC career in 1791 but died in India shortly afterwards.108 By 1833, the year of emancipation, the Martins had successfully established themselves in prominent positions across three continents. They were a family who had derived wealth from the Caribbean slave economy, gained access to the highest levels of the state in Westminster, risen to the top of the Royal Navy and forged personal fortunes and Company conquest in India. Despite the fact that none of the family had lived in Antigua since the death of Samuel Martin Snr in 1776, the Martins retained ownership of the Green Castle plantation. In 1835 Sir Henry William Martin submitted a claim for compensation for 319 enslaved people at a value of £4,454 2s 6d (roughly equivalent to £3.5 million today).109 From Antigua to London, on to India 102 For his official reports and correspondence, see IOR/F/4; H. T. Prinsep, Register of the HEIC’s Bengal Civil Servants 1790–1842 (Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1844), p. 232. 103 BL/IOR/O/6/17/780. 104 BL/IOR/L/MIL/9/112/179-80; Gentleman’s Magazine (1809), p. 477. 105 BL/IOR/J/1/40/140-47. 106 BL/IOR/J/1/40/144. 107 Holmes & Co., Bengal Obituary (London: W. Thacker & Co., 1851), p. 295. 108 BL/IOR/J/1/13/319. 109 See Henry William Martin’s entry on the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership database: [accessed 17 September 2015]. •


Britain, the Caribbean and the East India Company and back again, the Martins were a family of global reach who navigated the expanding contours of the late eighteenth-century imperial world through a family network that spanned the empire and which, in turn, was supported by wealth derived from overseas.

Conclusion The opening quotation from Kipling evokes a well-rehearsed Anglo-Indian mythology laden with the romance of the ‘family Raj.’ Many families did indeed send successive generations to build careers in India. Success provided wealth, prestige and public acclaim in Britain, while entrenching imperial service at the heart of family identity. However, although this group, even described by Bernard Porter as the ‘true imperial caste,’ has been widely acknowledged by scholars and genealogists alike, far less attention has been paid to the networks spanning the Indian and Atlantic Ocean worlds.110 These were fundamental in shaping the fortunes of many more families like the Lushingtons and Martins. While historiographical convention has tended to treat Britain’s North American and Indian empires separately, this chapter offers fresh perspectives on the pre-Victorian empire by focusing on the family rather than formal structures of imperial power. Over the second half of the nineteenth century, slavery was slowly erased from British public memory and replaced with a narrative celebrating the achievement of abolition. Combined with evolving archival practices, this led to the separation of empire into discrete spheres. In consequence, the connections between the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds became increasingly hard to discern. A ‘Big History’ methodology incorporating new digital technologies now offers the opportunity to move beyond established binaries of east and west, public and private. In their place emerges an interconnected empire of truly global perspective.

110 Bernard Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: What the British Really Thought about Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 41–42. •


Part II Little Britain’s Memory of Slavery

6 Whose Memories? Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering Catherine Hall Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering

Introduction In the picturesque West Sussex village of Slindon is buried Edward Long, one of the most vociferous and influential supporters of the slave trade and slavery. The name of William Wilberforce is branded on public memory; the part he played in the abolition of slavery and the slave trade is regularly revisited. But what of the slave owners who resisted abolition for so long and whose names are for the most part forgotten? Slavery has been a subject of political contestation for a very long time and as Toni Morrison has taught us, remembrance is central to that politics.1 In the work of re-remembering Britain’s deep involvement in the slavery business, Long is an important figure to revisit. ‘In the struggle to shape the future,’ Vincent Brown writes in his book on the centrality of death to the world of Atlantic slavery, ‘the dead do not necessarily have the last word, but they always have a voice.’2 The tombs and memorials that were constructed then to white ‘West Indians,’ as the colonists were called, whether in Britain or the Caribbean, were intended to impose a permanent memory. They were attempts, conscious or not, to face future struggles over the politics of truth. They were part of the war of representation over slavery: who was telling the truth as to the nature of that institution and the character of the African? Was it the pro-slavers or the abolitionists? The dead could play a part in that struggle too, the forms of commemoration were never innocent. This chapter focuses on Edward 1 Toni Morrison, Beloved (New York: Vintage, 2004). 2 Vincent Brown, The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), p. 261. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Long, the historian of Jamaica; a writer who denied the full humanity of enslaved men and women. Disavowal, knowing and not knowing, was central to his thinking and to the ways in which it was intended that he should be remembered. His History of Jamaica. Or, General Survey of the Ancient and Modern State of That Island: with Reflections on its Situation, Settlements, Inhabitants, Climate, Products, Commerce, Laws, and Government was published in three volumes in 1774. It established itself immediately as the authoritative work on the island of Jamaica which, at that time, was the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, the most productive of the British West Indian sugar islands. The History was an encyclopaedic work, in the tradition of Enlightenment histories. As is explained in its title, it dealt with the original settlement of the island, its conquest by the English in 1655, the mode of representative government and legal system that were established, its topography and levels of productivity, carefully dealt with parish by parish, its patterns of trade, its meteorology, its vegetables, flora and fauna, and much more. Long proclaimed that he had not hesitated to name abuses and offer remedies, and would ‘display an impartial character of its inhabitants of all complexions.’3 The History was written in the authoritative voice of the historian, replete with multiple footnotes and references to well-known names. This was an author who knew Jamaica, who could provide eyewitness accounts that were empirically verifiable. His aim was threefold: to convince his readers that slavery was a legitimate institution, necessary for the wealth and comfort of the mother country; to demonstrate that Africans were suited to subjection; and to represent Jamaica as an excellent place of settlement for white Britons, a special offshoot of England. Long was an active slave owner in Jamaica between 1757–1769 before returning to England, where he lived until his death. The slave trade had been abolished in 1807 but slavery still flourished. Following abolition, the conditions of the enslaved had been expected to improve, but there were few signs of significant change. Slave owners were well aware that there were more struggles to come. James Stephen, a leading abolitionist, pioneered slave registration as a way of tracking illegal slave trading, and this system was imposed in Trinidad, a crown colony, in 1812, despite strong opposition from the slave owners. The following year Long was buried in Slindon in West Sussex. His youngest daughter, Elizabeth, had married Henry Howard, son of the Duke of Norfolk, and he spent much of his last years living near them. They occupied a house on the Arundel estate and divided 3 Edward Long, The History of Jamaica. Or, General Survey of the Ancient and Modern State of That Island: with Reflections on its Situation, Settlements, Inhabitants, Climate, Products, Commerce, Laws, and Government, Vol. 1 (London: T. Lowndes, 1774), p. 2. •


Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering their time between there and their London home. Long had lived for some years in Wimpole Street, an area favoured by many West Indian absentees. After the death of his wife Mary, he settled in Slindon in a substantial house known as The Firs, and regularly spent time with his grown-up children in their different abodes. His memorial in Slindon church has its place in the struggle over representation – how was he to be remembered? What part could his memorial play in the politics of slavery? Long is buried next to the altar in pride of place; a handsome slab records his name and dates. On the wall is an impressive sculpture, executed by Richard Westmacott, the premier funerary sculptor of his generation. Westmacott had sculpted the imposing memorial to Charles James Fox standing in Westminster Abbey, celebrating Fox as a ‘friend of the negro’ and leading advocate of the abolition of the slave trade. He had also done the memorial to Nelson, an enthusiastic supporter of both the slave trade and slavery. His artistic endeavours could embrace both abolitionists and pro-slavers. Memorials to significant eighteenth-century figures favoured neo-classical decoration and encomiums idealising the character of the dead. The memorial to Long was no exception. Cast in white marble, it is dominated by the figure of Clio, one of the nine muses. She is the muse of history, a word whose original meaning is the inquiry after knowledge. ‘Clio’ itself means to make famous or celebrate, while her mother’s name, Mnemosyne, means remembrance. Clio is represented in classical pose, holding a scroll in one hand, the knowledge which will inform subsequent generations, while beside her are further scrolls, summoning up the volumes of Long’s History. She is shaded by a palm tree, and what look like a cluster of dates or bananas – Westmacott’s imagined Jamaica with its sweet produce, the source of riches. The inscription reads: Late Chief Judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court, Jamaica, and author of the history of that island. He was the fourth son but only surviving male descendant of Samuel Long of Tredudwell in the County of Cornwall, and of Longville in the island of Jamaica, by Mary his wife, youngest daughter and co-heir of Bartholomew Tate, of De-la-Pre Abbey in the County of Northampton. He was born August 23, 1734, and died March 13, 1813, leaving by Mary his wife, daughter and heir of Thomas Beckford, and relict of John Palmer, three sons, and three daughters: viz. Edward, Robert and Charles; Catharine, Charlotte and Elizabeth. Educated in the study of the law, with talents that might have enabled him to attain the highest honours of his profession, he devoted his earlier years to the discharge of the duties attendant upon his official situation, of principles irreproachable, of integrity unsullied, in the love of justice unsurpassed: he acquired and preserved the universal esteem of his contemporaries, on his return to England he passed the remainder of •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery his days in literary retirement, and terminated a long and unblemished life, beloved and lamented by his family, honoured and respected by all who knew him.

Jamaica is there – the identification clear – as Chief Judge, as historian, through the connection with the property, Longville, and the families of Beckford and Palmer. So too is England, with Tredudwell in Cornwall, the old family property, the abbey in Northamptonshire associated with his wife and the solid English names of his sons Edward, Robert and Charles, and daughters Catharine, Charlotte and Elizabeth. Long could have been, we are told, a top lawyer; instead he devoted himself to his official duties and then to a quiet literary retirement, producing his history. With his ‘irreproachable principles,’ ‘unsullied integrity’ and ‘an unsurpassed love of justice,’ he enjoyed ‘universal esteem,’ was loved by his family and honoured and respected by all who knew him. What is remembered and what is forgotten here? Long’s family chose to forget the political combat in which he had been engaged strenuously and in which his writings had played – and would continue to play – a vital part. What might the enslaved on his plantation have had to say about his ‘love of justice’? Who benefited from those ‘irreproachable principles’? Did abolitionists respect his integrity? A whitewashing job in white marble, we might suggest, part and parcel of slave owners’ strategies to represent themselves as upright Britons. Long was a major slave owner, one of those West Indian slave owners who constituted a powerful interest group in the metropole in the late eighteenth century and would remain powerful for decades to come. They managed to delay the abolition of both the slave trade and slavery for half a century. The movement for abolition of the slave trade started in the 1780s but it did not succeed until 1807. It took nearly another 30 years to win the battle for emancipation. Slavery was finally abolished in the British West Indies, Mauritius and the Cape in 1833 but apprenticeship was instituted, requiring so-called freed slaves to work unpaid for their former masters for a period of four to six years. Furthermore, £20 million was paid in compensation to the slave owners, the price of their agreement to the loss of what they defined as ‘their’ property.4 Full emancipation only took place in 1838, after another popular campaign. New World chattel slavery was abolished, but racial hierarchies continued. In the period after 1833 it was the triumph of 4 Nicholas Draper, The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). On the legacies of slave ownership, see the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership database ( and Catherine Hall, Nicholas Draper, Keith McClelland, Katie Donington and Rachel Lang, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). •


Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering abolition that was to be remembered – not the fact that colonial slavery had existed since the 1630s.5 Slave owners and their descendants were active in the ‘forgetting’ of slavery, quick to insist that they shared the nation’s pride in abolition.6 The ‘national sin’ had now been erased. The compensation that had been paid was widely understood as a recognition of Britain’s collective responsibility for slavery, alongside the nation’s respect for private property. The degraded figure of the African, however, a figure Long had done much to establish in British consciousness, was not forgotten. It was reinscribed in written and visual cultures in the post-emancipation period. While the abolitionists had insisted on the brutality and inhumanity of slavery, they frequently acknowledged at the very same time that Africans were different, not really ‘like us,’ needing white guidance for their long journey to civilisation.7 The denigration of Africans, the conviction that they were lesser than Europeans, has had a very long history. Edward Long’s writing played a part in this.

Establishing a Jamaica Family Fortune The Long family had been in Jamaica since it was first conquered by Oliver Cromwell’s forces, led by Penn and Venables, in 1655. Samuel Long was on the original expedition, acting as Secretary to the four commissioners appointed by Cromwell. The expedition was badly planned and resourced and it took at least two years to beat off the Spanish who had been in occupation, but by 1657 the advantages the island offered had become clear, to some at least. Land grants were awarded to the soldiers and many saw the potential of planting, in particular the wealth to be gained from sugar. Samuel Long patented and purchased great tracts of land, accumulating 16–18,000 acres. His principal settlement was in Clarendon, where he had seven plantations that had already been established by the Spanish, and had been used to grow provisions, indigo and sugar. He became a highly significant political figure, successfully leading the challenge to the crown’s effort to limit the rights of the colony to representative government. Jamaican colonists were Englishmen, he insisted, with all the rights pertaining to freeborn men 5 On the commemoration of abolition and its place in public memory, see J. R. Oldfield, Chords of Memory: Commemoration, Ritual and British Transatlantic Slavery (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007). 6 Catherine Hall, ‘Reconfiguring Race: The Stories the Slave-Owners Told,’ in Hall et al., Legacies of British Slave-Ownership, pp. 163–203. 7 See, for example, the discussion of Zachary Macaulay in Catherine Hall, Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain (London and New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery in the mother country. Samuel’s son, Colonel Charles Long, returned to England about 1700 and bought an estate in Suffolk. This was the dream of the successful planter, to accumulate the riches to buy land in England and return to live the life of a gentleman. Plantations could be left to the management of attorneys who would deliver the profits to London as raw sugar. Charles had married twice. Both wives were daughters of West Indian governors and the second, Jane Modyford, was the daughter and heiress of Sir William Beeston, himself a significant slave owner. At Beeston’s death, her inheritance was disputed by his widow, who claimed rights for life on the basis of a will which Colonel Long insisted was fraudulent. The case turned on whether English statutes on fraud were in force in Jamaica. Charles, following in his father’s footsteps, was enraged at this challenge to the rights of Englishmen. He wrote angrily to the Chief Justice of Jamaica that ‘all inheritances must be tried according to ye Statute, and common Lawes of England. If this is not allowed you may without any more struggle deliver up our necks to ye yoke of slavery and call ourselves no more Englishmen.’8 This discourse of the antithesis between slavery and freedom, slavery and the rights of the Englishman, was at the heart of white colonists’ claims, both to secure their privileges in relation to the crown and to distance themselves from the Africans they had enslaved and whose labour produced their wealth. To be white in their discourse meant to be free; to be black was to be enslaved. White, with a capital W, was how the colonists defined themselves, always in relation to ‘Negro,’ the term used rather than ‘slave.’ 9 These namings, efforts to fix and naturalise the binaries between European and African that were so central to ‘race making,’ carried their meanings by their connection to the body and skin. The presence of poor whites and of free black people and people of colour on the island was disavowed: Jamaica’s motley population was reduced to two groups, the powerful and the subjected. As Kathleen Wilson has argued, the Maroons, black but free and outside the plantation economy, troubled and sometimes disrupted the categories which the colonisers tried so hard to hold.10 Charles Long lost his own and other people’s fortunes in the South Sea Bubble and left his son Samuel, Edward Long’s father, severely indebted. 8 R. Mowbray Howard, Record and Letters of the Family of the Longs of Longville, Jamaica, and Hampton Lodge, Surrey, Vol. 1 (London: Simpkin, Marshall and Hamilton, 1925), p. 66. 9 Susan Dwyer Amussen, Caribbean Exchange. Slavery and the Transformation of English Society (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), p. 12. 10 Kathleen Wilson, ‘The Performance of Freedom: Maroons and the Colonial Order in Eighteenth Century Jamaica and the Atlantic Sound,’ William and Mary Quarterly, third series, 66:1 (2009) pp. 45–86. •


Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering

Image 6.1: Plan of Lucky Valley Estate, Clarendon, Jamaica, 1769, by James Blair. Image copyright of the British Library

Samuel had married Mary Tate, a woman with no fortune. Facing a serious shortage of money to support his growing family, he was impelled to return to Jamaica to try and save the estates, Lucky Valley and Longville, from the maladministration of his attorney. When his father died in 1757, Edward, the second son, aged 23, set sail for Jamaica. He was now to take responsibility for maintaining the family fortune. The following year he made an advantageous marriage to Mary Ballard, widow of John Palmer, second daughter and eventual heir of Thomas Beckford, one of the Beckford clan. They too had been in Jamaica from early settlement and had extensive metropolitan and colonial business and political connections. Around 1750 the Beckfords, Ballards and Palmers between them owned nearly half of the cultivated land in Jamaica. The Longs were thus connected to key Jamaican planter families. Edward Long spent 12 years in Jamaica running the family plantations, acting initially as secretary to his brother-in-law Sir Henry Moore, when he served as lieutenant-governor of the island. He had only been left £1,000 by his father, but his older brother Robert had given him a share of the •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Longville property, and later of Lucky Valley.11 He witnessed Tacky’s rebellion in 1760, the most significant slave revolt of eighteenth-century Jamaica, an event which terrified white colonists and sharpened racial hostilities and in which Moore’s determined actions, according to his admiring brother-in-law, were critical to the defeat of the rebels. Long’s appointment as Chief Judge of the Vice-Admiralty court, the court dealing with maritime matters and prize money, secured him further income. He served in the House of Assembly and was one of the ‘high spirited and opulent planters’ who displayed something of an ‘ungovernable spirit’ when they believed their rights as freeborn Englishmen were challenged.12 In 1769 Edward Long left Jamaica because of ill health and never returned. Before leaving, he ordered a survey of his Lucky Valley estate, a copy of which has survived. As B. W. Higman has documented, the details Long later provided in his History of a model estate closely correspond to the levels of production and numbers of enslaved people of Lucky Valley. The annual income Long could expect to draw from that estate alone, given its sugar and rum production, was £4,000. He was a relatively wealthy man, though he had a growing family, who could comfortably aspire to a genteel life.13

Between Metropole and Colony: Transatlantic Families in the Age of Abolition The Jamaican elite all operated transatlantically – they were neither resident nor absentee on a permanent basis. For the most part the men aimed to live in England but when affairs required it, they would return to Jamaica, knowing that slave-produced sugar was their surest route to riches. As Long himself wrote, ‘Those who in general visit this island do not emigrate for the purpose of compiling histories, but avowedly that of accumulating money,’ and most saw it as a temporary abode, not ‘home.’14 In London, ‘Uncle Beeston’ was ‘the kindly man of business’ for the Longs, heading the firm which carried on the West Indian trade, always ready to give advice, to act as trustee or executor.15 He may have been kindly to his own family, but running a slaving 11 Howard, Record and Letters, p. 122. 12 Quoted in Jack P.  Greene, ‘The Jamaica Privilege Controversy, 1764–66: An Episode in the Process of Constitutional Definition in the Early Modern British Empire,’ in Jack P. Greene, Negotiated Authorities: Essays in Colonial Political and Constitutional History (Charlottesville, VA and London: University of Virginia Press, 1994), p. 357. 13 B. W. Higman, Jamaica Surveyed: Plantations and Plans of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Kingston: Institute of Jamaica, 2001), pp. 84–91. 14 Long, History, Vol. 1, p. 6. 15 Howard, Record and letters, p. 132. •


Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering business that was anything but kind. The men in these networks did business and politics together, they took each other’s sons into their households, gave advice on education and training, kept each other informed on metropolitan and colonial affairs. They were active in the defence of West Indian interests in London; both Beeston Long and his son were chairs of the Society of the West India Merchants and Planters while Samuel Long acted as treasurer. They organised meetings, lobbied men of influence and provided evidence to the parliamentary inquiries which threatened them once the movement for abolition had gained strength in the 1780s. Once Edward had established himself through his writing as the authority on Jamaica, he was consulted by major politicians in the struggles over the slave trade. Pitt, for example, was anxious to make ‘acquaintance with the Author of the History of Jamaica’ which he had been reading, for he hungered and thirsted ‘after knowledge’ and believed that Long might satisfy his ‘voracious appetite.’16 Stephen Fuller, the agent for Jamaica from 1765 to 1795, relied heavily on Long to give evidence to crucial committees and to provide support in mobilising the case against the abolition of the slave trade.17 Long arrived in the mother country with his wife Mary and four children at a time when attitudes to empire were shifting. The end of the Seven Years’ War and the expansion of the British Empire to include large numbers of subject peoples who were neither white nor Protestant, had resulted in new efforts by the imperial government to impose controls over colonial assemblies. These were to provoke constitutional clashes and eventually the American War of Independence.18 This new-style empire also opened the way, as Christopher Leslie Brown has argued, for questions about the rights of black subjects and the rise of abolitionism.19 Both North American and West Indian colonists were proud of their birthright as Britons. This was often expressed in terms of the rights of freeborn Englishmen, but could 16 Howard, Record and letters, p. 253. 17 Report of the Lords of Committee of Council appointed for the consideration of all matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations; the evidence and information they have collected in consequence of His Majesty’s Order in Council, dated the 11th of February 1788, concerning the present state of the trade to Africa, and particularly the trade in slaves; and concerning the Effects and Consequences of this Trade, as well in Africa and the West Indies, as to the general Commerce of this Kingdom (1789); M. W. McCahill (ed.), The Correspondence of Stephen Fuller, 1788–1795: Jamaica, the West India Interest at Westminster and the campaign to preserve the Slave Trade (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2014). 18 P. J. Marshall, ‘A Nation Defined by Empire, 1755–1776,’ in Alexander Grant and Keith J. Stringer (eds), Uniting the Kingdom? The Making of British History (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 208–22. 19 Christopher Leslie Brown, Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery also refer to Britons, who ‘never will be slaves.’20 In their commitment to liberty, the freedom to enjoy their property, representative institutions as critical to protection from arbitrary government, trial by jury and habeus corpus were central to the privileges the colonists’ assumed for themselves in their new settlements. They argued that the original settlers and their descendants were freeborn English subjects who had left the mother country aiming to create extensions of it, colonies in the original Latin meaning of the term. Their assemblies, they insisted, did not derive from grants from the crown but from the basic English right to representative government, now secured by customary practice and ensuring that men of property had a say in making laws and levying taxes. In the colonies, as in the metropole, the assemblies were the bulwarks of peoples’ liberties and property.21 But it had always been necessary to fight for these rights, particularly in a context in which the imperial Parliament was attempting to extend its powers. There had been a major controversy in Jamaica in 1766 when the then Governor, Henry Lyttleton, had clashed violently with the Assembly over what they saw as his wrongful exertion of executive authority. Long was a member of the Assembly at this time and was actively engaged in asserting the privileges of the House against those of the crown. Lyttelton’s attempts to override the authority of the Assembly by virtue of his position in the Court of Chancery were violently resisted, the colonists insisting that they were ‘entitled to the laws of England, and to their Constitution, as their Inheritance.’ They ‘possessed their Rights and Privileges by as free and certain a tenure, as that, by which they hold their lands, as that, by which the King holds his crown.’ As their spokesman Nicholas Bourke put it, if those traditional rights were not enjoyed then they would be, ‘not freemen but slaves: not the free subjects, but the outcasts of Britain.’ The distinction between political slavery and chattel slavery was made explicit: a freeman had ‘his life, his liberty, and his property, secured to him by known laws, to which he has given his consent.’ A slave, on the other hand, held ‘everything at the pleasure of his master, and has no law, but the will of his tyrant.’22 20 James Thomson, ‘Rule, Britannia,’ in J. Logie Robertson (ed.), The Complete Poetical Works of James Thomson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1908), p. 422. On the significance of the poem see Suvir Kaul, Poems of Nation, Anthems of Empire: English Verse in the Long Eighteenth Century (Charlottesville, VA and London: University of Virginia Press, 2007), esp. pp. 1–8. 21 Jack P. Greene, ‘Liberty, Slavery, and the Transformation of British Identity in the Eighteenth-Century West Indies,’ Slavery & Abolition, 21:1 (April 2000), pp. 1–31; ‘Liberty and Slavery: The Transfer of British Liberty to the West Indies 1627–1865,’ in Jack P. Greene (ed.), Exclusionary Empire. English Liberty Overseas, 1600–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 22 Cited in Greene, ‘Liberty and Slavery,’ p. 63. •


Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering Long chaired the committee which prepared an 80-page report detailing what they saw as Lyttelton’s misdeeds and accusing him of ‘subverting the constitution of our government.’23 The imperial government, preoccupied with what was becoming a more serious challenge to their authority in the northern colonies, had meanwhile accepted Lyttelton’s request to return home and replaced him with the West Indian-born Roger Elletson, a more acceptable choice to the colonists. Long arrived in England a staunch defender of the colonists’ freedom. African slavery was constituted as the antithesis of white freedom: what was disavowed was the recognition that slavery was a condition for the possibility of freedom. A defence of the colonists’ freedom was particularly necessary given the conflicts over representation which were erupting in the northern colonies and threatened more serious trouble to come. What marked New World colonists apart from those living in Britain was their ownership of the enslaved: their freedom was constituted on the basis of the expropriation of African labour and personhood. During the 1770s the differences between Britons and Americans were to become increasingly evident: were West Indians and North Americans really Britons? 24 Slavery was widely regarded as ordinary in the mid-eighteenth-century Atlantic world, critical to Britain’s empire of commerce, but the alleged increasing numbers of black people in the mother country, some of whom were enslaved, was beginning to attract critical attention. Thousands of images of people of colour had been circulating in cheap print and visual materials for decades and Catherine Molineux’s analyses of the racial fantasies of otherness they contain demonstrates ‘the growing centrality of people of colour to the construction of imperial identities – to notions of mastery, fraternity, salvation, racial difference, or bondage.’25 The end of the Seven Years’ War had made the black poor more visible on the streets of London, leading to accusations of white unemployment and poverty. The absentee planters were concerned and raised the issue at the Society of West India Planters and Merchants. At their meeting a letter was read from the Chairman of the Committee for Relief of the Black Poor asking for advice on the removal of black people from the country. Bryan Edwards, Thomas Boddington and 23 Cited in Greene, ‘The Jamaica Privilege Controversy,’ p. 385. 24 Michael Craton, ‘Reluctant Creoles: The Planters’ World in the British West Indies,’ in B. Bailyn and P. Morgan (eds), Strangers within the Realm: Cultural Margins of the first British Empire (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), pp. 314–62; Stephen Conway, ‘From Fellow-Nationals to Foreigners: British Perceptions of the Americans, c. 1739–1783,’ William and Mary Quarterly, third series, 59:1 (Jan 2002), pp. 65–100. 25 Catherine Molineux, Faces of Perfect Ebony: Encountering Atlantic slavery in Imperial Britain (Cambridge. MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), p. 7. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Edward Long were asked to confer with the Committee ‘upon the means of preventing in future, the introduction of Blacks into this Country.’26 The status of black people was unclear – did being in England bring freedom? Could slave owners who carried ‘their’ human property with them from the West Indies continue to treat them as enslaved? Slave holding in Britain was becoming a matter of controversy and by the time Long settled in London, Granville Sharp was already working with the enslaved on freedom suits.27 In 1769 Sharp published his pamphlet arguing that slavery was ‘an innovation in England, contrary to the spirit and intention of our present laws and constitution.’ He also acknowledged his own concern about the numbers of black servants: the ‘public good’ he suggested, seemed to require ‘some restraint of this unnatural increase.’28 The case of James Somerset provided an opportunity for a full hearing of the moral case against slavery on British soil and Lord Mansfield’s judgement confirmed that Somerset could not be forcibly returned by his master Charles Stewart to the West Indies. Abolitionists hailed this decision enthusiastically as signifying that men and women could not be held as slaves in England. No one was suggesting that this would apply elsewhere. Long was horrified. His first political pamphlet, following his return to England, was a violent refutation of Lord Mansfield – the man who, in Long’s words, had perfected ‘the art of washing the black-a-moor white.’ Candid reflections upon the judgment lately awarded by the Court of King’s Bench in Westminster Hall on what is commonly called The Negroe Cause by a Planter was his riposte. It was a powerful polemic, asserting that slavery was sanctioned by the actions of the crown, by parliamentary statutes and treaties, and by the practices of commerce. It was preposterous, Long argued, to suggest that ‘Negroe slaves emigrating from our plantations into this kingdom are to be deemed free subjects of the realm.’ British commerce ‘esteemed Negroe labourers merely a commodity, or chose in merchandize,’ he insisted, and ‘the parliament of Great Britain has uniformly adhered to the same idea’; this was indeed the national sense. The planters had, therefore, ‘deemed their negroes to be fit objects of purchase and sale, transferrable like any other goods and chattels.’ Their rights were just as complete ‘as that 26 Standing Committee of the Society of West India Planters and Merchants Minutes, London Tavern, 10 March 1786, M915, Reel 2, West India Committee Papers, Senate House Library. Thanks to Katie Donington for this reference. 27 Folarin Shyllon, Black People in Britain 1555–1833 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977). 28 Granville Sharp, A Representation of the injustice and dangerous tendency of tolerating slavery or of admitting the least claim of private property in the persons of men in England (London: Benjamin White and Roger Horsfield, 1769), p. 42, 74–75. •


Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering of any other British merchant over the goods in his warehouse.’ Negroes, were expressly declared ‘merchandize’ by parliamentary statute; no lawyer could proclaim them ‘subjects of the realm, [and] held entitled to all the rights, liberties, and privileges of natural, or free-born subjects.’ Negroes were stock, Long insisted, commodities, to be freely bought and sold by their white masters.29 Following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Samuel and grandfather Charles, he insisted on the rights of colonists as freeborn Englishmen, rights that were being asserted at this time by brother colonists in the North American colonies. ‘We are Englishmen’ and the protection of property was a right not to be tampered with, at home or in the colonies. What was more, the question of slavery could not be said simply to belong to the colonists – ‘the whole nation’ was benefiting from the trade, all derived advantage ‘from the sweat of the Negroe’s brow.’30 Long’s defence of the distinction between ‘Negroes’ and free subjects expanded into a disquisition on his disgust with those lower-class women who were ‘remarkably fond of the blacks’ and whose lascivious sexuality threated white Englishmen with contamination. ‘The nation already begins to be bronzed with the African tint,’ he wrote; this was a ‘venomous and dangerous ulcer’; English blood, every English family, was in danger of contamination. Mansfield’s judgement was an invitation to ‘three hundred thousand blacks, now scattered over our different colonies, to mutiny and transport themselves by every means into this land of Canaan, where, by only swallowing one single mouthful of British air, they may enter upon the rights of free-born Britons, and sleep in peace beneath the sacred shield of Magna Charta and the Habeus Corpus.’ Abolitionists were demanding ‘a total sacrifice of our African trade and American possessions, to their fantastic idea of English liberty.’31 Only horror could result from these visionary notions of equality. Freed Negroes would not labour; outside of the discipline of the plantation they were licentious and intractable: slavery was a way of civilising the savage, of training him into the ‘due subordination’ essential to any ordered society.

29 Edward Long, Candid reflections upon the judgement lately awarded by the Court of King’s Bench in Westminster Hall on what is commonly called The Negroe Cause by a Planter, (London: T. Lowndes and Co., 1772), pp. 4, 33, 36. 30 Long, Candid reflections, p. 40. 31 Long, Candid reflections, pp. 47, 61, 64. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Edward Long’s History and the Construction of Pro-Slavery Racial Thought Long had brought with him from Jamaica notes, public and private papers, and experiences which provided him with the materials for his three-volume History. It was clear to him that it was necessary to defend the institution of slavery in the West Indies, even if it could not be defended on home territory. Published in 1774, the History was a powerful intervention in the debates on the slave trade and slavery. It came just two years after the Somerset judgement and four before the case of Joseph Knight was finally determined in the highest courts of Scotland with a more clear-cut decision, ruling that slavery was not recognised by the laws of that land. Long derived his authority both from his eyewitness knowledge and from his status as an educated gentleman. As a child he had loved to hear his mother’s stories of her time on the island (which had in reality been very difficult). She had given him descriptions of its beauties and riches and ‘dexterously avoided touching upon the disgusting parts of the subject.’32 The History was split in two: on one side those beauties, for which Long had a deep appreciation and about which he utilised the language of landscape aesthetics; on the other, ‘the disgusting parts,’ which he cordoned off into his account of the inhabitants. Long’s ‘facts’ about race and slavery were confirmed by other authorities, from Hume to Monboddo, and by extensive footnotes citing legal precedents from Blackstone to parliamentary statutes. He was projecting the identity of the white settler as a highly civilised English country gentleman, that man who was to be celebrated in the memorial, a man who could defend colonial slavery from the high ground. He was a man of taste: taste both expressed and fostered a sense of entitlement and class privilege grounded in land ownership. ‘The man of taste,’ Elizabeth Bohls argues, ‘had what it took to appreciate the beauty and sublimity of natural scenes.’33 From this position Long could see and celebrate colonial gentility. He represented Jamaica as a place where nature became a work of art, where gentlemen ‘worthy of being esteemed among the first ornaments of this country’ ‘improved’ their lands, 32 Howard, Record and Letters, Vol. 1, p. 88. 33 Sir Hans Sloane’s A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbadoes, Nieves, St Christopher, and Jamaica, with the natural history of the last of those islands, to which is prefixed an introduction wherein is an account of the inhabitants, trade, etc. (London: B. M., 1707–1725) had established this gentlemanly tradition. See Elizabeth Bohls, ‘The Gentleman Planter and the Metropole: Long’s History of Jamaica (1774),’ in Gerald Maclean, Donna Landry and Joseph P. Ward (eds), The Country and the City Revisited: England and the Politics of Culture 1550–1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 183. I am deeply indebted to Bohls’s interpretation of Long as the landed gentleman. •


Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering and displayed their capacities as men of liberal education and good taste through their elegant homes and lavish hospitality.34 At one and the same time, his depictions invited connections with England – when first planted, the canes ‘wore the appearance of the ploughed land’ – and marked the difference, for Jamaica was a utopian island, ‘blessed with perennial verdure and unfading spring.’35 Jamaica was not England – it had sugar and slaves. It was essential for Long to defend this colonial difference, but in the idiom of the country gentleman. One great house in Clarendon, the parish in which Long’s properties lay, was described as commanding [an] extensive prospect […] the beauties of nature that are displayed here are innumerable. In one place is seen a long, wavy surface, adorned with the lively verdure of canes, interspersed with wind-mills and other buildings. In another are beheld several charming lawns of pasture-land, dotted with cattle and sheep, and watered with rivulets. In a third are Negroe villages, where (far from poverty and discontent) peace and plenty hold their reign; a crested ridge of fertile hills, which separates this parish from those contiguous on the North and East, distantly terminates the landscape.36

This was a picturesque vision, a ‘scene’ that could be viewed, a device much-favoured by those pro-slavery writers and artists who sanitised the plantation and erased colonial violence. The canes and buildings associated with sugar production, that process which depended on both agrarian and industrial labour, were there, but suitably veiled. The ‘charming lawns of pasture-land, dotted with cattle and sheep’ evoked the English countryside, while the ‘Negroe villages,’ which once again marked difference, were blessed with ‘peace and plenty.’ Long’s lyrical descriptions of the beauties of nature, made more beautiful by man, owed much to James Thomson’s The Seasons, a favourite text. Like Thomson, Long drew on the georgic, that discourse which ‘imaginatively and morally secured the links between the economic realms of country, city, and empire,’ dignifying humble agricultural labour as essential to the creation of wealth.37 The ‘busy slaves,’ in Long’s version of cane production, appear ‘like reapers, armed with bills instead of sickles to cut the ripened stems, and teams of oxen in the fields, to bring the treasure home; whilst the labourers chear [sic] their toil with rude

34 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 64. 35 Long, History, Vol. 1, p. 363. 36 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 65. 37 Karen O’Brien, ‘Imperial Georgic, 1660–1789,’ in Maclean, Landry and Ward (eds), The Country and The City Revisited, p. 161. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery songs or whistle in wild chorus their unpolished melody.’38 The plantation was cleansed and beautified, the slaves were busy but happy reapers, the cane ‘treasure.’ There was no echo here of the whip, no gangs of female labourers driven on by the iron discipline of their gang masters, no mention of the horrors of Tacky’s rebellion which were fully elaborated elsewhere in the text. ‘Topographical or picturesque landmarks’ were selected for representation to accompany the text, domesticating ‘impenetrable and uncultivated wilderness by appropriating it to a pastoral mode and establishing a sense of mastery over both people and landscape.’39 When it came to Long’s account of the inhabitants, such aestheticising was abandoned. Here the hard ideological work to be done was to persuade his English audience of the necessity of slavery, rooted as it was in the character of the African. He was perfectly aware that slavery was ‘repugnant to the spirit of the English laws’ but the plantations could not function without it and the English economy rested heavily on the slavery business, as he was at pains to point out.40 At the same time, he was anxious to encourage further white settlement so that ‘bronze tints’ and blackness would not dominate the island, so that the white population could hold its own and maintain its grip, a control based in reality on terror and violence. The Mansfield judgement had demonstrated that new forces had emerged, that the ordinariness and rightness of slavery could no longer be assumed. These were institutions that now had to be defended, the accusations of men such as Granville Sharp refuted. Long responded: The planters of this island have been very unjustly stigmatized with an accusation of treating their Negroes with barbarity. Some alledge, that these slave-holders, (as they are pleased to call them, in contempt) are lawless bashaws, West-India tyrants, inhuman oppressors, bloody inquisitors, and a long, etc. of such pretty names. The planter, in reply to these bitter invectives, will think it sufficient to urge, in the first place, that he did not make them slaves, but succeeded to the inheritance of their services in the same manner as an English squire succeeds to the estate of his ancestors; and that, as to his Africans, he buys their services from those who have all along pretended a very good right to sell; that it 38 Long, History, Vol. 1, p. 363. 39 Geoffrey Quilley, ‘Questions of Loyalty: The Representation of the British West Indian Colonies during the American Revolutionary War,’ in John Bonehill and Geoffrey Quilley (eds), Conflicting Visions: War and Visual Culture in Britain and France c. 1700–1830 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), p. 123. See also Kay Dian Kriz, Slavery, Sugar and the Culture of Refinement: Picturing the West Indies 1700–1840 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008). 40 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 323. •


Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering cannot be for his interest to treat his Negroes in the manner represented; but that it is so to use them well, and preserve their vigour and existence as long as he is able.41

Creole gentlemen, he asserted, were charitable and philanthropic. They were good-natured, affable and generous – though sometimes inclined to idleness, too addicted to costly living and the creation of debt, and not always chaste and faithful.42 Furthermore, he had heard of no cruelty. If it was practised, it was the overseers at fault, and these were ‘barbarians,’ ‘imported from among the liberty-loving inhabitants of Britain and Ireland.’ These were the wrong kind of liberty-lovers, those associated with radicalism and revolution. The planters were like ‘antient [sic] patriarchs,’ he maintained: friends and fathers to their negroes pursuing their self-interest in their care for ‘their’ property.43 He was less kind to the creole women who were all too willing, in his view, to let negro or mulatto wet nurses suckle their babies and care for their children, not attending to the ‘drawling dissonant gibberish’ that they adopted along with the ‘vulgar manners and awkward carriage.’ These women were unfit to be ‘the companions of sensible men’ or proper models for their daughters.44 White women should be better educated, this was a matter of urgency, so that they could aspire to the very sociability, the conversation between the sexes that was part of a civilised society that in other passages of the book he had hoped to evoke. ‘Intemperance and sensuality,’ Long believed, were the fatal instruments that had created havoc in Jamaica. The mulatto population was greatly to be regretted and it would be better for Britain and Jamaica ‘if the white men in that colony would abate of their infatuated attachments to black women, and instead of being “grac’d with a yellow offspring not their own” perform the duty incumbent on every good citizen, by raising in honourable wedlock a race of unadulterated beings.’45 The language of pollution, of taint and of contamination permeated Long’s account of a society with inadequate restraint on the passions, and thus producing ‘a vast addition of spurious offspring of different complexions.’46 Unlike the overwhelming majority of his contemporaries, it would seem that Long himself never succumbed to any form of illicit sexuality. African mistresses, he was convinced, ruined decent men, bleeding them of their money and deceiving them with their 41 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 267. 42 Christer Petley, ‘Plantations and Homes: The Material Culture of the Early Nineteenth-Century Jamaican Elite,’ Slavery & Abolition, 35:3 (2014), pp. 437–57. 43 Long, History, Vol. 2, pp. 269, 271. 44 Long, History, Vol. 2, pp. 278–79. 45 Long, History, Vol. 2, pp. 285, 327. 46 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 328. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery infidelities. The ‘conjunction of black and white’ was an unnatural thing: they were ‘two tinctures which nature has dissociated, like oil and vinegar.’47 On the other hand, he recognised that lower-class mulattoes were a ‘hardy race’ and could form the ‘centre of connexion between the two extremes, producing a regular establishment of three ranks of men, dependent on each other, and rising in a proper climax of subordination, in which the Whites would hold the highest place.’48 Long clung to the view, which could not possibly have been based on experience, that matches between mulattoes were generally ‘defective and barren.’49 He was convinced that here were ‘extremely potent reasons for believing that the White and the Negroe are two distinct species.’50 Long’s account of ‘Negroes’ affirmed this conviction that God created white and black – differences of skin tone were not, as so many Enlightenment thinkers maintained, the result of climate or environment. He embedded his account in an engagement with key eighteenth-century philosophers, demonstrating his credentials as a cosmopolitan gentleman. The footnote in which Hume had made explicit his conviction that Africans were naturally inferior to whites was given pride of place. He also drew on Hobbes, Locke, Grotius, Montesquieu and Linnaeus and elaborated his fundamental differences with Buffon, who described the orangutan as having human organs. Yet the orangutan, he believed, ‘has in form a much nearer resemblance to the negro race than the latter bear to white men.’51 The essential divide for Long was not between animal and human but between negro and white. As Silvia Sebastiani argues, Long animalised the Hottentot and humanised the orangutan.52 Africans were all the same, he informed his readers, displaying ‘a general uniformity […] of the worst kind’ and, paraphrasing Hume, he claimed that as a species they were ‘almost incapable of making any progress in civility,’ had ‘no moral sensations,’ ‘no wish but to be idle,’ ‘their barbarity to their children debases their nature below even that of the brutes.’ They were ‘the vilest of the human kind.’53 As Simon Gikandi suggests, Long was to cast a shadow ‘over the whole project 47 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 332. 48 Long, History, Vol. 2, pp. 332–33. 49 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 335. 50 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 336. 51 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 371. 52 Silvia Sebastiani, The Scottish Enlightenment: Race, Gender and the Idea of Progress (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Thanks to Silvia for showing me her unpublished manuscript ‘Challenging Boundaries of Humankind: Apes and Savages in Enlightenment.’ See also Suman Seth, ‘Materialism, Slavery and The History of Jamaica,’ Isis, 105:4 (2014) pp. 764–72. 53 Long, History, Vol. 1, pp. 353–54. •


Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering of theorizing difference in the modern period […] He was constituting a new economy of debate in which the debasement of the black was the signal of a particular way of speaking about modern identity.’54 In the debates over race that were to come, few followed Long (until the development of so-called scientific racism in the mid-nineteenth century) in his belief that Africans were a different species, but he played a crucial part in producing a black spectre, a figure with black skin, woolly hair and ‘a bestial or fetid smell’ which, he claimed, could not be washed off, which haunted the European imagination and worked to secure the claims of white men to be the civilisers of Africa and the African. At the heart of Long’s text was disavowal – his knowing and not knowing the humanity of Africans. He insisted that the men, women and children upon whom he relied to grow ‘his’ sugar and secure ‘his’ income, to care for him and his children, to labour for his fellow planters, were ‘things,’ commodities. They were ‘stock’ to be counted alongside animals in his estate accounts or in the summaries of the levels of sugar and rum production in each Jamaican parish that he produced for his History. Africans were all the same, essentially different from Whites. But at the very same time he recognised that there were differences – Minnahs were timid and despondent, Mundingos subject to illness, Ebos lazy, the Angolans most stupid. These were clearly the distinctions he had learned to draw from his own observation of the enslaved. Indeed, then, they were not the same. ‘Coromantins,’ as he named them, were the most dangerous: it was they who had been responsible for the great rebellion of 1760, which he had witnessed. They were ‘distinguished from their brethren by their aversion to husbandry, and the martial ferocity of their disposition […] Their grand enterprise […] was no other than the extirpation of the entire white inhabitants.’55 Such an endeavour required the enactment of a terrible punishment, a theatre of cruelty, a demonstration of white supremacy and black subjection. In his description of the horrible fate of two of the ringleaders, Long hesitated, pondering whether such cruelty was ever legitimate: Two of the St Mary’s ringleaders, Fortune and Kingston, were hung up alive in irons on a gibbet, erected in the parade of the town of Kingston. Fortune lived seven days, but Kingston survived till the ninth. The morning before the latter expired, he appeared to be convulsed form head to foot; and upon being opened, after his decease, his lungs were found adhering to the back so tightly, that it required some force to disengage 54 Simon Gikandi, Slavery and the Culture of Taste (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011), p. 106. 55 Long, History, Vol. 2, pp. 446–47. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery them. The murders and outrages they had committed, were thought to justify this cruel punishment inflicted upon them in terrorem to others

But any weakening or anxiety as to white brutality was speedily despatched by the notion of Africans as unfeeling brutes: ‘they appeared to be very little affected by it themselves,’ he wrote, ‘behaving all the time with a degree of hardened insolence, and brutal insensibility.’56 This stoicism in the face of torture can be interpreted as their performance, their demonstration of the limits of the master’s power.57 For Long, the brutality of the slave system could be justified by the brutality of Africans. He knew, at some level, that it was not possible for men to suffer such torment without excessive pain. That knowledge was disavowed on the grounds of essential difference. He needed to absolve himself, as Elsa Goveia argues, from his own feelings of uncertainty.58 His strategy was to assert his own omnipotence, his knowledge which was to trump both his own doubts and those of others. Those lurking feelings of uncertainty as to the fixed nature of difference, however, were manifested in his contradictory assumption that Africans could be improved by the experience of slavery: this was their route to a form of civilisation. Creoles, those born in the West Indies, he maintained, were superior to their African forebears. This became a standard part of the pro-slavery arguments over the following decades. The slave owners were doing Africans a favour, they were transporting them from the horrors of Africa to the world of the plantation. ‘Such men must be managed at first as if they were beasts,’ Long argued, ‘they must be tamed before they can be treated like men.’ They were ‘abject slaves’ in Africa, in our colony they would find better conditions, their lives ‘protected by law.’ Owners did not enjoy ‘an unlimited power,’ he claimed. (Though in reality they did.) Certainly it was ‘a more narrowed degree of liberty than some subjects in Britain, but in several respects a much larger extent than some others.’ Slaves got protection and immunities, food and clothing and, on many plantations, good usage which was better than money. It was what Grotius would call a ‘legitimate, equitable species of servitude,’ Long maintained, turning once more to another authority to justify his defence of the institution.59 The Middle Passage was a route to improvement: over time, Creoles would be 56 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 458. 57 On the importance of performance for an understanding of race politics in the Caribbean, see Kathleen Wilson, ‘Three Theses on Performance and History,’ Eighteenth-Century Studies, 48:4 (2015), pp. 375–90. 58 Elsa V. Goveia, A Study on the Historiography of the British West Indies to the End of the Nineteenth Century (Mexico: Instituto Panamerico de Geografia e Historia, 1956), p. 60. 59 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 402. •


Edward Long and the Work of Re-Remembering disciplined by the plantation, they would learn a ‘servitude’ which would ‘approach near to a well-regulated liberty.’60

Conclusion With no apparent sense of irony, Long published a pamphlet in 1778 titled English Humanity no Paradox. This was an attempt to disprove Voltaire’s stated view that the English were ‘the savages of Europe.’ He commented on his disapproval of flogging in schools – ‘the Rod is a dangerous weapon,’ especially among those whose absolute authority can ‘cause violent bursts of fury […] The hearts of some among them are steeled by habit against the compunctions of pity.’ He still dreamt, 30 years later, he informed his readers, of being whipped. ‘May every Advocate for Tyranny be haunted de die in diem, with these nocturnal visions, till he recants his error, and vows eternal enmity against all power unduly and rancorously exercised.’ 61 The pamphlet made no reference to the plantation or to slavery. Was Long at all aware of the double standard he advocated in attacking the flogging of English school boys while supporting slavery on the plantations? Disavowal is indeed a powerful tool in the sustenance of racial hierarchies – and one that continues to haunt us in the present. Edward Long is mentioned briefly in many histories of race and racism. His History has not been erased from the historical record in the way that the actions and legacies of many other slave owners have been. But what needs to be inserted into the mainstream narrative of British history is the significance of the slave owners as a powerful force in the making of modern Britain.

60 Long, History, Vol. 2, p. 498. Roxann Wheeler discusses Long’s contradictory conviction that Christianity and consumerism would eventually tame and improve Africans: The Complexion of Race: Categories of Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Culture (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). 61 Edward Long, English Humanity no paradox: or, an attempt to prove, that the English are not a nation of savages (London: T. Lowndes, 1778), pp. 36–39. •


7 Liverpool’s Local Tints Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery in a Seaport City Jessica Moody Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery

Liverpool says much that is unrepeatable [… it] stands as a warning to anyone wishing to paint a national picture by enlarging local tints. Michael Bentley, The Climax of Liberal Politics1

This was a port, a great port, and ominously nothing but a port.

Lady Margaret Simey, The Disinherited Society 2

Introduction The national public memory of Britain’s involvement in transatlantic slavery has been framed by a maritime-themed lens; it is confined to the activities and movements of ships across the Atlantic Ocean, having broken memorial ties with more land-based operations and consequences. John Beech has argued that this maritimisation of slavery, as he terms it, has placed a commemorative focus on the transatlantic slave trade, as opposed to enslavement itself, obscuring broader histories of the slavery business, and indeed of its wider economic, social and cultural impacts and legacies on British soil.3 Much of the weight of Beech’s maritimisation argument rests on the location of public 1 Michael Bentley, The Climax of Liberal Politics: British Liberalism in Theory and Practice, 1868–1918 (London: Edward Arnold, 1987), p. 30. 2 Margaret B. Simey. The Disinherited Society: A Personal View of Social Responsibility in Liverpool during the Twentieth Century (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996), p. 17. 3 John G. Beech. ‘The Marketing of Slavery Heritage in the United Kingdom,’ in G. M. Dann and A. V. Seaton (eds), Slavery, Contested Heritage, and Thanatourism (New York: Haworth Hospitality Press, 2001). •


Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery exhibitions and museums addressing slavery – which, prior to 2007 at least, were largely to be found in port cities: London, Bristol, Hull and Liverpool.4 Crucially, this is a pattern which can also be discerned across other former European slave-trading states, where memory work surrounding the history of slavery has also been confined to coastal locations and port cities. In France, the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery opened in 2012 in Nantes, eighteenth-century France’s largest slave-trading port city, and the Musée d’Aquitaine in the country’s secondary historic slave-trading port, Bordeaux, opened the permanent exhibition Bordeaux in the Eighteenth Century – TransAtlantic Trading and Slavery in 2009.5 Orchestrated efforts to maritimise national European histories of transatlantic slavery (and subsequently reduce ‘slavery’ to the ‘slave trade’) through a port city focus can be seen within the location of memory work in the Netherlands (the National Monument to Commemorate the History of Dutch Slavery in Oosterpark, in the port city of Amsterdam). Similar maritimisation has also been achieved through a focus on ships; in Denmark and Norway, the most sustained memory-work has thus far centred on the slave ship Fredensborg, both where it sank in 1768 and the display of its remains, uncovered in 1975. While it can be argued that the history of transatlantic slavery has been maritimised on ‘national’ scales across Britain and Europe, through the geographical restriction of memory work to coasts and ports – how does this ‘maritimisation’ argument work in relation to the isolated study of one such port city? How does the criticism that there has been a ‘maritimising’ of the memory of slavery nationally, play out ‘locally’ somewhere like Liverpool, a place frequently defined by its maritime connections, as a ‘seaport’ or ‘port city’ within historic discourse? A place defined by its maritime past (and present) on the global heritage stage, having been inscribed as a ‘Maritime Mercantile City’ on the UNESCO world heritage list in 2004? 6 A place, moreover, where much of the general historic story has necessarily been 4 Despite a flurry of national commemorative activity during the bicentenary of the abolition of the British Slave Trade Act in 2007, and despite major exhibition redesigns in Liverpool and Bristol, in 2008 Beech argued that there was still little evaluation of the broader impacts of slavery on Britain, and that slavery was still being ‘maritimized’ within representations. See John Beech, ‘A Step Forwards or a Step Sideways?: Some Personal Reflections of How the Presentation of Slavery Has (and Hasn’t) Changed in the Last Few Years,’ 1807 Commemorated, exhibitions/museums/step.html [accessed 21 August 2013]. 5 See Renaud Hourcade, ‘Commemorating a Guilty Past: The Politics of Memory in the French Former Slave Trade Cities,’ in Ana Lucia Araujo (ed.), Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space (New York: Routledge, 2012). 6 UNESCO, ‘Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City,’ list/1150/ [accessed 2 October 2014]. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery ‘maritimised,’ connected intimately as it is to the activities and workings of its river, its port and the seas? While Liverpool’s ‘local’ collective memory of slavery, as Beech argues in relation to national memory, has certainly been ‘maritimised,’ a closer look at the ‘local tints’ of this particular port city reveal some important contradictions, complications and departures from the national story. The ‘maritimisation’ of slavery in Liverpool is ultimately a process embroiled within, and complicated by, the city’s own historic story and constructed sense of collective identity. The public face of the history of Liverpool and slavery across time is here the evolving product of the interdependent relationship between memory and identity. As John Gillis suggests, The parallel lives of these two terms alert us to the fact that the notion of identity depends on the idea of memory, and vice versa. The core meaning of any individual or group identity, namely, a sense of sameness over time and space, is sustained by remembering; and what is remembered is defined by the assumed identity.7

The unique local context of Liverpool’s involvement in the slave trade, namely its dominance towards the end of the eighteenth century alongside rapid population growth (see Longmore, this volume), coincides with important historiographical developments. Liverpool ships were responsible for the transportation of over 1.1 million enslaved African people to the Americas between 1750 and 1807, more than any other British port.8 Written histories of the town began to appear in the midst of Liverpool’s rise to prominence in the ‘African trade,’ at the end of the eighteenth century. Liverpool reached its slave-trading apogee during the decade of legal abolition at the very beginning of the nineteenth century, when the town controlled close to 80 per cent of Britain’s total slave trade.9 Liverpool’s eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century historians foreground the transatlantic slave trade as a distinctly maritime activity in which Liverpool (contemporarily) excelled. Seymour Drescher has suggested that James Wallace’s General and Descriptive History of Liverpool (1795) sought to inspire pride in the city’s livelihood, its shipping and trade, which meant presenting the sheer scale of Liverpool’s slave trade as evidence of 7 John R.  Gillis, ‘Introduction – Memory and Identity: The History of a Relationship,’ in John R. Gillis (ed.), Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 3. 8 Kenneth Morgan, ‘Liverpool’s Dominance in the British Slave Trade, 1740–1807,’ in David Richardson, Anthony Tibbles and Suzanne Schwarz (eds), Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007), p. 15. 9 Morgan, ‘Liverpool’s Dominance in the British Slave Trade,’ p. 15. •


Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery its ‘raison detre.’10 This is illustrated through Wallace’s emphasis of this dominance using fractions of maritime-themed trade.11 The emphasis of the centrality of the slave trade to Liverpool’s commercial livelihood within written historic discourse at this point in time, and indeed into the nineteenth century, maintains residues of the pro-slavery arguments which Liverpool’s civic authorities so actively supported.12 However, as we move past moments of abolition and, moreover, emancipation in the early nineteenth century, slavery is far from rendered an inescapable and significant segment of Liverpool’s overall maritime story. Instead, processes of maritimisation act as further displacement motifs. They flood Liverpool’s identity narratives with nautical romanticism, obscure historic phenomena through ‘sea themed’ generalisation and dislodge narratives of slavery by shifting focus to other maritime activities, or to more comforting subjects. However, a closer look at the maritimisation of slavery in this local context reveals that counter memories of slavery – and of the enslaved – emerge from the water’s edge. Processes of ‘maritimising’ slavery in Liverpool may displace, but they also disturb, returning embodied memories as if on incoming tides.

10 See Seymour Drescher, ‘The Slaving Capital of the World: Liverpool and National Opinion in the Age of Abolition,’ Slavery & Abolition, 9:2 (1988). 11 Wallace wrote: ‘First. That one-fourth of the ships belonging to the port of Liverpool are employed in the African trade. Second. That is has five-eighths of the African trade of Great Britain Third. That it has three-sevenths of the African trade of all Europe. Fourth. That is navigates one-twelfth part of all the shipping of Great Britain. Fifth. That is has one-fourth part in all foreign trade of Great Britain. Sixth. That is has one-half the trade of the city of London. Seventh. That it has one-sixth part of the general commerce of Great Britain. Eighth. That 584 ships belong to the port, whose burthen is 92098 registered tons.’ See A General and Descriptive History of the Ancient and Present State of the Town of Liverpool (Liverpool: R. Phillips, 1795), pp. 238–39. 12 In 1789, Liverpool sent 12 petitions against the abolition of the slave trade. Single petitions were sent by other slave-trading ports: Lancaster, Bristol and Glasgow. Jane Longmore, ‘“Cemented by the Blood of a Negro?” The Impact of the Slave Trade on Eighteenth-Century Liverpool,’ in David Richardson, Anthony Tibbles, and Suzanne Schwarz (eds), Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007), p. 243. Further, James Walvin has suggested that Liverpool’s MPs, mercantile elite, and commercial and political interests provided more detailed evidence against abolition than those from any other slave port between 1787 and 1807. See James Walvin, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), p. 260. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Maritimisation in Context This maritimisation of slavery from the eighteenth to the twentieth century nonetheless aligns with broader national patterns which discursively construct British collective identities, framed by contexts of empire and colonialism. Geoff Quilley has argued that the image of the sea in eighteenth-century art was integral to the ‘imagining’ of Britain, in which the ‘island nation’ idea was represented and reinforced through a visual construction of an ‘affinity with the sea,’ metaphorically combining ‘commerce and patriotism.’13 Ken Lunn and Ann Day have similarly argued that ‘maritimity’ has long been a significant component of British national identity construction, comparable, perhaps, to romantic images of landscape and the rural idyll, and at points emerging combined, the British nation represented as both maritime and rural. They further argue that, although a form of ‘maritimity’ is perceptible in the ‘new navalism’ of the 1880s and 1890s, narratives of maritime achievement and the ‘control of the seas’ motif became increasingly central to constructions of British national identity in the early twentieth century.14 Promotional texts produced in Liverpool at this time embarked on this process whole-heartedly, drawing on a national romanticism of a maritime past and adding their own unique dose of ‘Merseypride’ to the mix.15 In a 1902 guidebook, the first to be produced by the city authorities and at a high point of Edwardian imperial pride in the city, maritime accomplishment is presented as something Liverpool did first and most extensively: It is not without reason that Liverpool, the great Mersey seaport, is generally looked upon as one of the first – if not the first – maritime ports of the world. Her ships sail on every sea, and the produce of every land under the sun finds its way to her Docks.16 13 Geoff Quilley, ‘“All Ocean Is Her Own”: The Image of the Sea and the Identity of the Maritime Nation in Eighteenth-Century British Art,’ in Geoffrey Cubitt (ed.), Imagining Nations (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), p. 135. 14 Ken Lunn and Ann Day, ‘Britain as Island: National Identity and the Sea,’ in Helen Brocklehurst and Robert Phillips (eds), History, Nationhood, and the Question of Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), pp. 125–26. 15 John Belchem has identified a ‘Merseypride’ discourse in Liverpool histories at the turn of the twentieth century in which Liverpool’s ‘exceptional,’ yet temporally recent, growth and prosperity is articulated as something in which to take an ‘inverse pride.’ See John Belchem, ‘Liverpool’s Story Is the World’s Glory,’ in John Belchem (ed.), Merseypride: Essays in Liverpool Exceptionalism (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000), p. 6. 16 A New Guide to Liverpool (Liverpool: Littlebury Brothers, 1902), p. 133. Prior to this publication, guidebooks in Liverpool were published privately, by individuals and societies not directly associated with the Corporation. See John Davies, ‘Liverpool •


Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery This is the image presented to visitors and tourists. Liverpool, second city of the empire, is imagined through a cosmopolitan and highly romanticised (if hyperbolic) language, of ships sailing every sea, the agency expressed in relation to the produce of ‘every land under the sun,’ arriving as if of its own volition; that it, like the visitor, ‘finds its way to her Dock.’ The physical infrastructure of maritime activity and the port’s built environment are also drawn into this discourse of maritime pride; by 1753, the town ‘could boast proudly of its docks.’17 Crucially, Liverpool’s immense involvement in the transatlantic slave trade receives no mention here, nor in the rest of the text. In 1907, a new version of the first official guide to Liverpool was produced by the city authorities in line with the public celebrations of the city’s 700th anniversary of its 1207 charter from King John, referred to within local public discourse as ‘Liverpool’s 700th Birthday.’18 The newly inserted history chapter gives ‘Shipping’ as the primary reason for Liverpool’s historic wealth. Within the one line in which slavery is mentioned, the ‘successful’ competition against Bristol is the main point of emphasis. ‘By far the larger number of the ships were employed in the West Indian trade which had grown to importance’ the guide claims, immediately stating that ‘out of this trade sprang the slave trade which was wrested from Bristol.’19 The official guides to Liverpool in the twentieth century maintain this precedent, and the line concerning the ‘springing’ of the slave trade and its ‘wresting’ from Bristol, remains intact, word for word, into the 1970s.20 These lines of mercantile enterprise and competitive tones in Liverpool’s civic identity narratives are frequently presented alongside a distinctly romanticised maritime past. Writing in the local press in 1957, Liverpool’s 750th ‘birthday,’ the aptly named Derek Whale described how ‘[o]ceans of Guides, 1795–1914,’ Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 153 (2004), p. 82. 17 A New Guide to Liverpool, p. 3. 18 ‘Liverpool’s 700th Birthday – Preparations for the Celebration,’ Liverpool Post & Mercury, 16 March 1907; ‘Liverpool’s 700th Birthday – the Celebrations – Channel Fleet to Be Invited – Important Meeting,’ Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury, 22 February 1907; ‘Liverpool’s 700th Birthday Pageant,’ Liverpool Courier, 5 August 1907. 19 Liverpool Corporation, City of Liverpool Official Handbook (Published under the Authority of the Corporation) (Liverpool: Littlebury Brothers, 1907), p. 82. 20 This line is included in the following guides: Liverpool Corporation, Official Handbook (1950), pp.  31–32; Liverpool Corporation, Liverpool Official Handbook (Published under the Authority of the Corporation) (Liverpool: Littlebury Brothers, 1957), p. 19; Liverpool Corporation, Liverpool Official Guide (Published under the Authority of the Corporation) (Liverpool: Littlebury Brothers, 1967), p. 19; Liverpool Corporation, Liverpool Official Guide (Published under the Authority of the Corporation) (Liverpool: Steel House Publications, 1971), p. 14. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery water have flowed down the Mersey since the mighty Port of Liverpool was but a sleepy little village,’ the quaint rural idyll of traditional British identity narratives here invoked through the scene of a ‘sleepy village,’ yet set against more mid-twentieth-century industrialising imagery, of ‘might’ and of the curiously industrial notion of a river capable of holding the flow of oceans.21 The author also imagines the ‘bygone seafaring age’ to be ‘a romantic age of trading pioneers under sail’ who bring back ‘[t]ales of strange customs and people of foreign lands, where lay the white man’s treasures in silks, cotton, ivory, oil, wine and spices’ – and presumably also in the bodies of African people, not included in this list of foreign ‘treasures.’22 While Beech focused his maritimisation of slavery argument primarily on museums as repositories of national memory, and Lunn and Day similarly argued that museums have been responsible for much of the romanticisation of British maritime heritage, certainly up to the turn of the millennium,23 as the above shows, such processes sit within a much broader discursive context. Museum-based maritimisation takes place both inside and outside the walls of the museum, and in Liverpool this started taking shape in embryonic moments of an imagined maritime museum.

Maritime Romanticism and Liverpool’s Museums The Merseyside Maritime Museum, rightly criticised for sidelining slavery in panel texts, played its own significant role in romanticising Liverpool’s maritime heritage and displacing slavery, long before it opened its doors. The museum opened in the early 1980s after decades of discussion and debate around the importance of Liverpool (of all places) having a ‘Museum of the Sea.’ Thomas Hume (1917–1992), Director of Liverpool Museums, stated in 1963 that ‘[e]very museum must in some way reflect the life of its area.’24 It was therefore surprising, he claimed, that the museums had held little in the way of maritime material until the collection started by Dr Douglas Allan (1896–1967) in the 1920s, which included a substantial collection of model ships.25 The Maritime Museum had, therefore, long existed in the discursive 21 Derek Whale, ‘Fishing Village to a Great Seaport,’ City of Liverpool Charter Celebrations 1207–1957: Evening Express Charter Supplement, Liverpool Evening Express, 17 June 1957). 22 Whale, ‘Fishing Village to a Great Seaport.’ 23 See Ann Day and Ken Lunn, ‘British Maritime Heritage: Carried along by the Currents?,’ International Journal of Heritage Studies, 9:4 (2003). 24 T. A. Hume, ‘History of the Port Lives on,’ The Port of Liverpool: The Vital Link between British Industry and the World (Supplement), Liverpool Daily Post, 30 December 1957. 25 This collection, which grew over the next decade, was largely destroyed when the •


Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery psyche of the city, an idea or symbol to be raised and debated around points of civic significance and collective commemoration, its absence poignantly noted and lamented. During the 1931 ‘Shipping Week’ organised by the Liverpool Organisation (a group of businessmen who had spearheaded other such ‘civic weeks’ during the 1920s), a number of maritime-specific events were hosted, including a shipping exhibition in St George’s Hall.26 This exhibition sought to promote a memory of maritime heroism and foreground a long nautical history, which would naturalise Liverpool’s position and legitimacy as a port against fears of ‘forgetting’ this fateful relationship in the present.27 The local press claimed that the exhibition would not ‘hide’ anything, and the organisers intended to ‘include documents and models referring to the slave trade, as well as things more creditable to us.’ However, detail on items relating to Liverpool and slavery remained conspicuously absent from press coverage after the opening of the exhibition, and within official literature.28 Of over 650 items exhibited, only five related to slavery.29 Interestingly, although a lending note claimed that a diagram William Brown Street buildings were hit in the May 1941 Blitz, leading to the loss of 90 ship models. Hume ‘History of the Port Lives On.’ Prior to this, only a small amount of maritime material was held by Liverpool Museums. The Liverpool Museum had ‘[a] small fleet of ships’ amongst its collection in 1815, and the Mayer Museum received a ship model as a gift from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board in 1862. See Elizabeth Mumford, An Explanatory and Interesting Companion to the Liverpool Museum (Liverpool: Johnson, 1815). 26 John Belchem, ‘Introduction: Celebrating Liverpool,’ in John Belchem (ed.), Liverpool 800: Culture, Character and History (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2006), p. 30; ‘Growth of a Great Port – Liverpool Shipping Week Features,’ Liverpool Post & Mercury, 6 August 1931; ‘Liverpool Launches its Shipping Week,’ Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury, 31 August 1931. 27 ‘In spite of constant reminders, it is too often forgotten even by Merseyside, that Liverpool’s destiny is on the sea. Her place and wealth as a port have been built up over the centuries, and this exhibition, which opens on August 29th, will, it is hoped educate as well as interest.’ See ‘Ships Down the Ages,’ Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury, 18 August 1931. 28 The section of the official guide concerning the history of the port outlines its physical developments and states that Liverpool traded with ‘the British Colonies in America, West Africa,’ and that ‘towards the end of the eighteenth century Liverpool had fairly outstripped Bristol’ without detailing such lines of trade. See L. A. P. Warner, ‘How the Port of Liverpool Was Evolved,’ in Liverpool Shipping Week Official Book and Programme (Liverpool: Liverpool Organisation Limited, 1931). 29 The only item that received sustained discussion in the local press was a bronze bell given to the African ‘Grandy Robin John’ in Old Calabar in 1770 by Thomas Jones, who was, significantly, a Bristol slave merchant, not a Liverpool trader. Four further items are listed within the catalogue published as part of the exhibition’s official programme: a ‘Slave Emancipation Letter’ for an Elizabeth Bennet Croft from 1826 signed by the •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery of the Liverpool Slave Ship Brooks (sometimes spelt Brookes), now a staple component in museum representations of slavery and a key aspect of the visual maritimisation of the subject, had been provided for the exhibition, this is not listed within the guide.30 Historian Robert Gladstone, great-nephew of Prime Minister William Gladstone, hoped that a permanent shipping exhibition would emerge from this large, popular and predominantly celebratory exhibition of Liverpudlian maritime pride. This dream was not realised before his death in 1940, and he left £20,000 in a bequest fund to the cause.31 In 1946, Cecil Northcote Parkinson, maritime historian and former assistant at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich, declared that a completely separate building would be required to house such a museum, a claim echoed again during the national spectacle of the Festival of Britain in 1951, and prompted by an exhibition in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.32 ‘Such a Museum,’ argued the Official Guide of that year, ‘properly developed, would be unique in this country, representing the maritime commerce of the nation and the growth of Liverpool as its centre, as the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich represents the country’s naval history.’33 Further maritimefocused exhibitions were staged in 1957, Liverpool’s 750th ‘birthday,’ during which familiar lines concerning successful competition against other port cities were raised alongside brief mentions of transatlantic slavery.34 These celebrations once again raised renewed calls for ‘building the long-wishedfor Maritime Museum.’35 Mayor of Liverpool, a related ‘Original Account’ for Croft from 1813 to the amount of £150, a Bill of Lading of slaves from 1803 and a ‘Debit Note Sale of Slaves’ from 1782. See ‘A Slave Trade Bell,’ Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury, 25 August 1931; Liverpool Shipping Week Official Book and Programme (Liverpool: Liverpool Organisation Limited, 1931). 30 LRO, Liverpool, Liverpool Shipping Week 29 August–5 September 1931, Correspondence in Connection with the Organisation etc, 387.2 LIV, List of Items Lent to Liverpool Shipping Week Exhibition. For a critique of the use of the Brookes in 2007, see Marcus Wood, The Horrible Gift of Freedom: Atlantic Slavery and the Representation of Emancipation (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2010), Chapter six. 31 ‘Liverpool Launches its Shipping Week.’ 32 C. Northcote Parkinson, ‘The Idea of a Maritime Museum,’ Nautical Research Society Transactions, 3 (1946). 33 Liverpool Corporation, City of Liverpool Official Handbook. 34 In literature produced to accompany the Maritime Exhibition at the Littlewoods Central Clubroom, the beginning of the eighteenth century is discussed as the time when Liverpool ‘entered the African trade and the profitable traffic in slaves in competition with London and Bristol, from which she emerged supreme.’ See E. W. Paget-Tomlinson, Maritime Exhibition Catalogue and Guide (Liverpool: Littlewoods, 1957), pp. 5–6. 35 ‘Famous Ship Models to Be Seen Again,’ Liverpool Daily Echo, 13 June 1957; ‘Liverpool Pride as City Celebrates its 750th Birthday,’ Liverpool Echo, 17 June 1957. •


Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery The Merseyside Maritime Museum finally opened in 1980 in Liverpool’s Albert Dock, alongside regeneration initiatives centred on tourism, and it was hoped the museum would ‘act as a catalyst for the investment of private money.’36 In the discourse surrounding the museum’s opening, the particular maritime past presented omitted any specific reference to transatlantic slavery, though it freely referenced maritime romanticism and individual memory, suggesting that those interested in the museum would include ‘many who have memories of a working life on the docks or at sea, and those which have childhood memories of the romance of Britain’s second seaport.’37 The maritimising of Liverpool’s historic story, emphasised and made tangible through the development of the Merseyside Maritime Museum, obscured slavery from official narratives of the city’s development. Commentators instead listed other port-related activities or blurred potential references amongst sea-themed generalisation. ‘Liverpool, once the second port of the British Empire,’ suggests one article written around the museum’s opening, ‘owes its existence to the sea,’ omitting any reference to the transatlantic slave trade.38 Although brief discussion of Liverpool’s involvement in the slave trade was present within panel text, it was described as a ‘lawyer’s plea for mitigation’ by the 1989 Gifford Report on race relations in the city conducted following the 1981 Toxteth riots, and ominously titled Loosen the Shackles.39 This interpretation was based on the justifying and defensive tones used, and on the content of the following panel, which, the report argued, merely foregrounded celebrations of white British abolitionists.40 It was within this context, and against this criticism, that the Transatlantic Slavery Gallery was developed. It opened in October 1994, though as a gallery in the basement of a larger ‘Maritime Museum,’ maritimised

36 ‘After 100 Years – a Museum of the Sea,’ Sea Breezes, 54 (1980). 37 Peter Rockliff, ‘Special … the Launching of the Maritime Museum,’ Trident, 2 (1980). 38 ‘After 100 Years – a Museum of the Sea,’ pp. 393–96. 39 Lord Gifford QC (Chair), Wally Brown and Ruth Bundey, Loosen the Shackles: First Report of the Liverpool 8 Inquiry into Race Relations in Liverpool (London: Karia Press, 1989), p. 26. 40 The panel text read as follows: ‘The slave trade did make a significant contribution to Liverpool’s prosperity. However, Liverpool’s trading wealth was firmly established before it began to dominate the slave trade from the 1760s. Between 1783 and 1793, 878 Liverpool ships carried 303,737 slaves. Sailings to Africa represented only 10% of outward bound tonnage from Liverpool. On the other hand slaves produced the sugar and tobacco which were Liverpool’s most important imports.’ Cited in Gifford, Brown and Bundey, Loosen the Shakles, p. 26. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery through its architectural geography.41 Even the International Slavery Museum, which opened as a museum in its own right in 2007, exists as a floor of the main Maritime Museum complex. However, its development as an independent museum, at least in name, prompted some negative reactions around the time of its opening – ‘[s]lavery should be covered as part of the Maritime Museum (as it was), not as a free-standing museum’ – reflecting the dominant influence of the long-standing local and national ‘maritimisation’ of slavery.42 The International Slavery Museum’s position within the Maritime Museum building was also used within public discourse as a device to downplay the specific significance of slavery to Liverpool: ‘[if] ever there was a statement that slavery was not the only thing that made the city rich it is that.’43 Local historian Peter Aughton similarly framed the popularity of the Transatlantic Slavery Gallery and the International Slavery Museum as being down to intense interest in the subject, ‘and, indeed, in the immensely important theme of Liverpool’s maritime history in all its many and varied dimensions.’44 This acts to place the slave trade firmly within a much larger, generalised and, crucially, maritime context.

‘Slaves in Liverpool’ However, alternative reactions to a sea-themed past act to connect histories of Liverpool and slavery through mythologies embedded within the urban landscape. Here, embodied memories of ‘slaves in Liverpool’ emerge through maritimised connections, and yet are subsequently challenged through the use of maritime ‘displacement’ narratives. In 1946, Edmund Vale, writing in the British Local Information Sheets, described Liverpool as a ‘most romantic town,’ using ‘the subterranean sandstone chambers in which the pitiful “stock” of the slave trade used to be kept while awaiting shipments to America’ as an example of this ‘romanticism.’45 In response, Arthur C. Wardle, Honorary Secretary of the 41 Marcus Wood has argued that the gallery’s basement location acted to ‘compartmentalize’ slavery, and to remove it from ‘the overall narrative of Liverpool’s development.’ See Marcus Wood, Blind Memory: Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America, 1780–1865 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), p. 297. 42 Liverpolitan, comment on ‘International Museum of Slavery,’ Skyscraper City Forum, 16 September 2007 (6:30 p.m.), php?s=f3172977c66555ae6da093ef09ab3c20&t=524570 [accessed 6 July 2008]. 43 Buggedboy, comment on Skyscraper City Forum, 18 September 2007 (11:52 a.m.). 44 Peter Aughton, Liverpool: A People’s History, 2nd ed. (Lancaster: Carnegie, 2003), pp. 307–08. 45 Edmund Vale, quoted in ‘“All Round” in the London Letter,’ Liverpool Daily Post, 8 April 1946. •


Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery Nautical History Society in Liverpool, himself apparently tired of ‘continually trying to dispel the legend of the Liverpool “slave cellars,”’ suggested that Edmund Vale should ‘stick to factual history, for he will find more romance in the authentic history of the local press gangs, privateers and the general trade than by following the sordid story of slaving or the silly legend of the slave-cellars.’46 Histories of press gangs, privateers and the ‘general trade’ are here used to displace not just apparently erroneous ‘legends’ of slaves in Liverpool, but the overall ‘sordid’ history of transatlantic slavery itself. Such ‘legends’ are also countered through a displacement narrative shaped by triangles, via the ‘triangular trade.’47 The use of the triangular device to describe the Atlantic routes of the slave trade, familiar to representations of this history nationally, keep human connections between Liverpool and slavery at bay, having ships leave and return with inanimate goods only, confining talk of slave bodies to the ‘middle passage.’48 The familiarity of the triangular motif is also drawn upon in statements downplaying the significance of the slave trade within Liverpool’s historic story. In a map caption in his People’s History of Liverpool, Peter Aughton states that the depiction of the Salthouse Dock should act as ‘an important reminder of the most important “triangular” trade in Liverpool’s economy – not slavery, but salt.’49 However, the historic distancing of the human realities of the trade is critically highlighted within a letter to the editor of the Liverpool Daily Post in 1939. Here it is suggested that the wealthy merchants of the town were ‘fortunate, owing to the triangular voyages, in arriving back in the Mersey or the Bristol Channel with little evidence of the cruelty and horror of the middle passage – and with clean papers.’50 46 Arthur C. Wardle, ‘Letter: The Slave Cellars,’ Liverpool Daily Post, 23 April 1946. 47 Sydney Jeffery wrote: ‘The southern produce imported to the Mersey was largely raised by negro slaves bought in Africa by Liverpool traders, and sold to Americans on stage two of that damnable triangular trip’ (‘Liverpool Links with America,’ Liverpool Daily Post, 15 October 1956). The city’s official guide said: ‘By 1760 there were 69 Liverpool ships on this triangular trade’ (Liverpool City Council, City of Liverpool Official Guide (Liverpool: British Publishing Company Ltd, 1988), p. 14). The Liverpool Post & Mercury reported that slave ‘ships made a triangular trip, going out to the African coast with a cargo, loading their slaves there for the Atlantic crossing, and selling them direct on the other side. The home cargo was American and Colonial produce’ (‘A Persistent Fable,’ Liverpool Post and Mercury, 6 November 1934), emphasis added. 48 ‘The slaves were then shipped on the terrible Middle Passage to the West Indies, where, after they had been sold, the ship loaded rum, sugar, and other native produce, and returned to Liverpool’ (‘Letter: In Reference to your Note …,’ Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury, 28 April 1931). 49 Aughton, Liverpool: A People’s History, p. 80. 50 Herbert Feilden, ‘Letter: Liverpool and the Slave Trade – the Triangular Voyages,’ Liverpool Daily Post, 22 August 1939. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery The most common deployment of the triangular motif, however, focuses on discrediting stories of slave sales within the city.51 Following the announcement of the planned Transatlantic Slavery Gallery in 1991 an article in the local press stated that the idea of slaves being sold in Liverpool itself ‘is also a myth, according to some historians, who say that slaves never came to the city, but were taken straight to America and the Caribbean in the infamous triangular trade which made the port rich.’52 The prospect of a historic slave presence in the city is one of the most hotly contested points of Liverpool’s slavery memory discourse, and one which is discursively tied to its physical urban terrain. Liverpool’s architectural history, however, is a subject in which transatlantic slavery is not welcome. In online reaction to content within the International Slavery Museum relating to connections between transatlantic slavery and the built environment, one commenter is incensed that ‘[o]ne of the city’s finest (collective) assets, i.e. its architecture, must have this mis-placed guilt bollocks sprayed all over it.’53 Similarly, on a RIBA architectural tour of the city (and despite all volunteer tour guides being offered a full day’s training in the history of Liverpool and slavery, with suggestions on the ways in which this can be talked about through the built environment), no mention was made of slavery. In relation to the development of the city, the guide stated a number of times that ‘Liverpool made its money from the sea,’ an image that acts to flood the subject of Liverpool’s maritime past, in vague, romanticised statements.54

Goree: A Site of Memory Despite such omissions, debates surrounding the otherwise obscured human embodiment of this difficult history are never far from the discursive surface, appearing as ghosts in the city’s urban terrain, at points along the memory of the river Mersey’s edge. Toni Morrison once said that when the Mississippi river floods, it returns to the route it took before it was artificially straightened out, and that this flooding is an act of ‘remembering,’ that water has a perfect memory.55 If the river Mersey ever flooded enough 51 George Chandler writes that ‘Slaves were not, of course, brought to Liverpool in large numbers, as the Liverpool slave trade was only part of a triangular commercial operation.’ See Liverpool (London: B. T. Batsford, 1957), p. 305. 52 Steve Brauner, ‘Slavery Haunts the Old Docks,’ Liverpool Daily Post, 13 December 1991. 53 Blabber II, comment on Skyscraper City Forum, 17 September 2007 (12:19 p.m.). 54 RIBA Architectural Tour of Liverpool taken by author, 24 July 2011. 55 Toni Morrison, ‘The Site of Memory,’ in William Zinsser (ed.), Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir 2nd ed. (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1995), p. 99. •


Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery

Image 7.1: Goree warehouses engraving, 1826 copy.

to remember its eighteenth-century course, before it was pushed back by later dock constructions on reclaimed land, it would touch sites of memory that place slaves on Liverpool soil, creating presence in the face of absence. Stories of slave sales in the city focus on sites located along the original dock line, around the Old Dock and on the steps of the Custom House,56 and, in particular, around the historic site of Goree. Goree Warehouses (Image 7.1), bear the name of an island off the coast of Senegal, and were named ‘in commemoration of the African trade, then so prosperous in Liverpool.’57 Stories of slaves in Liverpool are here ‘hooked’ onto place through semiotic associations – to sites named in celebration of Liverpool’s ‘lucrative trade,’ which become a backdrop for a debates echoed in architectural change. Ramsay Muir, Professor of History at the University of Liverpool in the early twentieth century, stated in his 1907 History of Liverpool, that ‘the legend which pictures rows of negroes chained to staples in the Goree Piazzas, exposed for sale, is a curious instance of popular superstition.’58 More 56 Wood, Blind Memory, 16; Gomer Williams, History of the Liverpool Privateers and Letters of Marque: With an Account of the Liverpool Slave Trade, 1744–1812 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2004), p. 474. 57 James Allanson Picton, Memorials of Liverpool, Historical and Topographical, Vol 1, 2nd ed. (London: Longman, Greens & Co., 1875), p. 557. 58 Ramsay Muir, History of Liverpool (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1907), p. 202. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery elusively, Louis Lacey, author of a ‘commemorative’ history of Liverpool, and writing in the same year as Muir, states that the Goree Piazza, ‘suggests old slaving days.’ After this mysterious, if vague, association by name, Lacey includes further reference to slave sales in the immediate vicinity of the Goree Warehouses, to ‘a public house, where slaves were regularly bought and sold, stood, not more than half a century ago, adjacent to the Churchyard.’59 In Liverpool’s historic public discourse, the name of Goree alone conjures up associations with slavery – a connection that lingers long after the physical demolition of the structures in 1958. From this point forward, ‘Goree’ becomes the intangible site of memory where ‘legend asserts that slaves were sold,’ 60 a focal point for stories of slavery to gather, causing a layering of narrative and memory across time and place. In the case of Goree, architectural change has mirrored structures of discourse in an effort to displace myths of slavery with myths of abolition, overlaid with distinctly maritimised and romanticised identity narratives. One of the most prominent critical points made about Britain’s national memory of slavery is the commemorative platform given to white British abolitionists. John Oldfield has encapsulated this criticism, identifying what he terms a ‘culture of abolitionism,’ arguing that Britain’s memory of slavery has long been dominated by narratives of heroic (predominantly white) British abolitionists as opposed to the less heroic, though much longer story of British involvement in transatlantic slavery.61 John Beech criticises this tendency, suggesting that celebrating abolition is much like ‘celebrating that you’ve stopped beating your wife’ – both contradictory and hypocritical.62 Marcus Wood has also argued that the imagery of slavery, abolition and emancipation created by Europe and America represents, not slavery itself, but a ‘white mythology,’ which ‘works hard to deny the possibility of gaining knowledge of the disaster of the Atlantic slave trade.’ 63 Efforts to displace local ‘maritimised’ memories of slavery draw on these national narratives of abolition. Following the demolition of Goree Warehouses in the late 1950s, a large office block was constructed parallel to the site where Goree Piazzas would have stood. The closest building 59 Louis Lacey, The History of Liverpool from 1207 to 1907. Some Notes. 700th Anniversary Souvenir (Liverpool: Lyceum Press, 1907), p. 75. 60 Quentin Hughes, Seaport (London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co, 1964), p. 11. 61 John. R. Oldfield, ‘Chords of Freedom’: Commemoration, Ritual and British Transatlantic Slavery (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007). 62 Beech, ‘A Step Forwards or a Step Sideways?’ This comment refers to a well-known example of a loaded question or logical fallacy in which being asked ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ carries with it an implication of guilt and is impossible to answer with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without admitting that guilt. 63 Wood, Blind Memory, p. 8. •


Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery to their original location, this 1960s tower block was named ‘Wilberforce House’ after renowned abolitionist William Wilberforce, whose bicentenary of birth had been marked nationally in 1959. Designed and built by Gotch and Partners in 1965–1967,64 Wilberforce House was named to celebrate a national hero, one who had recently received much public celebration and whose commemoration in name few would take issue with. The local press ran articles about Wilberforce in his bicentenary year, outlining how ‘Liverpool gave him many supporters.’ 65 More ‘local’ heroes of abolition were noted in response within letters to the editor, calling attention to prominent worthies such as William Rathbone, Dr Jonathan Binns, James Cropper, and ‘the Roscoes, the Rushtons and others.’66 The discursive displacement of one ‘myth’ for another, of narratives of slave sales for narratives of white heroism, was also reproduced within discussion of this particular site of memory in Howard Channon’s 1972 Portrait of Liverpool. Channon replicates the same process of discursive displacement seen within the architectural developments around Goree, drawing on discourses which foreground white philanthropic action as justification for historic wrongs: Where the Piazzas called Goree (after an African island) stood on the quayside of George’s Dock, from which many of the slave ships sailed, there is now Wilberforce House, an office block built in the 1960s and bearing the name of the arch-apostle of abolition; and at least the port has made some practical recompense to Africa for the agonies that hundreds of thousands, taken in bondage from that continent, endured in the holds of Mersey vessels.67

64 Terry Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Liverpool (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997), p. 46. 65 ‘ONE of the more remarkable men of the eighteenth century whose bicentenaries are being celebrated this year was William Wilberforce. He certainly changed the course of history for his deeds affect the lives of millions now living in the twentieth century free from the bonds of slavery and Liverpool gave him many supporters.’ Dr J. Thomas, ‘He Freed the Slaves: Wilberforce and his Liverpool Supporters,’ Liverpool Daily Post, 24 August 1959. 66 Ivor E. Davies, ‘Letter: Fighters against Slavery, Liverpool Daily Post, 29 August 1959. 67 Howard Channon, Portrait of Liverpool (London: Robert Hale & Company, 1972), p. 73. Ron Jones also includes a section on the poignant naming of the building after a section on Goree: ‘Wilberforce House, the modern building looking out onto the Piazza, is named after William Wilberforce the great anti-slavery reformer.’ Ron Jones, The American Connection: The Story of Liverpool’s Links with America from Christopher Columbus to the Beatles (Moreton: Ron Jones, 1986), p. 25. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery This ‘practical recompense,’ Channon argues, included the work of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, ‘an act of pure altruism which has made – and continues to make’ contributions to ‘social progress’ in Africa’s ‘new nations.’ Medical altruism is complimented by the employment of African people in maritime roles, ‘young Nigerian cadets,’ and the education of Africans in Liverpool establishments - all seen as ways in which Liverpool is ‘helping’ Africa in the 1970s. Expressed in a tone of ‘post’imperialistic paternalism, this is an awkward attempt to find some good from so much ‘anguish’ during a decade of increasing racial tensions in the city itself. It is significant, therefore, that the people benefitting from these activities are ‘from Africa,’ specifically Nigerian, with no mention made of Liverpool’s own longstanding black community, concurrently forming new political and educational organisations (e.g. Charles Wootton College, 1974; Liverpool Black Organisation, 1976).68 Just as the construction and naming of new buildings had been an attempt to displace old memories of slavery, so Channon’s passage seeks out similar processes of discursive displacement. However, some architectural features of Liverpool’s urban landscape have created more ‘nuanced’ expressions of Liverpool’s memory of slavery, forging spaces of interaction where maritimisation produces land-based connections to slavery. On the city side of Wilberforce House, in a courtyard off of Drury Lane, the road running parallel with ‘Back Goree,’ a water sculpture was constructed called ‘Piazza Waterfall.’ The sculpture commemorates Goree Piazzas in a manner that both reveals and obscures Liverpool’s memory of slavery through ‘maritimised’ artistic intervention. The sculpture was commissioned during a period of great urban development in the city, following the establishment of a permanent City Planning Department (1962).69 In reports issued by Graeme Shankland and Walter Bor, architectplanners from London County Council, the use of public art was advocated in urban spaces ear-marked for redevelopment. In particular, they suggested that ‘Water and Fountains will have a great role to play’ in redevelopment plans.70 Merseyside Civic Society also supported public art and street decoration, and it was this group of architects and other interested parties 68 See Ray Costello, Black Liverpool: The Early History of Britain’s Oldest Black Community, 1730–1918 (Liverpool: Picton Press, 2001). 69 John Willet, Art in a City (London: The Shenval Press, 1967), p. 15. 70 Willet, Art in a City, p. 104; Graeme Shankland, City and County Borough of Liverpool Planning Consultants Report No 10. Draft City Centre Map (Liverpool: City and County Borough of Liverpool, 1963), p. 54; Graeme Shankland and Walter Bor, Liverpool City Centre Plan (Liverpool: City and County Borough of Liverpool, 1965), p. 89. •


Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery who commissioned the design of the sculpture.71 Initially, a location outside the city was chosen, but the sculpture was promptly re-imagined as a way to mark the beginning of post-war inner city redevelopment. Director of the Walker Art Gallery, Hugh Scrutton, put the project forward to the Arts Council, who donated £750 towards costs.72 However, it was long-standing Liverpool shipbuilding company Cammell Laird & Co who ultimately put their name behind the sculpture’s construction. The Denbighshire-born sculptor on the project, Richard Huws, was a shipbuilding apprentice at Cammell Laird’s Birkenhead Yard and would later become an Engineering Lecturer at Liverpool School of Architecture. Huws is best known for designing the Festival of Britain water sculpture at the South Bank Exhibition, London, in 1951.73 The involvement of Cammell Laird, an old Liverpool shipping company, significant to the city’s contemporary economy and historical maritime development, is noteworthy. Furthermore, their association with a place in which a there has been a layering of abolition discourse over memories of slavery is significant; where Wilberforce stands over Goree, here Cammell Laird, a company with its history in MacGregor Laird, construct a maritime-themed water sculpture. MacGregor Laird (1808–1861) was celebrated in Liverpool as an abolitionist figure of sorts for his work in promoting nineteenth-century trade with Africa, in interests beyond human cargo. A thanksgiving service was held in 1932 to mark the centenary of his expedition to West Africa, and to commemorate the man ‘who won Liverpool from the slave trade to legitimate commerce.’74 Cammell Laird provided a plaque to mark the new Piazza’s completion in 1967. It was placed next to the sculpture and is, poignantly, modelled in the shape an ‘African shield’ (Image 7.2). The text commemorates the original warehouses and notes their association with Africa through name, if not through trade. “GOREE-PIAZZA”, ORIGINALLY TWO ARCADED / WAREHOUSES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OLD / DOCK ROAD, WAS NAMED AFTER THE ISLAND / “GOREE” OFF THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA 71 Merseyside Civic Society, Report for the Year Ended 30th September, 1966 (Liverpool: Merseyside Civic Society, 1966) p. 3. 72 ‘The Merseyside Civic Society,’ Liverpool Illustrated News, Vol. 11, January 1967; ‘Liverpool Fountain Will Be Shipyard Built,’ Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 19 May 1966. 73 Willet, Art in a City, p. 108. 74 ‘To Free the World of Slavery – Appeal of the Churches,’ Liverpool Post and Mercury, 29 July 1932. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Image 7.2: The piazza sculpture plaque. Image: Author

Image 7.3: opposite The Piazza Waterfall sculpture with Wilberforce House in the background. Image: Author

Connections are made without being made, visual and textual references to Goree and Africa appear whilst leaving the nature of Liverpool’s trading relationship with the island, and indeed the significance of this site of memory, muddied in the water. Explicit connections between the sculpture and slavery memory may not be made on tangible public surfaces, etched into metal, but they are made within later discourse, in guidebooks to the city. When Ron Jones leads his readers to New Goree Piazza, Brunswick Street, he states that the site’s: intriguing Piazza Waterfall takes its name from the Goree Piazzas which were two arcaded warehouses named after ‘Goree,’ a slave exporting island off the west coast of Africa. The warehouses were situated opposite here in •


Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery

the centre of the main dock road, i.e. between the Strand and the Goree, and were demolished after the last war.75

Jones recounts the Russian doll of memory naming at this site, directing his readers to notice a sculpture, named after a warehouse, named after an African Island - following the mnemonic links back to Liverpool and slavery. David Lewis, in his guidebook to the city, directs his readers to walk over a covered bridge (demolished a few years after publication) from the waterfront side of Goree, across the road, over Back Goree and through to Wilberforce House courtyard and the location of the Piazza Waterfall. 75 Jones, The American Connection, p. 23. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery The sculpture, he suggests, is known to locals as ‘the Contraption,’ and is ‘lively and exciting, noisy and unpredictable.’76 However, Lewis’s connection between the sculpture and slavery is more delayed. After mentioning the name Goree a number of times within the text, Lewis approaches Liverpool’s involvement with transatlantic slavery as if through footnotes, through ‘little history,’ describing the view from Wilberforce House: The dock road below us is divided by a central reservation. The road heading north is called the Goree, and the road going south, along the old shoreline is called the Strand; but it was once called Back Goree and the old roads ran either side of a warehouse complex called the Goree Piazzas. This was built in the late 18th century to hold goods for George’s Dock. Sometimes even Liverpool’s little history is stained with the slave trade; the piazza was named after an island off Senegal used as a holding camp for slaves, which is now a World Heritage Site.77

The ‘stain’ of history, as Lewis puts it, connects these two UNESCO World Heritage sites; the island of Gorée and Liverpool’s waterfront, through names left on Liverpool’s urban terrain - where the name of one road, one warehouse, one sculpture, carry memories of slavery across centuries. The water sculpture marks the old site of ‘Goree,’ a site of memory along Liverpool’s original historic shoreline, where land would have met the river Mersey, and slave ships would load and unload in George’s Docks. When it was operational, the structure had a series of buckets on poles, which tipped out water into a pool below. This was intermittent and unpredictable, the motion ‘said to resemble the sound of waves breaking on shore.’78 Richard Huws suggested that this design created a continual flow of action, and a sound that, unlike more conventional fountains, was ‘no longer that of the monotonous ever burbling river, but that of the restless temperamental sea.’79 The water sculpture commemorates the historic place of the water’s edge, where the river Mersey would have once met the dockside, and like the motion of the tide itself, the site of Goree acts to both reveal and obscure Liverpool’s memory of slavery; through romanticised maritime narratives which celebrate the sea, drowning memory through generalisation, or displacement narratives which foreground white abolition. Yet 76 David Lewis, Walks through History: Liverpool (Liverpool: Breedon Books Publishing, 2004), p. 152. 77 Lewis, Walks through History, p. 152. 78 ‘Liverpool Fountain Will Be Shipyard Built,’ Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 19 May 1966. 79 Richard Huws, quoted in Quentin Hughes, Liverpool: City of Architecture, 2nd ed. (Liverpool: Bluecoat Press, 1999), p. 167. •


Drowning Memory and ‘Maritimising’ Slavery stories of slaves in Liverpool ‘crystallise’ around Goree and other sites in the city, anchoring an otherwise maritimised history to Liverpool’s tangible surfaces, and revealing human connections historically discursively confined to foreign lands or the bellies of ships.

Conclusion The maritimisation of the memory of slavery in this former slaving capital has been forged through the crucible of local historic context, circumstance and identity narratives which both foreground local nuances of the history of transatlantic slavery, and contend with national narratives of abolition. However, ‘maritimisation’ in this context is not wholly about displacement or distancing as Beech suggests, nor is it completely a picture of ‘forgetting.’ Memory, like the waves the Goree sculpture commemorates, has a ‘partial, allusive, fragmentary, transient nature’ as Kerwin Lee Klein argues – it is an elusive and at points unpredictable phenomena.80 In Liverpool, more land-based connections to slavery are raised from amnesia’s murky ‘maritimised’ depths through stories of the enslaved themselves, and the memory of the water’s edge. Crucially, this is the complex, nuanced and long historic discursive context that museums of the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries sit within. Criticisms that focus on interior museological displays alone, whilst rightly highlighting omissions, biases, and cliché, miss much of the larger picture. The longue durée of Liverpool’s slavery-memory-discourse, demonstrates the perils of assuming consistency across interior and exterior museological contexts, and indeed the inaccuracies of painting broader pictures by enlarging ‘local tints.’ The authoritative narratives of Liverpool and slavery, promoted by civic institutions, official histories, and much public discourse, are challenged and contested by other ‘mythologies’; those pertaining to the movements and experiences of enslaved African people themselves. Here, stories of a slave presence in Liverpool root the human reality of an otherwise ocean-bound, dehumanised and ‘neutrally’ economically termed trade in ‘slaves’ to the city’s urban terrain. Myths meet at contested lieux de mémoire,81 at sites of slavery memory, and clash like so many angry waves, lingering around specific places, and layering over time, re-emerging when the urban landscape shifts, at points of architectural change, and raised through the same ‘maritimised’ lens which sought to drown connections in generalisation, romanticism and displacement. 80 Kerwin Lee Klein, ‘On the Emergence of Memory in Historical Discourse,’ Representations, 69 (2000), p. 138. 81 Pierre Nora, ‘Between Memory and History, Les Lieux De Memoire,’ Representations, 26 (1989), pp. 7–24. •


8 Local Roots/Global Routes Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney Katie Donington Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney

Face to face with a culture, an economy and a set of histories which seem to be written or inscribed elsewhere, and which are so immense, transmitted from one continent to another with such extraordinary speed, the subjects of the local, of the margin, can only come into representation by, as it were, recovering their own hidden histories.

Stuart Hall, ‘The Local and the Global’1

Introduction The local and the global have never seemed more connected than in the present moment. The 2007 financial crash, the war on terror and the humanitarian refugee crisis have highlighted our transnational interdependencies, exposing the limits of national sovereignty and the global relationships that structure the present. As Stuart Hall suggests, when confronted by globalisation, and the decline of the national, one possible response is a turn to the local. The comfort of recognition, the predictability of the knowable, offers a stable identity with which to cloak oneself. Local history – conceptualised as parochial, amateurish, inward-looking – would certainly seem to offer an image of familiarity, of permanence. But local areas do not operate in isolation, they were and are places that reach out and connect to different geographic locations. People, capital, goods and ideas constantly circulate, leaving traces of themselves behind. Local 1 Stuart Hall, ‘The Local and the Global: Globalization and Ethnicities,’ in Anthony D. King (ed.), Culture, Globalization and the World-System: Contemporary Conditions for the Representation of Identity (Columbia, MO and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), p. 35. •


Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney communities and identities are not necessarily unchanging and immutable, particularly in the context of the multiple locales that make up Britain’s cities. As Michael Ignatieff writes, we think of belonging as rootedness in a small familiar place yet home for most of us is the convulsive arteries of a great city. Our belonging is no longer to something fixed, known and familiar but to an electric and heartless creature eternally in motion.2

The world’s great cities are now global hubs; the 2011 census recorded that some 36.7 per cent of people living in London were born outside of Britain.3 Many of the communities that make up London’s present multicultural population are connected to the city through links to Britain’s former empire. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Britain, and particularly its capital, increasingly understood itself as an imperial global power.4 Trade, colonisation and the ‘civilising mission’ required mobility and interconnectedness. Slavery was a system that linked Britain to Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas. On a national level, it enmeshed men and women living in places as varied as London, Sheffield, the Channel Islands and the rural Highlands with the Atlantic world. In cities, towns, hamlets and villages across Britain ordinary people became embroiled in the business of slavery and its attendant industries. If, as Hall argues, ‘global and local are the two faces of the same movement,’ then slavery was a Janus-like figure that embodied this duality.5 Its processes were simultaneously local, national and global – its impacts and legacies felt by individuals, communities and nations. Local history is a valuable way of engaging people with the history of slavery.6 In highlighting links between local sites and people connected to the Atlantic trade, slavery and its legacies become more immediate, 2 Michael Ignatieff, The Needs of Strangers: An Essay on Privacy, Solidarity and the Politics of Being Human (New York: Viking Adult, 1985), p. 141. 3 Census Information Scheme, Londoners Born Overseas, Their Age and Year of Arrival, [accessed 14 September 2015]. 4 For a discussion of London’s transformation into a centre of empire see Perry Gauci, William Beckford: First Prime Minister of the London Empire (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013). 5 Hall, ‘The Local and the Global,’ p. 27. 6 For an excellent discussion of the local as a key framework for the understanding of slavery in a public history context, see Geoffrey Cubitt, ‘Displacement and Hidden Histories: Museums, Locality and the British Memory of the Transatlantic Slave Trade,’ in Marnix Beyan and Brecht Deseure (eds), Local Memories in a Nationalizing and Globalizing World (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 139–61. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery they return home. The past has sometimes been described as a ‘foreign country’ but it can become knowable when we put it in the context of the streets we walk down or the buildings we inhabit.7 Slavery has too often been considered a distant phenomenon. For the most part, enslaved people laboured on plantations across the Atlantic and this geographic distance has enabled a distancing of the mind. But the slavery business is not so easily contained. The profits amassed through the sale of Caribbean goods, colonial finance, insurance, shipping, slave trading and plantation ownership impacted on Britain. People who made their money in the colonies often returned home to spend it, some profited from a distance and never left Britain. Since 2007, the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade, there has been a flurry of both academic and public scholarship on these local linkages.8 Using a variety of interdisciplinary methods, scholars have examined the relationships between specific sites and their transatlantic connections. Several projects have used mapping techniques to track the geographic spread of local connections to both slavery and the wider empire,9 while others have considered the impact of colonialism on that most intimate of familiar spaces – the home itself.10 The focus on local history has allowed these projects to connect with diverse public audiences – in particular, schools – enabling communities of the multicultural present to see themselves and their heritage reflected in local and national histories.11 Challenging exclusionary narratives of localism, these local/global stories historicise different identifications with a particular place, asking us what it meant, and indeed what it means, to belong. This chapter is based on research undertaken as part of an Arts Council England-funded project Local Roots / Global Routes: The Legacies of British 7 David Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). 8 For examples of some of the local work conducted see the Local Roots / Global Routes blog, [accessed 14 September 2015]. 9 See, for example, the AHRC-funded Reconnecting Diverse Rural Communities: Black Presences and the Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism in Rural Britain, c. 1600–1939 project’s interactive map, 82b05c0241 [accessed 7 September 2015]; and the ESCR-funded Legacies of British SlaveOwnership project’s map of slave owners in Fitzrovia: viewer?mid=z3xjAjqzNby4.kxz5K7uJpdCY&hl=en [accessed 7 September 2015]. 10 See the AHRC-funded East India Company at Home project eicah/about/ [accessed 7 September 2015]. 11 See, for example, the Arts Council England-funded Local Roots / Global Routes educational resources developed by the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project and Hackney Museum and Archives, [accessed 7 September 2015]. •


Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney Slavery in Hackney,12 the result of a partnership between the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project (LBS) and Hackney Museum and Archives. It aimed to connect a variety of Hackney-based audiences with the history of transatlantic slavery, abolition and the historic black presence by using a local lens to engage the borough’s diverse residents. It developed an exhibition, educational resources for local schools, ran archive workshops for adult learners and a youth programme based on Hackney’s historic ties to the system of enslavement and its dismantling. The project took as its starting point the online database of slave owners developed by the LBS team.13 The database is a digital repository of the records of the Slavery Compensation Commission. As part of the measures taken by the British government to end slavery in 1833, £20 million of compensation was paid to slave owners. Claimants were required to give their names, their place of residence, as well as details of how many people they claimed ownership of and where those people were located. Approximately £10 million of the compensation money was paid to people who lived in Britain, the rest going to the colonies. The data has the potential to facilitate new local and regional studies of slave ownership in Britain and the Caribbean. Initial findings have revealed the geographical spread of metropolitan slave owners far beyond the port cities traditionally associated with the system. The database provided a route into Hackney’s historic links to slavery, but it is limited in its scope in that it only captures information about people who claimed ownership of the enslaved at the moment of emancipation.14 In addition to the individuals in the compensation records, the project traced the borough’s connections to slavery through archival documents, images, material culture and the built environment. Key search terms in the archive revealed links to slave traders, sugar agents, plantation owners, abolitionists and people of African origin who had lived (in both slavery and freedom) in the Caribbean during the period. These individual stories represent diverse local encounters with slavery. The localisation of slavery through these records fragments the national story, providing an impetus for returning to the local as a site in which national and transnational narratives of history and identity are (re)negotiated.

12 For more about the project, see [accessed 7 September 2015]. 13 [accessed 7 September 2015]. 14 A second phase of the project has been funded by the ESCR/AHRC. The Structure and Significance of British Caribbean Slave-Ownership, 1763–1833 project will digitize new records that shed light on slave ownership in an earlier period. The new database is due to be launched in 2016. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Abolition, Non-Conformity and the Politics of Memory in Hackney For centuries Hackney has attracted and sustained a community of political, literary and religious radicals. Today as you pass through Newington Green a banner proudly announces that this was the ‘birthplace of feminism’ owing to its famous former resident Mary Wollstonecraft. The area has been described as a ‘symbolic location’ with ‘a long history of dissidence and community-based campaigns around education, housing, policing and health care. It was at the heart of the anti-racist controversies and politics of the 1980s […] and it has been a place of riots and unrest in the 1980s and again in 2011.’15 As Iain Sinclair articulates in his love letter to the area Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire, the borough’s inhabitants (or at least the residents who have shaped his experiences) have consistently identified themselves as ‘intelligent, focused, aggrieved […] conforming in nonconformity.’16 Alongside its radical politics, Hackney is also well known for the diversity of its inhabitants, which includes a significant minority population of African and Caribbean people and their descendants.17 The history of slavery speaks directly to Hackney’s living communities; it is part of a shared past that connects them together across both space and time. In 1774 Hackney was described as ‘a very large and populous village, on the north of London, inhabited by such numbers of merchants and wealthy persons, that it is said there are near a hundred gentlemen’s coaches kept.’18 The area appealed to the commercial classes who could enjoy the semi-rural environs at just a short distance from the bustling financial centre of the City of London. Living among, and including some of, the merchant families, was a thriving community of literary and religious non-conformists who were drawn to Hackney as an emerging centre of dissent. Built in 1708, the Newington Green Unitarian Church is the oldest place of non-conformist worship still in use today. Several dissenting academies, including New College Hackney, were established there. A distinct group of non-conformist literary luminaries formed in the area including Samuel 15 Sarah Neal, Giles Mohan, Allan Cochrane and Katy Bennett, ““You Can’t Move in Hackney without Bumping into an Anthropologist”: Why Certain Places Attract Research Attention,’ [accessed 15 December 2015]. 16 Iain Sinclair, Hackney, That Red-Rose Empire (London: Penguin, 2010), p. 35. 17 The 2011 census recorded that 23.1 per cent of people identified as ‘Black’ in Hackney – 11.4 per cent as Black African, 7.8 per cent as Black Caribbean and 3.9 per cent as Black Other. See [accessed 14 September 2014]. 18 ‘The Northern Suburbs: Haggerston and Hackney,’ Old and New London, 5 (1878), pp. 505–24, [accessed 15 December 2015]. •


Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney Rogers, Joseph Priestly, Richard Price and Anna Laetitia Barbauld. It was through the community of non-conformists that the abolitionist movement took root in Hackney. Two of the founding members of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade lived there. Joseph Wood Senior (1738–1812) and Samuel Hoare Junior (1751–1825) were both Quaker residents of Stoke Newington. The Quakers played an early and notable role in the abolition campaign: nine of the 12 founders of the Society identified as such. Many Rational Dissenters were also involved with the movement; Richard Price, a minister at the Newington Green Unitarian Church, was an early critic of the system of slavery in his work Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution (1785).19 In 1791 Anna Laetitia Barbauld, whose husband Rochemont Barbauld was a minister at Newington Green, published an Epistle to William Wilberforce Esq. On the Rejection of the Bill for Abolishing the Slave Trade. In it she warned of the moral disintegration of the nation should it persist in the inhumane practice of slave trading.20 Anna’s brother, John Aiken, was another Hackney resident who supported abolition. In a letter to his sister in 1791 he proclaimed, ‘I am at length become a practical anti-saccharist. I could not continue to be the only person in the family who used a luxury which grows less and less sweet from the suffering mingled with it.’ He also revealed some fascinating details about the involvement of young people in the sugar boycotts of the early 1790s. He remarked on ‘the young people and even children who have entirely on their own accord resigned an indulgence important to them, I triumph and admire! Nothing is to be despaired of if many of the rising generation are capable of such conduct.’21 Anna Laetitia is remembered by the religious congregation at Newington Green Unitarian Church with a memorial inscription that recognises her contribution to the causes of ‘humanity, peace and justice.’ She is proudly claimed as a citizen of Hackney with a borough plaque at 113 Church Street, where she once lived, and Barbauld Road in Hackney is named after her. As Geoffrey Cubitt has argued, ‘transatlantic slavery is a past which inevitably carries different meanings for different groups in British society.’22 For multicultural Hackney, the memory of slavery figures differently for its 19 For a discussion on the limits of Price’s anti-slavery stance, see Anthony Page, ‘“A Species of Slavery”: Richard Price’s Rational Dissent and Antislavery,’ Slavery & Abolition, 32:1 (2011), pp. 53–73. 20 Mary A. Waters, ‘Sympathy, Nerve Physiology, and National Degeneration in Anna Letitia Barbauld’s Epistle to William Wilberforce,’ in Stephen Ahern (ed.), Affect and Abolition in the Anglo-Atlantic (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013), pp. 89–109. 21 M1777, Hackney Archive, Letter from John Aiken to Anna Laetitia Barbauld, dated 28 November 1791. 22 Cubitt, ‘Displacements and Hidden Histories,’ p. 145. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery varied communities. For those who claim African or Caribbean heritage, the shadows of slavery and colonialism are a constituent part of the development of post-independence national identities.23 For some members of the black community, the memory of slavery is ‘framed in terms of social identities that transcend the local – pan-Africanism, black Britishness, diasporic identity.’ In contrast, for the white British population, distance, both geographic and psychological, has been key to the formation of memory, or rather forgetting. If slavery forms part of a sense of self, then it is to the abolition nation and not the pro-slavery past that associations are drawn. Despite the international efforts at memorialisation that emerged throughout the 1990s, it has only been relatively recently, in the wake of the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in 2007, that Britain has really begun to grapple with its slaving past.24 The bicentenary represented something of a reckoning, despite its focus on the more palatable story of abolition. It started a dialogue about the place of slavery in the narrative of British, and indeed local, history, as well as a much needed conversation about the legacies of slavery within contemporary society. During 2007 the links between Hackney, radicalism, non-conformity and the abolition of the slave trade were commemorated, celebrated and embedded within local history and memory. Abney Park, a non-denominational cemetery in Stoke Newington, was an important site for constructing the local narrative of abolition. The walking tour ‘Abolition: Voices from Abney Park’ was developed to highlight the presence of a number of abolitionist figures buried there: William Allen (1770–1843), Rev. James Sherman (1796–1862), Rev. Dr Thomas Binney (1798–1874), Rev. Thomas Burchell (1799–1846), Rev. Samuel Oughton (1803–1881) and Rev. Joseph Kelley (1802–1875). The grave of Joanna Vassa, the daughter of Olaudah Equiano, was identified and Hackney Council paid for its restoration.25 These figures played a key role in shaping the celebratory narrative of Hackney’s local history during 2007. For instance, they featured heavily in educational material developed by Hackney Museum for work with young people.26 Alongside its educational resources Hackney Museum curated the Abolition 07: The Story of Slavery exhibition and Hackney Archive created 23 Ana Lucia Araujo, Shadows of the Slave Past: Memory, Heritage and Slavery (London: Routledge, 2014), p. 4. 24 For a description of summary memorial activities throughout the 1990s, see Araujo, Shadows of the Slave Past, p. 3. 25 Charlie Morgan, ‘Abney Park and Abolition: Agency and Memory in the Fight against Slavery,’ [accessed 11 May 2015]. 26 See the ‘Objects of Resistance’ educational resource Assets/Documents/Objects-of-resistance-flash-cards.pdf [accessed 14 September 2015]. •


Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney

Image 8.1: Joanna Vassa’s grave in Abney Park Cemetery, Hackney. Image © Michael Watson

a complimentary display, Abolition: The Hackney Story. Geoffrey Cubitt has written that the former was notable in its insistence of reading abolition in Britain and resistance in the Caribbean as part of the same process.27 In 2009, in the same spirit as the 2007 exhibition, a tree was planted on Stoke Newington Common and dedicated to the memory of ‘all the people who fought and campaigned for the abolition of African enslavement.’ This kind of local memory work reflects both past and present community identifications, fitting in comfortably with a characterisation of the area as a ‘scrappy, combustible and pluralistic borough whose real heroes are its inhabitants.’28 Zoe Norridge has suggested that while these efforts ‘encouraged positive identifications with local abolitionists and former slave residents in the 27 Geoffrey Cubitt, ‘Lines of Resistance: Evoking and Configuring the Theme of Resistance in Museum Displays in Britain around the Bicentenary of 1807,’ Museum and Society, 8:3 (2010), pp. 151–52. 28 Sukhdev Sandhu, ‘Review: Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire by Iain Sinclair,’ Telegraph, 14 February 2009. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery borough,’ they ‘did little to explore the more complex ways in which Hackney residents profited from the slave trade.’29 Given its proximity to the City of London, the financial centre of the organisation of both slavery and the commerce in slave-produced commodities, it is not surprising that Hackney was also home to a number of residents who engaged in and profited from the slave economy. Broadly speaking, this history was gestured towards by the presence of Godfried Donkor’s ‘Financial Times,’ an artwork commissioned by Hackney Museum and displayed alongside the Abolition 07 exhibit. Donkor’s piece, argues Celeste-Marie Bernier, ‘exposes the ways in which official histories of Western commerce more generally, and the British Empire more specifically, provide abstract lists of profits that make little or no reference to the origins of this wealth in the propertied status of Africans.’30 Bernier has described the relationship between the artwork and the exhibition as ‘ambiguous’; the piece functions on one level as a blistering rebuttal of the processes of dehumanisation inherent in the system of transatlantic slavery, and on another as a critique of the practices of representation, commemoration and the museum itself.31 Despite engaging with the history of British profiteering, the exhibition did not include substantive material on Hackney residents who were involved with the slavery business. The absence of a local narrative of participation is indicative of a wider national urge to forget this uncomfortable history. The story of Hackney residents’ slavery connections is demonstrative of the complexity of Britain’s historic relationship to the institution and the difficulties of representing these nuances, especially when they complicate long-held beliefs about local and national identities.

Profit and Participation: Hackney and the Business of Slavery Hackney’s residents participated in a variety of different aspects of the slave economy; some were involved directly with the ownership of enslaved people in the colonies while others profited at a distance. An initial search of the LBS database identified 43 individual claimants with links to the area, including people who were born, baptised, educated, resided, married 29 Zoe Norridge, ‘Finding a Home in Hackney? Reimagining Narratives of Slavery through a Multicultural Community Museum Space,’ in Dominic Thomas (ed.), Museums in Postcolonial Europe (London: Routledge, 2009), p. 48. 30 Celeste-Marie Bernier, “‘Speculation and the Imagination”: History, Storytelling and the Body in Godfried Donkor’s “Financial Times” (2007),’ Slavery & Abolition, 29:2 (2008), p. 207. 31 Bernier, ‘Speculation and Imagination,’ p. 211. •


Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney or buried in Hackney. Their connection to the compensation records came as a result of direct ownership and inheritance, as trustees, mortgagees, legatees, executors, assignees, creditors and administrators. Some of these people represented deeply rooted trans-generational family involvement that had expanded over time to encompass multiple layers of the slave economy. Shifting the focus from slave ownership to different forms of activity within the wider slavery business unearthed further linkages to West India finance and commerce, the slave trade, plantation ownership and management, and the highly lucrative sugar industry. Taken together as a group, these diverse interactions with slavery demonstrate the pervasiveness of its financial reach. Two prominent Hackney residents were involved with slave trading. Their stories articulate important changes in the legal and financial frameworks that supported Britain’s rise to become the world’s pre-eminent slaving nation. Both men became exceptionally wealthy and both sought to ensure their legacies through philanthropic work. Sir John Cass (1661–1718) was a director and investor in the Royal African Company (RAC), which was awarded its chartered monopoly by Charles II in 1672. This granted the Company the sole right to trade with Africa, including the right to trade in enslaved people and establish slave forts on the coast. Cass was a powerful merchant who became an Alderman, a Sheriff and then represented the City as its Member of Parliament. His family moved to Grove Street in South Hackney in 1665. Cass was a member of the RAC’s Court of Assistants between 1705 and 1708. He was a director and a member of the committee of correspondence, which meant that he had direct dealings with both the Company’s representative in the slave forts in West Africa as well as its agents in the Caribbean. As his will testified, Cass retained shares in the RAC up until his death. Cass’s mercantile activities afforded him the means to leave a philanthropic legacy and he set up a school at St Boltoph’s Aldgate in 1709. In 1748, following legal wrangling over his will, the Sir John Cass Foundation was established. The Foundation continues to provide support to the only state primary school in the City and a secondary school in Stepney Green in East London. The Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design within London Metropolitan University, the Sir John Cass School of Education at the University of East London and the Cass Business School at City University are all named after him. The Sir John Cass halls of residence, belonging to the University of the Arts, is located on Well Street in Hackney. Cassland Road, also in Hackney, remembers his family’s former land ownership in the area. The proliferation of Cass’s name, particularly in relation to charitable, educational and cultural institutions, has served to obscure his connection to slavery. Reinscribing this history changes the meaning of these local imprints, making the slaving past visible. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery In 1698 the RAC lost its monopoly over the slave trade. As William Pettigrew has recently argued, ironically this was a result of independent traders clamouring for their right as freeborn Englishmen to participate in the profitable practice of enslaving Africans.32 The deregulation of the trade caused an explosion in the number of slave-trading voyages, catapulting the British into becoming the foremost slaving nation during the eighteenth century. One of the most profitable of the independent slave trading partnerships was Camden, Calvert and King. The partnership was involved in 77 slave voyages between 1781 and 1808, forcibly transporting approximately 22,000 enslaved Africans to the Caribbean.33 Thomas King (1748–1824) – a partner in the firm – was a resident of Stamford Hill in Hackney. He had started his career in the business as a slave-ship captain for the RAC; later he captained the ships of his future partner, William Camden. King was made a partner in the firm in 1783. He gave evidence to Parliament on the subject of the slave trade in 1789, by which time he was ‘settled in London as a merchant.’34 He gave a detailed outline of the voyages he had been involved with between 1766 and 1780. He spoke about mortality rates, the condition and treatment of the enslaved, as well as instances of insurrections he knew to have taken place. His final voyage saw him carry 580 enslaved people to Jamaica, of whom ‘50 or 51 slaves in all’ had died on the coast from diarrhoea.35 Although acquitted, King was accused of the murder of one of his crew in 1771, a further indication of the violence and brutality rife in the world he inhabited.36 Having settled into his role as a respectable merchant, King set about diversifying his interests; in 1771 he became a founding subscriber of Lloyd’s. Kenneth Cozens has suggested that it was King who was responsible for directing the partnership towards this lucrative corner of the slave economy. He was elected Master of the Mercers’ Company in 1772 and became an Elder Brother of Trinity House in 1788. The partners were not only 32 William Pettigrew, Freedom’s Debt: The Royal African Company and the Politics of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1672–1752 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2013), Appendix 4, p. 237. 33 Kenneth Cozens, ‘Politics, Patronage and Profit: A Case Study of Three EighteenthCentury Merchants,’ unpublished MA dissertation, University of Greenwich, p. 76. 34 Abridgment of the Minutes of the Evidence Taken Before a Committee of the Whole House to Whom it was Referred to Consider the Slave Trade (London: House of Commons, 1789), p. 69. 35 Abridgment, pp. 66–77. 36 Emma Christopher, ‘“The Slave Trade is Merciful Compared to [this]”: Slave Traders, Convict Transport and the Abolitionists,’ in Emma Christopher, Cassandra Pybus and Marcus Rediker, (eds), Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2007), p. 111. •


Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney involved in the trade in enslaved people but also in ‘provisioning, brewing, sugar refining, convict transportation and Pacific whaling’ and, following the death of Camden in 1796, they added insurance and finance to their interests.37 King also owned plantations and enslaved people across the Caribbean. He died before the abolition of slavery; it was therefore his son, William King, who was awarded approximately £53,352 for 1,087 enslaved people held on plantations in British Guiana, Trinidad and Dominica.38 King was able to obtain positions for his family members; his nephew John Jackson went to London to work for his uncle. A letter he wrote home to his brother George offers a fascinating insight into the family and their relationship to slavery. King had pressed Jackson to take a position with the African Company of Merchants, but he was deeply reluctant to go. Far from any objection to the practice of slavery, Jackson’s sole concern was his own health. He wrote that those who survived their time in Africa ‘are so emaciated, and their Constitutions are so broken, from the extreme heat of the Climate, and the disorders incident to it, that they never enjoy their property when they have got home.’ He added that: There cannot be a more Striking confirmation of this Circumstance than that of my Uncle who I can safely say has no enjoyment of his property, being continually tormented with a most dreadful Head Ache, which he himself acknowledges to arise, solely, from his being so much in Hot Climates.39

The slave economy brought King enormous wealth but at the cost of his physical well-being. His mental state remains opaque. Was he affected by the scenes of misery on the African coast? We will never know. The 1821 Parish Return documented that his household was made up of five men and five women, an indication of the comfortable domestic existence he enjoyed in his twilight years.40 King has been identified by William D. Rubenstein as amongst the elite of wealth holders of the early nineteenth century. He left behind a probate of £120,000 and his will contained bequests that totalled over £84,000.41 Like Cass, King also invested in respectable philanthropic institutions; he was a governor of the Foundling Hospital, leaving it a £100 donation in his will. He was heavily involved with the building of 37 Cozens, ‘Politics, Patronage and Profit,’ p. 3. 38 See [accessed 17 September 2015]. 39 Transcription by Alice Barrigan, 02/john-jackson-and-his-uncle-captain.html [accessed 17 September 2015]. 40 Kenneth Cozens, ‘Politics, Patronage and Profit,’ p. 26. 41 William D. Rubenstein, Who Were the Rich? A Biographical Directory of British Wealth-Holders 1809–1839, Vol. 1 (London: The Social Affairs Unit, 2009), p. 212. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Image 8.2: Thomas King Entering London Dock 1822–27, by William John Huggins, oil on canvas. Image © Museum of London, PLA Collection PLA75

the London Docks at Wapping and acted as the London Dock Company Treasurer and Director.42 In this endeavour he was joined by a notable number of individuals with interests in the Caribbean, including Samuel Boddington, a West India merchant and fellow Hackney resident. The new dock system transformed this part of London, creating a physical legacy of its investors’ involvement with slavery. A magnificent painting of the West Indiaman Thomas King is now in the collection of the Museum of London. The ship was involved in the transportation of sugar and rum from Demerara in British Guiana. The image encapsulates King’s mercantile world, the docks and warehouses in the background invoking the spirit of consumption that characterised the period. The symbol of the ship is particularly fitting for King, signifying the truly global proportions of his commercial network. Besides slave traders, Hackney was also home to a number of absentee plantation owners, some of whom were able to accumulate their wealth without ever visiting the Caribbean. John Ward (1682–1755) was an ambitious and unscrupulous merchant whose meteoric rise through the ranks of society 42 Nicholas Draper, ‘The City of London and Slavery: Evidence from the First London Dock Companies, 1795–1800,’ Economic History Review, 6:2 (2008), p. 442. •


Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney was accompanied by a series of spectacular falls. Ward had numerous business dealings, and not all of them were legal. He was a Member of Parliament between 1710 and 1715, and again between 1722 and 1726. In 1718 he signed a bargain and sale for ‘the plantation of between 400 and 500 acres on St. Kitts called Pensez y bien with all the goods and chattels, working slaves, sugar canes and equipment.’43 He did so in partnership with the equally dissolute Sir Basil Firebrace of St Margaret’s, Westminster, who himself was imprisoned by Parliament for bribery and forgery. The two men acquired the property from Alexander Baxter, who had claimed it in forfeiture of a debt owed to him by Walter Douglas, the Captain General of St Kitts, who had been found guilty of extortion and bribery. Having previously been removed from Parliament in 1726 and put in the pillory for forgery, Ward was also prosecuted for embezzling £50,000 from the South Sea Company in 1732.44 His scandalous conduct earned him two mentions in Alexander Pope’s poetry, including a couplet in the Epistle to Bathurst, ‘Given to the fool, the mad, the vain, the evil / To Ward, to Waters, Chartres, and the Devil,’ and a further mention in The Dunciad.45 Despite his criminal activities, and the financial losses he suffered as a result, he remained a very wealthy man. At the height of his powers he built a ‘commodious house’ in Hackney at the upper end of Mare Street close to Dalston Lane.46 The area was still known as Ward’s Corner in the 1870s, an indication of the ways in which he shaped local memories for well over a century after his death. He was remembered in John Timbs’s English Eccentrics and Eccentricities (1866) as ‘The Hackney Miser.’ Plantation ownership was not only acquired through direct purchasing, as in John Ward’s case, but also through the complex networks of credit and debt that characterised West India commerce. Examining the compensation process has revealed the degree to which the figure of the West India merchant was key to the maintenance of the slave economy. The merchant provided numerous commission-based services to his clients, including shipping, insuring, warehousing and distributing slave-produced commodities such as sugar, rum, coffee and cotton. He was also a key source of finance, lending his correspondents substantial sums of money. Planters could use both their estates and the enslaved as a guarantee against 43 Declaration of bargain and sale CR2017/D300, Warwickshire County Record Office. 44 John Timbs, English Eccentrics and Eccentricities (London: R. Bentley, 1866), p. 75. 45 Paul Baines, ‘Crime and Punishment,’ in Pat Rogers (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Alexander Pope (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 115. 46 Circulator of Useful Knowledge, Amusement, Literature, Science and General Information (London: T. Boys, 1825), p. 319. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery their debt. If a planter failed then the merchant could foreclose and claim this property, including the enslaved, as forfeiture for the debt. Merchants increasingly became the de facto owners of both plantations and the enslaved as some colonies, like Jamaica, became more heavily indebted. When compensation claims were filed by slave owners they could be contested by their creditors, leading to many commercial partnerships in Britain receiving large sums of compensation money. The Boddingtons were a Hackney family who had been involved in West India commerce for three generations. In 1766, brothers Benjamin (1730–1791) and Thomas (1735–1821) were living in Clapton and Upper Homerton respectively.47 Benjamin eventually moved to Enfield, but Thomas remained in a property called Five Houses on Lower Clapton Road. Thomas’s attachment to the area was lifelong; several of his children were married at St John-at-Hackney and his will described him as ‘Thomas Boddington of Clapton.’ The brothers were both partners in the family’s West India counting house. Benjamin was also a director of the South Sea Company, which was involved in providing slave labour to the Spanish colonies up until 1750. Benjamin’s son Samuel (1766–1843) and Thomas’s son Benjamin (1766–1855) were also part of the family firm based at 17 Mark Lane in the City. The Boddingtons were regular attendees at the meetings of the Society of West India Planters and Merchants, the mouthpiece of the pro-slavery lobby in London. The younger Boddingtons’ commercial partnership broke down abruptly when Benjamin eloped with Samuel’s wife in 1797. That year the partnership of Boddington and Co. had a turnover of half a million pounds – a vast sum of money at the time.48 Samuel later went into partnership with his nephew Thomas (1807–1881), to whom he bequeathed his entire fortune. Samuel and Thomas the younger were eventually awarded £39,712 in compensation for 2,100 enslaved people in Antigua, St Kitts, Nevis, St Vincent and Jamaica.49 The Boddingtons, like Cass and King, were enthusiastic philanthropists. Both Benjamin and Thomas senior were subscribers to the Society for Promoting Religious Knowledge among the Poor. They were both governors for life of the London Hospital in Whitechapel, and Benjamin left a bequest to St Thomas Hospital. They also donated to numerous causes linked to their work as merchants, including the Marine Society.50 Samuel Boddington was 47 An Account of the Society for Promoting Religious Knowledge Among the Poor (London: T. Field, 1779), p. 12. 48 See [accessed 17 September 2015]. 49 See and person/view/772 [accessed 17 September 2015]. 50 Donna Andrews, Philanthropy and Police: London Charity in the Eighteenth Century •


Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney

Image 8.3: Samuel Boddington by William Drummond, printed by Day & Haghe, published by Thomas McLean lithograph, c. 1835. Purchased, 1966. NPG D31925. Image © National Portrait Gallery

a notable collector of art and his portrait is kept at the National Portrait Gallery, although his links to the slavery business are absent in the catalogue entry for the work.51 The Boddingtons were a dissenting family, Hackney with its thriving non-conformist community was an ideal place for them to make home. In this respect, the Boddingtons’ story reveals some of the ways that abolitionist and pro-slavery opponents coexisted in particular spaces. Benjamin and Thomas Boddington were governors of the dissenting New College Hackney, whose staff included Joseph Priestley and Richard Price, both of whom had spoken out against the slave trade and slavery.52 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), pp. 113, 214. 51 See [accessed 17 September 2015]. 52 Stephen Burley, New College Hackney (1786–96) a Selection of Printed and Archival Sources, 2015/11/DWL-Online-Publication.pdf [accessed 8 September 2016]. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Anthony Page suggests that Richard Price’s abolitionism may have been impeded by his congregation at Newington Green Unitarian Church, which included a number of prominent West India merchant families, as well as abolitionists like Anna Laetitia Barbauld. While Price was an early critic of American slavery, it did not stop him from writing a letter of recommendation for Samuel Boddington in 1791, in which he described him as both ‘amiable and worthy’ and ‘the son of one of our first West India Merchants.’53 Incidents such as these remind us that involvement in slavery was no bar to respectability, indeed for some it was the means to achieve integration into polite society. The presence of slave owning families like the Boddingtons in a number of Hackney’s abolitionist sites of memory complicates the ways in which these places function as an anchor to a particular form of identity. One of the most surprising results of the analysis of the compensation records is the fact that approximately 40 per cent of the 46,000 claimants were women. The practice of using enslaved people in settling annuities on unmarried women, as part of marriage settlements and direct inheritance, meant that female slave ownership was common. In striking contrast to the image we have of the white linen-clad male slave owner on a plantation in the Caribbean, the compensation records present us with Sarah Grey (1758–1841), a Hackney widow. Sarah was awarded the bulk of the compensation money of £5,235 6s 1d for 304 enslaved people held on the Friendship estate in Hanover, Jamaica.54 She had inherited the plantation when her husband Patrick died. Sarah was not alone; so far, 13 women connected to Hackney have been identified in the database. Hackney Archive holds the marriage settlement of Ann Harvey and Charles Allmond, which gives details of a property in Kingston, Jamaica, as well as the enslaved people, left to Ann by her brother.55 The issue of women and children as slave owners was used extensively by the pro-slavery lobby in order to justify the continuation of the system; they represented the ‘sympathetic’ face of slave holding – helpless dependents who would be left ruined without compensation for their loss of income.56 Indeed, in the case of Mary Burman, a widow living at 3 St George’s Terrace in Hackney, a letter from James Walker of the Colonial Office attached to her claim gave details of: ‘A poor lady of the name of Burman, a Widow, whose claim to one slave has been recognised 53 Page, ‘“A Species of Slavery,”’ p. 55. 54 See [accessed 17 September 2015]. 55 M4050, Marriage Settlement dated 10 April 1776, Hackney Archives. My thanks to Michael Watson for transcribing this document. 56 Society of West India Planters and Merchants resolutions, Crown and Anchor Tavern, 24 Nov 1823, M915, Reel 4, Senate House Library. •


Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney and returned from Barbadoes, is now at a loss as to what course she should adopt to obtain her compensation.’57 Of the Hackney women who received compensation, Anna Maria Lucas (1809–1846) was awarded the greatest sum.58 She was the daughter of Philip Monoux Lucas (1778–1830), a slave trader in St Vincent. After the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, he became a partner in the West India merchant house Chauncy, Lang and Lucas.59 Lucas’s ongoing ownership of enslaved people in St Vincent was documented in the slave registers, which also contain a reference to his ‘coloured children’ Jeanette Robert and Phillip Lucas, for whose ‘use’ he kept seven enslaved people.60 Neither Jeanette Robert nor Phillip Lucas appear in the compensation records, indicating that, unlike their legitimate counterparts in England, they did not benefit from inheritance of their father’s compensation money or own enslaved people on their own account. The partnership of Chauncy, Lang and Lucas received £57,970 in compensation for 1,121 enslaved people on estates in St Vincent and British Guiana. Alongside her siblings, Anna Maria received compensation as a beneficiary of her father’s will. As a wealthy woman she was able to marry into the Austrian aristocracy and in 1842 she was wed to Joseph Ferdinand Count de Taaffe. Anna Maria lived at Navarino Terrace in Hackney and was buried alongside her father Philip Monoux Lucas at St John-at-Hackney after her death at the age of 37. The family vault can still be seen today in the church grounds; its size and positioning close to the church building speaks to their status as respectable members of the local community. The grave carries no memorial inscription to link the family to the West Indies and the brutal origins of their wealth. It is only through a process of historical palimpsest that their relationship to slavery re-emerges.

The Historic African Presence in Hackney The impact of slavery on Britain cannot be conceived purely in monetary terms – its implications were far greater. As Stuart Hall has said, in relation to Britain’s multicultural population, ‘we are here because you were there.’ 61 This was certainly true of some of Hackney’s residents of African descent 57 [accessed 17 September 2015]. 58 [accessed 17 September 2015]. 59 [accessed 17 September 2015]. 60 T71/493, p. 248. 1817 Slave Register for St Vincent, National Archives. My thanks to Kristy Warren for providing me with images of the registers and bringing this detail to my attention. 61 Zoe Williams, ‘The Saturday Interview: Stuart Hall,’ Guardian, 11 February 2012. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery during the nineteenth century. Britain’s involvement with the business of slavery shaped these individuals’ lives, altered their family structures, reorientated their trajectory. Their stories highlight the complexities that arose from the interweaving of British, African and Caribbean histories. The diversity of their experience challenges the notion of a single, unified ‘black’ experience and identity. These people formed the beginnings of what would become one of London’s most vibrant and diverse multicultural societies. The best known of Hackney’s historic black residents is Joanna Vassa (1795–1857), the daughter of the African abolitionist and writer Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745–1797). Equiano’s autobiography The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789) made him an important voice in the abolitionist movement. His story introduced many readers to the horror of slavery. Joanna’s mother, Susannah Cullen (?–1796), was a subscriber to Equiano’s Narrative. The couple were married in Soham, Cambridgeshire in 1792. Joanna’s parents and sister died within a year of each other – Susannah in 1796, and Olaudah and Anna Maria in 1797. As her father’s only heir, Joanna inherited his estate, which was valued at £950, as well as a silver watch – a small fortune in today’s money. Joanna married the Congregational Minister Reverend Henry Bromley in 1821. The couple lived in Devon and later Essex before moving to 12 Benyon Terrace, Buckingham Road in De Beauvoir Town, Hackney.62 It was here that she died aged 61 of ‘uterine disease.’ The inscription on her grave reads: ‘In memory of Joanna, beloved wife of Henry Bromley, daughter of Gustavus Vassa, the African. Born 11 April 1795 and died March 1857.’ The proud acknowledgment of her father’s identity etched the memory of Africa, Caribbean slavery and its abolition into the very stone of her funerary monument. Although historians have tried, they have been unable to find any evidence of Joanna’s own involvement in the abolitionist movement – a reflection perhaps of her relatively humble position as not only (despite her extraordinary family history) an ordinary middle-class woman, but a woman of mixed heritage.63 Joanna has left behind virtually no archival trace or, frustratingly, anything that might indicate her own feelings about the campaign for which her father fought. Whether a final declaration of familial loyalty and love, a political statement in support of emancipation or both, her grave is a commemoration not only

62 See [accessed 17 September 2015]. 63 My thanks to Angelina Osborne, author of Equiano’s Daughter: The Life of Joanna Vassa (London: Krik Krak, 2007), for discussing this issue with me. •


Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney of Joanna herself, but of her truly remarkable father and the transatlantic passage that finally brought her to rest in Hackney. In comparison, John Casper Mais (1800–1851) was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1800. He was the son of John Mais and Philippina Weise, both of whom were described as ‘free people of colour.’ Family historian Howard Mais has suggested that John Mais was an illegitimate son of John Mais, a member of one of Jamaica’s powerful plantocratic families.64 Philippina was the daughter of Johann Casper Weise, a slave and plantation owner in Port Royal, for whom her husband acted as trustee and administrator.65 It was a common practice for European men to have what became known as ‘outside families’ with both free and enslaved women of colour in the colonies. Despite the rigid racial distinctions of a society based on slavery, the existence of a significant mixed-heritage population in the Caribbean was demonstrative of the way these boundaries were routinely transgressed. Slave ownership by people of mixed heritage occurred throughout the Caribbean, although it never matched the scale of European slave ownership. Free people of colour suffered discrimination under the Jamaica Assembly, which placed restrictions on their property ownership and political and civil rights, and by the late 1810s there was a significant movement of people of colour campaigning to gain equal rights. Given the colour bar within Jamaican society, many mixed-heritage children left the island for the relative opportunity offered in Britain. John Caspar was referred to as a ‘gentleman and attorney of Kingston’ in an indenture of 1828, but by 1835 he was living in Hackney. He married Sarah Evena Mclachlin and the couple had five children; by the baptism of their second child, Laura Ellen, in 1835, their address was Rectory Place, Hackney. They were at the same address for the baptism of Phillippina in 1836 and at Palatine Houses, Stoke Newington, for the baptism of Caspar in 1838. John Caspar appeared in the slave compensation records as an unsuccessful claimant. He lodged his claim on 76 enslaved people held on York Castle plantation in St Ann, as a result of his role as the trustee and executor to Jacques Sicard. In the end his claim was rejected following a counterclaim by his ‘reputed uncle’ the Hon. John Mais as mortgagee in fee and judgement creditor. John Caspar attempted several different business ventures in Britain but never had success. He spent time in gaol in Dover for debt in the late 1840s. Despite this, on his death he left behind the not inconsiderable sum of £800. John Caspar’s life offers an insight into the operations of class and race in Jamaica, nuancing our understanding of how a slave society operated. 64 [accessed 17 September 2015]. 65 T71/122, p. 47. 1826 Slave Register for Port Royal, National Archives. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Image 8.4: Poster advertising Joseph Jackson Fuller’s preaching at Salem Chapel. Image © Hackney Archive

The story of Joseph Jackson Fuller (1825–1908) adds yet another layer to the experiences of people of African descent living in Hackney.66 Fuller had been born into slavery in 1825 in Spanish Town, St Catherine, Jamaica. His father, Alexander McCloud Fuller, and his mother were enslaved to two different families and could not marry. The Fullers became part of the congregation of Reverend James Phillippo, an anti-slavery campaigner and member of the Baptist Missionary Society.67 When slavery was abolished in 1833, Fuller stated that he became immediately free. Unlike Joanna 66 Autobiography of the Rev. J. J. Fuller of Cameroon, West Africa, A/3/19, Angus Library, Oxford. My thanks to Michael Watson for his transcription of this material. 67 For a discussion of the life of Reverend James Phillippo, see Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830–1867 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002). •


Slavery, Memory and Identity in Hackney Vassa, Fuller left behind a distinctive archival trace; he wrote an autobiography and some of his papers can be found amongst those of the Baptist Missionary Society. His role as a missionary was the key factor in getting his memoir and, indeed, his memory preserved. In a deeply moving passage he recounted the moment of emancipation: The scene on the night I believe all over the island will never be forgotten by all of us who witness it […] to see the upturned eyes of the thousands as they waited around the grave which was to receive the coffin which contained the implements of slavery and as the last stroke of the clock tolled the hour of twelve, the coffin lowered and doxology was sung, the morning dawn[ed] on us a free people.68

Fuller was educated at Phillippo’s Mission House and in 1843, at the age of 18, he left Jamaica to become a Baptist missionary in West Africa. He spent the next 30 years there preaching the gospel. While in Fernando Po, Fuller married an ‘Elizabeth Johnson of Sierra Leone,’ a Jamaican school teacher.69 The couple had three children before Elizabeth’s death in 1859. His second marriage was to Norfolk-born Charlotte Diboll, the daughter of missionaries who was herself active in the movement. In 1869 Fuller was given leave to visit his wife’s home in Norfolk, where he preached and spoke of his memories of emancipation. In 1872 he returned to Jamaica, where he was welcomed by huge crowds – 3,000 people went to the Phillipo Baptist Church in Spanish Town to hear him preach.70 After settling in England, Fuller and his family travelled around the country and he delivered sermons at different Baptist churches. In 1889 he addressed an audience of 4,000 in Birmingham.71 Although there had long been African communities in some of the large port cities in Britain, many British people had not encountered people of African descent before. Fuller wrote that when he visited a church in Norwich, ‘my appearance with wife and children caused a little sensation as we entered.’72 Fuller clearly maintained 68 Autobiography of the Rev. J. J. Fuller of Cameroon, West Africa, A/3/19, Angus Library, Oxford. It is interesting to note that Fuller dated full emancipation as occurring in 1838 with the ending of apprenticeship. 69 Jeffrey Green, ‘Fuller, Joseph Jackson (1825–1908),’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004), 57698 [accessed 2 November 2014]. 70 Las Newman, ‘A West Indian Contribution to Christian Mission in Africa: The Career of Joseph Jackson Fuller (1845–1888),’ Transformation, 18:4 ( 2001), p. 230. 71 Caroline Bressey, Empire, Race and the Politics of Anti-Caste (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 138. 72 Autobiography of the Rev. J. J. Fuller of Cameroon, West Africa, A/3/19, Angus Library, Oxford. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery an interest in the continued struggles of African people in the Caribbean after emancipation, as indicated by his subscription in 1891 to Anti-Caste, a publication that reported on racial prejudice and injustice in both the British Empire and America.73 Eventually he made a permanent home in Hackney, on Sydner Road in Stoke Newington. An advertisement found in the Hackney Archives announced that Fuller would be preaching a sermon and recounting details of his 40-year missionary service in Fernando Po at a meeting at Salem Chapel, which was located on Bouverie Road. He died in 1908 and was buried in Abney Park Cemetery.74 From Jamaica, to Africa, to England, Fuller’s journey retraced the Atlantic passage of the ships that had once brought his ancestors into slavery.

Conclusion In 1948, 40 years after Fuller’s death, the SS Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks carrying 492 passengers from Jamaica who sought to start a life in Britain. Some of those people settled in Hackney; like Anna Laetitia Barbauld and John Cass, they are remembered with a street named to memorialise their presence. It takes 20 minutes to walk between Windrush Close and Cassland Road; the distance travelled by British society in terms of what these street names signify is so much further. Yet in many ways these histories are so intimately entangled that their meanings are almost inseparable; the traders, merchants and owners, the abolitionists and the people of African descent who made Hackney their home were all connected by and to the system of slavery. They each represent an important part of telling the story of Hackney’s, and indeed Britain’s, complex relationship with the slaving past. A local lens brings slavery home; it reminds us that this was not simply a historic aberration that occurred in a distant land – it was and is something whose legacies are still with us today, etched into tombstones and inscribed on street names. In making the history visible and in learning to read the signs, we can begin to engage with the ways in which the past has shaped the present. Commerce and politics, and more intimately, family and kinship networks, spread across the globe during the period of slavery and abolition. For the residents of Hackney who were associated in some form with the slavery business, the local was never parochial, the national was always bound up with the global. The citizens of Hackney were, and indeed still are, citizens of the world.

73 Bressey, Anti-Caste, p. 138. 74 Jeffrey Green, ‘Fuller, Joseph Jackson (1825–1908).’ •


9 Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow Michael Morris Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow

Lords, in this tartan tale, tobacco hogsheads stink clinging to their cloaks, scarlet smoke wisps, curling through […] Glasgow’s streets where questions of Empire still smoulder.

Dorothea Smartt, ‘Smouldering On’1

Introduction In September 2013, an elaborate work of public art was unveiled. The Great Tapestry of Scotland seeks to ‘tell our nation’s story’ from ‘pre-history to modern times’; it has made national tours, has hung at the Scottish Parliament and will form the central tourist attraction for a multi-million-pound railway line to Tweedbank in the Borders. Two particular panels in the tapestry capture the current ambivalent position of slavery – half-submerged/half-emerged – in the collective, public and official national memory of Scotland. In the first panel, titled ‘Scotland and the Drive for Empire,’ slavery, in which ‘the involvement of many Scots […] cannot be ignored,’ features beside the expansion of the Hudson Bay Company and the East India Company. Yet the conventional image of bound and bowed Africans on the Middle Passage maintains African passivity, while its circumscription in a panel devoted to empire misses the opportunity to integrate slavery 1 Dorothea Smartt, ‘Smouldering On,’ in Louise Welsh (ed.), Yonder Awa: Poetry from the Empire Café (Glasgow: The Empire Café, 2014), pp. 42–43. With thanks to Craig Lamont and Kirsty Strang for valuable conversations and material that fed into this chapter. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery more fully into Scottish national memory. Indeed, this missed opportunity is witnessed most strikingly in the second panel devoted to the eighteenth century merchants known as the Glasgow Tobacco Lords (see Image 9.1). In keeping with the traditional ideological role of tapestries to represent a glorious and victorious narrative of development, the panel shows three tobacco lords towering above an ocean ship; Glasgow streets which carry their names and achievements are stitched through their fine cloaks and curl through the Atlantic winds. Remarkably, however, the emblem in the top left corner represents manacles – associated with the infamous iconography of abolitionist campaigns – while a brown face seems to grow out of the toe of one of the tobacco lords. Yet, the accompanying text makes no mention of slavery; instead it admires that, following the American War of Independence, ‘Glasgow’s canny merchants turned their attention to sugar in the West Indies.’ This seems symptomatic of slavery’s lack of integration into Scottish national memory: slavery is present yet absent, banished quite literally to the margins of the story, unexplained and unexplored, yet never quite fully disappearing. This chapter argues that Glasgow has now begun, however unevenly, to redress its prolonged amnesia in the way it tells the story of those tobacco lords featured in Dorothea Smartt’s poem: to detect the tobacco stink lingering on their finery and to dispel the smoky mists which have long obscured the enslaved peoples on whose backs the colonial wealth of Georgian Glasgow flourished. In this way, we might unpick the stitching of the tapestry and unravel its meanings, reinterpreting the panel as one in which slavery encroaches on the borders of the tobacco lords’ narrative while a black figure erupts from below deck ready to disrupt the ideology of canny progress.

2014: A Turning Point? In 1999, John M. MacKenzie analysed Glasgow as an ‘Imperial City,’ noting that: ‘The most striking silence is in respect of slavery.’2 It may be that 2014 represents something of a turning point in this regard. That year saw a variety of projects converge to push slavery more prominently into Glasgow’s public sphere. The Kelvingrove Museum’s exhibition titled ‘Georgian Glasgow 1714–1837: How Glasgow Flourished’ had a dedicated section which integrated slavery into the museum’s narrative of the city’s development to a much greater extent. In June, the XX Commonwealth Games arrived in the city and the writer Chris Dolan suggested that, given 2 John M. MacKenzie, ‘“The Second City of the Empire”: Glasgow – Imperial Municipality,’ in F. Driver and D. Gilbert (eds), Imperial Cities: Landscape, Display and Identity (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), p. 219. •


Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow the arrival of so many Caribbean athletes with Scottish surnames, this would be an ideal moment for Glasgow to issue an apology for its role in slavery – though the city declined the invitation. Louise Welsh and Jude Barber organised a counter-cultural ‘Empire Café’ which ran concurrently with the Games: the recipes for the produce on offer detailed the colonial origins of their ingredients – ginger, coffee, sugar, etc. Its location in the heart of old merchant Glasgow – in the Briggait on the banks of the River Clyde and under the shadow of the Merchant’s Steeple – spoke to an appropriation of space as it hosted a series of debates, literary readings, films, workshops, art installations and discussions themed around Scottish connections with Atlantic slavery. An organisation was founded named Flag Up Scotland Jamaica, which arranged a meeting with the Jamaican High Commissioner in Glasgow; it seeks to use the shared saltire flag as a recognition of cultural connections which can lead into further questions around reparations over slavery.3 In the arts, the British Council funded ‘Trading Tales,’ a writer residency exchange between Glasgow and the Caribbean.4 Lou Prendergast’s play Blood Lines brought together actors from across Scotland’s African-Caribbean communities to explore personal, family experiences of racial identity, as well as Scotland’s hidden history of colonialism and slavery.5 On 1 August, Emancipation Day was marked for the first time in Scotland with a remarkable piece of street theatre titled Emancipation Acts, to which I will return below. Alastair Cook and Sheree Mack explored in poetry and film the slavery connections of the Clyde port of Greenock, once known as ‘Sugaropolis’ due to its domination of the sugar trade.6 Of the 27 recorded slave ships which left Scottish ports, 19 left from Greenock and Port Glasgow.7 Finally, in October 2014, an ESRC public conference on ‘Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past’ was held 3 The shared saltire flag comes from the efforts of Rev. William McGhie, who was close to then President Alexander Bustamante. The green, black and gold colours for the flag had been chosen though the design was unsatisfactory. The good Scotsman laid the colours onto a saltire cross. McGhie also forged educational links between Kingston’s Meadowbrook High School and Glasgow’s Eastbank Academy. See ‘Story of the Flags’ Flag-Up Scotland Jamaica,’ [accessed 11 August 2015]. Jamaican writer Kei Miller named his blog ‘Under the Saltire Flag’ since his spell at the University of Glasgow. 4 ‘Trading Tales: Writers Get Ready and Set to Go!,’ British Council, https://www. [accessed 11 August 2015]. 5 Lou Prendergast, ‘Blood Lines,’ The Arches Glasgow, 2–5 July 2014. 6 ‘Absent Voices,’ [accessed 11 August 2015]. 7 M. Duffill, ‘The Africa Trade from the Ports of Scotland 1706–66,’ Slavery and Abolition, 25:3 (2004), pp. 102–22. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library (an institution founded by tobacco merchant Stephen Mitchell). In short, this new revisionism contends that although Glasgow had limited direct involvement with slave trade ships, the colonial trade in sugar, tobacco and cotton has long been recognised as crucial to Glasgow’s economic growth; yet the enslaved labour which cultivated these crops in the New World was dissociated from this tale of entrepreneurial success. Glasgow, like Manchester, represents something of a paradox: a city whose industries relied in large part on slave produce (cotton in Manchester), yet which hosted prominent anti-slavery campaigns. Glasgow has largely preferred to remember its role in abolition at the expense of more searching questions about slavery. Such profound revisionism comes at a dynamic period in Scotland’s history. The Scottish independence referendum of September 2014 has led to a raised level of politicisation and critical reassessment. Scotland is reassessing its position within the United Kingdom and the wider world. The recovery of the memory of slavery in Glasgow has the potential, therefore, to be transformative for narratives of identity at a crucial moment in the nation’s history. The first section of this chapter takes a devolved and trans-local approach to peeling back the overlapping layers of Atlantic, British, Scottish and Glaswegian amnesia that have prolonged the silence around slavery. The focus here is on Glasgow though a variety of scholars have begun to uncover the extent to which the black Atlantic profoundly shaped Scottish modernity as a whole.8 This approach has a number of advantages. First, it deepens and nuances our knowledge of how the black Atlantic shaped the internal histories of nations beyond the most recognised slave ports. Second, it situates Glasgow (and Scotland) as a site of empire and resistance in relation to the black Atlantic. Most obviously, this dispels the national myth that Scots are more democratic, sympathetic and egalitarian than our English counterparts; and it challenges local self-romanticising of salt-ofthe-earth Glaswegian exceptionalism more specifically. The final section of this chapter demonstrates how slavery can be integrated into Glasgow’s tapestry of memory through a reinterpretation of the city’s central George Square – itself a key site of public memory. Discounting the First World War Cenotaph, all 12 statues in George Square can be ‘read against the grain’ to integrate slavery into the story the city tells about itself. Furthermore, the recovery of the memory of slavery in Glasgow has been opposed by other competing memories of grievance and exploitation – such as the deprivation faced by Glasgow’s working class, indentured servitude, the Highland Clearances, etc. It would be justified to simply dismiss this as 8 T. M Devine (ed.), Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past: The Caribbean Connection (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015). •


Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow false equivalence; however, I would like instead to take an approach inspired by Michael Rothberg who, in the context of the Holocaust and decolonisation, writes of ‘multidirectional memory’: Against the framework that understands collective memory as competitive memory – as a zero sum struggle over scarce resources – I suggest that we consider memory as multidirectional, as subject to ongoing negotiation, cross-referencing and borrowing; as productive not privative.9

Rather than playing commoners off against the enslaved, the recovery of the memory of slavery in Glasgow may prove to be a particularly fruitful site for exploring the ‘productive, intercultural dynamic of multidirectional memory’ in relation to ‘the Atlantic working class.’10 Glasgow has been shaped by processes of capitalism, empire and resistance in its crucial position in the north-western Atlantic archipelago.11 Structures and networks which grew around the production and exchange of certain crops mapped Glasgow into what Immanuel Wallerstein calls a ‘world system.’12 This created new forms of labour for the Atlantic working class which suffered different and varying degrees of exploitation and oppression. This continuum includes the extreme of chattel enslavement as well as indenture, bonded, apprentice, child, convict and waged labour. This also produced varying forms of displacement, including transportation on the Middle Passage, penal banishment, clearances and (un)willing migration. The overlaps and distinctions between these different labour systems and displacements were exploited to play one group off against the other, though they could also produce moments of solidarity as each group sought to improve its own conditions (and sometimes the conditions of others) through protests, petitions, legal challenges, riots, strikes, seditions and revolts in what is a deeply entangled history of Atlantic modernity. In the context of the wider politics of post-referendum reassessment, this kind of 9 Michael Rothberg, Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009), p. 3. 10 Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (London: Verso, 2000); Simon Newman, ‘Theorizing Class in Glasgow and the Atlantic World,’ in S. Middleton and B. G. Smith (eds), Class Matters: Early North America and the Atlantic World (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), pp. 16–34. 11 For a discussion of the advantages of reconceiving ‘the British Isles’ as an ‘Atlantic Archipelago,’ see John Kerrigan, Archipelagic English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). 12 Immanuel Wallerstein, The Capitalist World-Economy (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1986). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery memory work might lead to a flowering of more fundamental questions – not only of nation – but of slavery and capitalism, race, class, gender, resistance and empire in the pursuit of ‘new forms of solidarity and new visions of justice.’13 Ana Lucia Araujo charts the ‘transnational resurgence of the memory of slavery’ since 1992 across West Africa, Europe and South and North America in the form of official apologies, commemorations, museums, monuments, festivals, holidays and government demands for financial reparations – all of which contain their own ambiguities and attract their own controversies.14 Indeed, the above events of 2014 stemmed from a growing stream of voices calling for slavery to be remembered in Glasgow and Scotland more broadly since the 1990s, which accelerated around the commemoration of abolition in 2007. However, it is notable that the majority of these voices have come from academia and the cultural sphere and have had a limited impact at the institutional or governmental level (indeed, the Scottish government’s initial information booklet for abolition in 2007 had to be shelved following accusations of ‘whitewashing.’)15 Notable contributors include artists Maud Sulter and Graham Fagen, writers Jackie Kay and James Robertson, historians Iain Whyte and Eric Graham, and education campaigner Sir Geoff Palmer. Historian Stephen Mullen has been a pivotal figure, providing Slavery Walking Tours for Glasgow’s Black History Month each October since 2007. Mullen’s It Wisnae Us: The Truth about Glasgow and Slavery (2009) reveals the hidden histories that can be teased out of Glasgow’s urban landscape, in particular around the Georgian area which has been regenerated since the 1980s as the ‘Merchant City.’ Mullen notes the slave-based origins of the wealth behind some of the area’s finest buildings: the Cunninghame mansion (now Gallery of Modern Art, which also features as emblem at the bottom left of the tobacco lords’ panel in the Great Tapestry of Scotland); the Ramshorn Kirk, where several merchants are buried; and the opulent St Andrews in the Square church (now the Centre for Scottish Culture). Further, he investigates the stories behind the street names that celebrate the sources of slave produce in Virginia St and Jamaica St, and the merchants who most enjoyed the profits: Oswald St, Buchanan St and Glassford St.16 As cities across Europe – including Amsterdam, Nantes and Bordeaux – 13 Rothberg, Multidirectional Memory, p. 4. 14 Ana Lucia Araujo, ‘Introduction,’ in Ana Lucia Araujo (ed.), Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space (New York: Routledge, 2012), p. 7. 15 Stephen Mullen, ‘Ae Fond Kiss, and Then We Sever!,’ Variant Magazine, 35 (Summer 2009), [accessed 11 August 2015]. 16 Stephen Mullen, It Wisnae Us: The Truth about Glasgow and Slavery (Edinburgh: The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, 2009), pp. 25–31. •


Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow begin to formally redress their amnesia over slavery, Mullen notes that ‘the city of Glasgow remains the only Atlantic port in Great Britain that was involved with the slave trade and slavery (London, Liverpool and Bristol being the others) that does not have a permanent exhibition or memorial.’17 Indeed, in even less obvious locales, Lancaster has a permanent memorial and Slave Trail; while universities in Hull, Preston and Nottingham host dedicated research centres into slavery and the black Atlantic.18 Glasgow is conspicuous in its absence.19

Four Layers of Amnesia This absence emerges from four main layers of amnesia in Glasgow. One factor to consider before proceeding concerns the long-standing nationalist critique that Scottish national memory as a whole is inadequately taught in schools and represented in institutions. This is a consequence of Scotland’s incorporation into the United Kingdom, in which context its precarious nationhood is always at risk of collapsing into ‘province-hood.’ However compelling these arguments may be in certain contexts, I do not consider this to be a major factor in terms of the amnesia around slavery. Former slaving societies in which there is a more straightforward alignment between ‘nation’ and ‘state’ – the Netherlands, Denmark, France and England for example – have been every bit as amnesiac as Scotland. In fact, I could make the counter-argument that Scotland’s somewhat disjointed national-institutional-state-memory apparatus could have provided more spaces for counter-memories of slavery to emerge through the cracks than in other nation states. Its continued suppression suggests that more fundamental forces of memory-hegemony governed narratives of city and national development. The first layer of amnesia therefore concerns, in Marxist terminology, the ‘mystification of labour’: that is, the way in which surplus value is created under a capitalist system of production – whether through free or unfree labour – is always suppressed, elided, evaded, mystified. The second layer concerns the distribution of Caribbean migrants to Britain following the Second World War, relatively few of whom came 17 Stephen Mullen, ‘Glasgow and Caribbean Slavery: Acknowledging the Evidence,’ [accessed 21 August 2015]. 18 For Lancaster, see chapter 2 of Alan Rice, Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012). Hull has the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, Preston has UCLAN’s Institute for Black Atlantic Research and Nottingham has the Institute for the Study of Slavery. 19 However, Professor Simon Newman has recently established the Runaway Slaves research project at the University of Glasgow. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery ‘on to dock at hissing smoke locked Glasgow.’20 Thus, no large Caribbean communities developed in Glasgow at that time as happened in London, Manchester and the Midlands. This is not to say that there are no traces of individuals or families in Glasgow as slaves, servants, students, sportsmen and mixed-race children.21 James McCune Smith earned three degrees at Glasgow University (1835–37), becoming the first African American to graduate with a medical degree anywhere in the world. He joined the Glasgow Emancipation Society and later became a leading anti-slavery campaigner in the United States.22 Yet Glasgow lacks the large historic settled black populations of Atlantic ports such as Cardiff and Liverpool. It therefore lacked the same critical mass which could consistently force a reassessment of Scottish amnesia and racism at the same time as these were coming under sustained revolt in England from the 1970s. The third and fourth layers of amnesia relate to narratives of Glasgow’s development shaped by national and class concerns through historiography, literature and other forms of memory. Glasgow’s development can be divided into six broad periods: pastoral beginnings captured in the Gaelic ‘Glaschu’ meaning ‘Dear Green Place’; the medieval period of cathedral and university; the merchant era, which concerns slavery; the industrial boom from the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth; followed by a period of industrial decline; until its current role as ‘poster boy’ of post-industrial neoliberal regeneration. Craig R. Lamont suggests that the popular image of Glasgow’s development is dominated by the towering achievements of nineteenth-century success in heavy engineering and shipbuilding, which overshadow the earlier merchant trading in slave produce in Georgian Glasgow (1714–1837).23 Indeed, Carla Sassi, who has pioneered research into Scottish literature’s amnesia around Caribbean slavery, describes Glasgow as having a ‘dissociated collective identity.’ Glaswegian identity has long been rooted in the ‘most tragic consequences of industrial exploitation’ 20 Kamau Brathwaite, ‘The Emigrants,’ in The Arrivants, A New World Trilogy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 51. Is ‘smoke-locked’ Glasgow a reference to fog or those tobacco mists of amnesia? 21 John W.  Cairns, ‘Slavery without a Code Noir: Scotland, 1700–78,’ in N.  M. Dawson and Felix Larkin (eds), Lawyers, the Law and History: Irish Legal History Society Discourses and Other Papers, 2005–2011 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2013), p. 151. See also Afe Adogame and Andrew Lawrence (eds), Africa in Scotland, Scotland in Africa: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Hybridities (Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill, 2014). 22 Thomas M. Morgan, ‘The Education and Medical Practice of Dr. James McCune Smith (1813–1865), First Black American to Hold a Medical Degree,’ Journal of the National Medical Association, 95:7 (2003), pp. 603–14. 23 Craig R. Lamont, ‘Georgian Glasgow: The City Remembered through Literature, Objects, and Cultural Memory Theory,’ PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 2015. •


Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow – but this is dissociated from the ‘enormous wealth gained through its involvement in the imperial enterprise.’ A picture emerges of our current challenge: that of an individual standing in a neoliberal present who must cast their gaze back beyond the chimneys, slums and pestilence of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to recover earlier memories of empire which had been ‘repressed because too painful or shameful.’24 There is a particular challenge to remembering slavery in a neoliberal age: it is not an era generally recognised as hospitable to humanitarian ethics, yet it is not impossible – spaces do appear. Equally, if we are entering the ‘twilight of neoliberalism’ – and that is far from certain – recovering the slaving past may help to usher in a more egalitarian future. In this spirit, we must revise Glasgow’s conflicting and overlapping bourgeois and proletarian narratives of development with an eye on slavery as a fundamental shaping factor. My own personal memories of studying the tobacco lords at school in Glasgow in the 1990s involve how they paraded in distinctive scarlet cloaks, cocked hats and gold-tipped canes; lesser beings would make way for them or risk being bumped off the plainstanes or ‘flagstones.’ Within the contemporary public health drive to quit smoking, we disapproved that they had made fortunes from tobacco, while pondering the particular combination of educational, religious and social factors that combined to create such potent ‘wealth creators in the eighteenth century.’25 Certainly, slavery has long been implicit in the key question of the significance of colonial profits on the wealth of the domestic economy – a question which preoccupied Adam Smith at the University of Glasgow. Smith noted the wealth accrued from sugar islands, though he remained sceptical about the overall value of colonies. Combining moral sentiment and political economy, he critiqued slavery’s inefficiency as part of his broader attack on mercantilism.26 Later, Victorian commentators glorified Union (1707) and colonial produce as laying the foundation for Glasgow’s nineteenth-century prestige, but this was challenged in the 1950s by an ‘enclave theory’ which ‘contended that foreign trade affected only a small part of the economy in a minor fashion 24 Carla Sassi, ‘Postcolonializing Glasgow’s Amnesia: Alasdair Gray’s Lanark as a Palimpsest of Scottish Imperial History,’ in Gordon Collier, Marc Delrez, Anne Fuchs and Benedicte Ledent (eds), Engaging with Literature of Commitment, Vol. 2 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012), p. 323. 25 Caroline Marie Peters, ‘Glasgow’s Tobacco Lords: An Examination of Wealth Creators in the Eighteenth Century,’ PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 1990. 26 Anita Rupprecht, ‘From Slavery to Indenture: Scripts for Slavery’s Endings,’ in Catherine Hall, Nicholas Draper and Keith McClelland (eds), Emancipation and the Remaking of the British Imperial World (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014), p. 80. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery and left the rest largely untouched.’27 In the 1970s, historian T. M. Devine sought a synthesised position, detailing the tobacco lords from 1740–1790: their political and economic domination of the city. The study also explored ‘the Glasgow system’ – how quick profits were made through a ‘store’ system, extending credit to smaller cultivators in the backwaters of Virginia and the Chesapeake. Chattel slavery, however, was scarcely mentioned in a long-standing approach which still largely attributed wealth creation to the triumph of the merchants’ personal character: their ‘assiduous attention’ and ‘unwearied application,’28 their ‘ingenuity and sheer business skill.’29 It is indicative of a shift in focus that in 1975 Devine’s primary research questions were: Who were they [the merchants]? How many were there? What did they do with the profits they earned? How far were their investments responsible for economic growth in eighteenth century Scotland?30

In 2011, Devine asked instead: ‘Did Slavery Make Scotia Great?’31 The 2011 version revisits Eric Williams’s main thesis to propose that Scotland’s comparatively poorer situation at the start of the eighteenth century might more clearly illustrate Williams’s argument that slavery underpinned industrial capitalism. Devine notes how slavery filtered through investments in landownership and large-scale agricultural ‘improvements,’ as well as investments in staple industries of textiles (silk, linen, wool and cotton), coalmining and iron, as well as a myriad of smaller industries such as rope and sail making, glassworks and brewing. Stephen Mullen extends and expands this revised approach, offering ‘qualified support’ for Williams. Mullen examines the Glasgow West India merchants, planters and sojourners, detailing the capital flows from plantation to Scottish commerce and banking from 1776 to 1846. He notes the political and social influence of the Glasgow West India Association founded in 1807, as well as its domination of Glaswegian claims for compensation for emancipation in 1834.32 The following section builds on such economic and social history 27 T. M. Devine, ‘Colonial Commerce and the Scottish Economy, c. 1730–1815,’ in L. M. Cullen and T. C. Smout (eds), Comparative Aspects of Scottish and Irish Economic and Social History (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 1977), p. 177. 28 John Gibson, The History of Glasgow (Glasgow: 1777), p. 105. 29 Devine, ‘Colonial Commerce and the Scottish Economy,’ p. 177. 30 T. M. Devine, Tobacco Lords: A Study of the Tobacco Merchants of Glasgow and their Trading Activities, 1740–1790 (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1975), p. vi. 31 T. M. Devine, ‘Did Slavery Make Scotia Great?, Britain and the World, 4 (2011), pp. 40–64. 32 Stephen Scott Mullen, ‘The Glasgow West India Interest: Integration, ­Collaboration •


Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow to identify processes of nineteenth- and twentieth-century amnesia which remain influential today, and to locate ‘sites of memory’ through which Atlantic slavery may be woven into Glasgow’s tapestry. The third layer of amnesia relates to a nineteenth-century civilisingEnlightenment line. As the city expanded over the long eighteenth century, new place names heralded exotic success: Plantation Quay, Havannah St and the now-disappeared Antigua Place. The names of Glasgow taverns spoke of enlarged horizons of the imagination – the ‘Saracen’s Head Inn,’ ‘Elephant’ and indeed ‘the Black Boy.’33 Since 1792, there had been a Glasgow Abolitionist committee, Anti-Slavery Society, Emancipation Society and Ladies Emancipation Society; Thomas Clarkson had praised Glasgow University for producing three anti-slavery professors – Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith and John Millar – before the age of abolition.34 These competed fiercely with the influential Glasgow West India Association and the arguments of James MacQueen’s Glasgow Courier as well as the countless university students from merchant and colonial families. In literature, Glasgow contributed both abolitionist poetry and apologetics for slavery in Thomas Hamilton’s The Youth and Manhood of Cyril Thornton (1827) and Michael Scott’s popular Tom Cringle’s Log (1834).35 The latter is a paean to the pastoral ease of West Indian slavery, in the manner of another University of Glasgow student James Boswell, interweaving references to Robert Burns’s ‘Tam o’Shanter’ and Walter Scott’s Rob Roy – ‘a Scotch negro’ has an accent as broad as Nicol Jarvie’s. Yet, following emancipation, Geoffrey Cubitt identifies ‘the persistent submergence of the history of transatlantic slavery beneath the history of abolitionism’ in Britain as a whole.36 Indeed, an 1854 article titled ‘Negro Slavery in the City of Glasgow’ opens: I believe few of your readers are aware that negro slavery existed in Glasgow in my day in its full vigour, and that by solemn judgement of our Justices of the Peace it was declared to be the law of the land. Fortunately the question was taken up by some of our spirited citizens, whose names and Exploitation in the British Atlantic World, 1776–1846,’ PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 2015. 33 Maurice Lindsay, Portrait of Glasgow (London: Robert Hale, 1972), p. 52. 34 Thomas Clarkson, The History of the Rise Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition the African Slave Trade (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1808), p. 87. 35 Thomas Hamilton, The Youth and Manhood of Cyril Thornton [1827], ed. Maurice Lindsay (Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 1990); Michael Scott, Tom Cringle’s Log [1834] (Edinburgh: Blackwoods, 1842). 36 Geoffrey Cubitt, ‘Museums and Slavery in Britain: The Bicentenary of 1807,’ in Ana Lucia Araujo (ed.), Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space (New York: Routledge, 2012), p. 162. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery have not come down to us, but to whose memory a public monument is justly due.37

The admonishing tone of this opening sentence quickly dissolves into a homage to anti-slavery in an article dominated by the case of Joseph Knight winning his freedom under Scots Law (1778). John Oldfield identifies this pattern in commemorations of abolition across the United Kingdom since 1834.38 Moreover, in his 1864 discussion of the colonial produce on which ‘were the foundations of the wondrous wealth of Glasgow laid,’ Andrew Scott mentions slavery once in a footnote which is decidedly weighted towards indenture: ‘Slavery as began by the English in 1562; and prior to 1660 Barbadoes had been cultivated and enriched by slaves from Scotland as well as England, “who had been exiled for their non-conformity.”’39 By the 1870s, local histories began to appear, compiled by merchants’ descendants, which sanitised the city’s elite of slavery connections.40 Even the radical Glasgow feminist Marion Bernstein’s poem protesting the Fugitive Slave Circulars of 1875 glorifies ‘Britain’s flag of liberty.’41 In 1879, the statue of David Livingstone (1813–1873), who studied at Glasgow’s Andersonian Institute (now University of Strathclyde), was erected in George Square, though it now stands in front of the Cathedral. It shows the missionary with bible in hand, and a broken ankle shackle behind his foot: an emblem of what Richard Huzzey calls Britain’s nineteenth-century ‘anti-slavery empire.’42 In the 1880s, with the ‘Scramble for Africa’ under way, the Glasgow Herald seemed keen for the city to shed responsibility for the nefarious memory of colonialism on the continent: ‘It is to Glasgow’s lasting honour that while Bristol and Liverpool were up to their elbows in 37 Senex, ‘Negro Slavery in the City of Glasgow,’ 23 January 1854. Collected in Glasgow Past and Present, Vol. II, ed. James Pagan (Glasgow: James Macnab, 1856), p. 162. 38 John Oldfield, Chords of Freedom: Commemoration, Ritual and British Transatlantic Slavery (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007). 39 The History and Progress of the four Leading Articles of Foreign origin; which were first imported into Great Britain about two centuries ago, viz: Sugar, tea, coffee, and potatoes: by Andrew Scott, esq late of HM Customs. Read at a Meeting of the Archaeological Society of Glasgow, 14th March 1864 (Glasgow: Glasgow Archaeological Society, 1866), pp. 19, 4. 40 John Guthrie Smith and John Oswald Mitchell, The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry (Glasgow: James McLehose, 1878). 41 The widely condemned Circulars instructed the British Navy to return fugitive slaves to their masters. Marion Bernstein, A Song of Glasgow Town: The Collected Poems of Marion Bernstein, ed. Edward H. Cohen, Anne R. Fertig and Linda Fleming (Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2013), pp. 74–75. See also ‘An Appeal,’ p. 66. 42 Richard Huzzey, Freedom Burning: Anti-Slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012), pp. 51–52. •


Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow the slave trade Glasgow kept out of it.’43 Thus, in an era when the city laid claim to the title of ‘Second City of the Empire,’ Glasgow’s own history of chattel slavery was submerged in abolition, eclipsed by indenture, assigned to the English and denied outright. Such accounts elided both the slavery past and Glasgow’s proletarian present of overcrowding, slum dwelling, cholera epidemics and anti-Irish Catholic racism. It would fall to the left in the twentieth century to refute many suppositions of Scoto-British Unionism through nationalist and socialist politics, though in truth its own treatment of slavery represents a continuation of Victorian distancing, and therefore a fourth layer of amnesia. Scottish cultural nationalism grew from the 1880s, forming a recognisably modern political nationalism in the 1920s which has always included various strands of elite and subaltern political thought. The left of the Scottish Renaissance of the 1920s situated Glasgow as the ultimate example of the failures of industrial capitalism. The era of Red Clydeside, which saw Winston Churchill bring tanks into George Square to subjugate protests in 1919, symbolises the city’s reputation for bolshy resistance. However, Paul Griffin argues that an overemphasis on working-class politics has elided a more complex memory of race, in terms of the Glasgow Race Riots 1919 which took place a week before the strike.44 Indeed, MacKenzie critiques Glasgow’s ‘decontaminated’ radical social history, which seeks to ‘distance socialism from imperialism.’45 Slavery was difficult to incorporate into the emergent national narrative of Scotland as a subject nation and thus remained submerged beneath abolition, with greater attention paid to Scottish indentured servants, bonded colliers and ‘English scoundrels.’46 One partial exception came from the aristocratic socialist and nationalist Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (1852–1936), whose 1925 biography of his own ancestor Robert Graham of Gartmore, a slave owner in Jamaica, notes that ‘[u]pon its sugar fields and by the agency of its slave labour, Glasgow slowly emerged from its primeval state […] to be a business centre.’ Cunninghame Graham goes on to suggest that if any of the ‘West Country Scottish families who now boast of their pedigrees […] had been endowed with any sense of humour,’ they would have taken for their crest a hogshead, while their coat of arms would show a ledger, a ‘negro proper,’ 43 ‘The West India Association in Glasgow,’ The Glasgow Herald, 1 June 1883. (With thanks to Stephen Mullen for this reference.) 44 Paul Griffin, ‘Labour Struggles and the Formation of Demands: The Spatial Politics of Red Clydeside,’ Geoforum, 62 (2015), pp. 121–30. 45 MacKenzie, ‘The Second City of the Empire,’ p. 219. 46 Colin Leitch, ‘Reminiscences of Slavery Days in Argyll,’ Liberty (newspaper) April 1921, p. 53. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery and a cat-o’-nine tails whip upon a sugar field.47 This section appears to be the most admirably candid account of Glasgow and slavery from a major Scottish figure until James Kelman’s 1992 ‘Worker’s City’ polemic against the rebranding of the ‘Merchant City,’ in which the ‘merchant past’ lends the regenerated high-end retail-restaurant district an ambience of cosmopolitan commercial chic. ‘They were slavers,’ he writes. However, his distinction that ‘[t]he personal wealth of those earlier individuals may have been founded upon slavery but the city of Glasgow wasn’t,’ separates merchant ‘individuals’ from the ‘real Glasgow’ and thus feeds into Sassi’s sense of a ‘dissociated collective identity.’48 In the context of official multiculturalism, a number of left-wing voices began to include slavery more prominently in discussions of Glasgow.49 Indeed, it has now become a regular shorthand reminder for the pro-independence left that Scots are inherently no more left wing than others.50

George Square: Rebellion, Reprisals, Cotton and Compensation George Square, laid out in 1781, is a contested space and key site of public memory in Glasgow. At the Queen St corner, high above the Merchant’s House, the old Glasgow merchant’s symbol of a clipper cresting the globe looks down on the square’s bombastic visage of city-national-imperial achievement epitomised in the Victorian opulence of the City Chambers. Yet, round the corner, Nelson Mandela Place (renamed in 1986 to embarrass the South African consulate resident there) points towards the square’s alternative memory of public meetings, protests and demonstrations. To some extent, Glasgow’s amnesia around slavery is partly related to a limited range of tangible sites of memory from the Georgian era. However, the following section demonstrates how a hidden history may unfold through a reinterpretation of the statues of George Square, weaving slavery and abolition 47 R. B. Cunninghame Graham, Doughty Deeds, An Account of the Life of Robert Graham of Gartmore (London: William Heinemann, 1925), p. 19. 48 James Kelman, Some Recent Attacks, Essays Cultural and Political (Stirling: AK Press, 1992), p. 2. 49 Mary Edward, Who Belongs to Glasgow? (Glasgow: Glasgow Libraries, 1993); Duncan Brown, ‘Tobacco Roads,’ Socialist Review, 227 (1999), http://pubs.socialistreviewindex. [accessed 11 December 2015]; Angus Calder, Scotlands of the Mind (Edinburgh: Luath, 2002), p. 180. 50 Cat Boyd, ‘If you Think Yes Voters Were Backing Nationalism, Then you Weren’t Paying Attention,’ Red Pepper (2014), [accessed 11 December 2015]; Brendan McGeever, ‘Nationalism and Anti-Racist Strategy after the 2015 General Election,’ Scottish Left Project, 14 May 2015. •


Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow through Glasgow’s tapestry of commerce, politics, science, militarism, industrialisation, academia and literature.51 This necessarily brief sketch focuses on themes of cotton in the Atlantic working class, Atlantic episodes of rebellion and reprisals, and questions of compensation and reparation. This focus on such pre-existing sites of public memory is intended to weave a more globalised and multidirectional tapestry of memory in order to foster a more ‘associated collective identity’ for Glasgow. The 12 statues of George Square, erected between 1819 and 1902, include scientists James Watt, best known for the invention of steam power, and the chemist Thomas Graham (discussed below), whose family backgrounds open up Glasgow’s long trading history in sugar, tobacco and cotton. Watt (1736–1819) was born in Greenock, where his father was a ship owner and chief Baillie. He had ‘been involved in the construction of the first crane in that town, used to unload produce from the slave plantations of Virginia.’ Watt’s first employment at the University of Glasgow was repairing the scientific instruments sent from Alexander Macfarlane’s Jamaican slave plantation: the telescope would feature in Glasgow’s Macfarlane Observatory.52 Writers Robert Burns, Thomas Campbell and Sir Walter Scott bring out the conflicted histories of slavery, abolition and indenture in Scottish literature. Thomas Campbell (1777–1844), the most esteemed Glaswegian man of letters in the nineteenth century, was the son of Glasgow tobacco merchant Alexander Campbell (1710–1801) and had extensive family connections across British Guiana and Virginia. Campbell, like the national bard Robert Burns, prepared three times to cross the Atlantic intending to join family in America, though the trip was repeatedly postponed.53 Burns (1759–1796) had been preparing to take up a post as bookkeeper on a sugar plantation in Jamaica in 1786 before the success of his first volume of poems allowed him to abandon the plan. Thereafter he was ambiguously attached to the abolition campaign which crested around him in the 1790s.54 Despite the origins of his family wealth, Campbell included a lengthy anti-slavery section in his hugely popular poem Pleasures of Hope 51 See Madge Dresser’s Work on Statues in Bristol and London, ‘Set in Stone? Statues and Slavery in London,’ History Workshop Journal, 64:1 (2007), pp. 162–99. 52 Robert Crawford, On Glasgow and Edinburgh (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013), p. 200. 53 Family information taken from the introductory chapter of Thomas Campbell Life and Letters, Vol. II, ed. William Beattie (London: E. Moxon, 1849). He is also said to have prepared an abridgement of Bryan Edwards’ pro-slavery West Indies. See ‘Campbell, Thomas (1777–1844),’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., [accessed 11 August 2015]. 54 Nigel Leask, ‘Burns and the Poetics of Abolition,’ in G. Carruthers (ed.), Edinburgh Companion to Robert Burns (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery (1799).55 The poem avoids the contemporary question of slave revolution in St Domingue, though in a later letter of 1802, Campbell remarks of his residence with Tory Lord Minto that: ‘Toussaint has been dished up at our breakfast for weeks past. I adore him as a second Kosciusko.’56 Walter Scott helped arrange his ruinous brother Daniel’s employment in Jamaica. However, faced with ‘an insurgent body of negroes,’ Daniel showed a ‘lamentable deficiency of spirit and conduct,’ ‘a stigma which Walter Scott regarded with utter severity,’ and he would never see his brother again.57 The military men Sir John Moore, famed for valour at Corunna (1809) in the Napoleonic Wars, and Lord Clyde Colin Campbell, who held the ‘thin red line’ of Highlanders at Crimea (1854) would show no such ‘deficiency of spirit’ in crushing slave rebellions in the 1790s and 1820s. Finally, the Tory MPs Robert Peel and William Gladstone, and the Liberal James Oswald, strenuously sought the best terms for slave owners during debates for emancipation and compensation. Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, joined by Albert in 1840, this period saw the end of apprenticeship in 1838 and the rise of anti-slavery campaigns concerning the United States. It is difficult to overstate the importance of weaving and spinning to the Scottish economy, consequently it holds a central place in both bourgeois and radical memory. This memory might be globalised through the statues of James Oswald MP, a cotton manufacturer and inheritor of a slave fortune (to whom we will return below), and Thomas Graham (1805–1869), whose father James Graham (1776–1842) was ‘a prosperous Glasgow merchant and manufacturer of light woven fabrics for the West Indies.’58 Osnaburg linen from Scottish looms had long been popular as a cheaper fabric to clothe the enslaved; by 1796, 62 per cent of all Scottish linen exports went to the West Indies.59 From the 1780s cotton became increasingly significant until the ‘cotton famine’ caused by the American Civil War in the 1860s, during which Glasgow firms organised ‘blockade runners’ through Union naval lines.60 In particular, the increasingly mechanised systems of cotton 55 Thomas Campbell, The Pleasures of Hope (Edinburgh: Mundell, 1799), ll. 475–526. 56 Letter to John Richardson Esq., London (no date) 1802. Tadeusz Kosciusko (1746–1817) led an insurrection against the Russian occupation of Poland in 1794, and has his own anti-slavery credentials. 57 Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott: In Three Volumes, Volume 1, ed. John G.  Lockhart (Paris: Baudry’s European Library, 1837), p. 375. 58 ‘Graham, Thomas (1805–1869),’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., [accessed 11 August 2015]. 59 Alastair J. Durie, The Scottish Linen Industry in the Eighteenth Century (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1979), p. 152. 60 Eric Graham, Clyde Built: Blockade Runners, Cruisers & Armoured Rams of the American Civil War (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2006). •


Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow spinning were crucial to Scotland’s early industrial revolution, which was largely based on textiles: Until the 1790s, ‘sea island’ cotton from the Caribbean provided the leading sector of the Scottish Industrial Revolution with the vital raw material for its mills and workshops until being replaced after that period by the southern states of the USA, another slave-based economic system.61

Alan Rice has explored cotton as a particularly fruitful site of Atlantic working-class memory through a discussion of Lubaina Himid’s exhibition ‘’ Himid’s bold fabric patterns – both juxtaposing and interlinking – suggest: The warp and weft of cloth as it moves around the Atlantic triangle, crucially showing that the making of the cloth always involves the labour (forced and so-called ‘free’) of black and white men and women and children in the new and old worlds.

The harvesting, transportation, processing, weaving and wearing of cloth opens up the ‘linked yet different’ experiences of ‘cotton workers on both sides of the Atlantic.’ 62 This perspective brings to the fore voices from below, such as Peter Burnet, an ‘American Negro’ who arrived from New York to be a valet for a Glasgow merchant before making his life amongst the Paisley weavers; and Charles Campbell, whose memoirs draw largely anti-slavery and anti-racist conclusions through his Atlantic experiences working in a Glasgow cotton mill and a Jamaican slave plantation.63 Meanwhile, from above, David Dale (1739–1806), the banker and textile manufacturer, becomes a key figure here in terms of improving reforms. In 1785, he founded the industrial cotton spinning factory and model village New Lanark, which would become celebrated under the reforms of his son-in-law Robert Owen. In 1792, Dale was one of the founders of the Glasgow abolitionist committee bringing into Atlantic perspective the ideals around improving paternalism intended to create contented, industrious and pliant workers who were both loyal and productive. Under Owen’s management from 1799 to 1825, New Lanark would rely upon imports of slave cotton from Georgia, 61 Devine, ‘Did Slavery Make Scotia Great?,’ p. 58. 62 See Chapter 4, ‘The Cotton that Connects, the Cloth that Binds,’ in Rice, Creating Memorials, pp. 84, 87, 91. 63 John Parkhill, A Sketch of the Life of Peter Burnet, A Negro (Paisley: J. Neilson, 1841); Memoirs of Charles Campbell, at present prisoner in the jail of Glasgow. Including his adventures as a seaman, and as an overseer in the West Indies. Written by himself. To which is appended, an account of his trial (Glasgow: James Duncan & Co., 1828). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery New Orleans, Trinidad, Jamaica, Grenada and Guadeloupe.64 Abolitionist poet Robert Southey may have had the cotton connections in mind when he made a polemical comparison between New Lanark’s ‘human machines’ who, he argued, ‘are as much under [Owen’s] absolute management as so many negro-slaves.’ Owen himself employed the rhetoric that ‘white slaves’ in mills suffered worse than black slaves on plantations, and during a brief visit to Kingston in 1829 would record sentiments opposing emancipation.65 Given that slave cotton underpinned the livelihoods of so many families, pro-slavery economic apologetics would have particular resonance in a city so dependent on the Atlantic trades like Glasgow. It is worth dwelling then on the lively anti-slavery campaigns in the city which hosted visits from such as Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe. In 1792, a Glasgow petition was signed by 13,000; notably, weavers were amongst the bodies petitioning from Glasgow.66 Indeed, weavers – who had a degree of control over their income and leisure time – hold a crucial place in Glasgow’s radical memory; here we might extend the story in multidirectional ways. The Calton Weaver’s Strike (1787) and the Radical Rising (1820) are represented in the first two panels of Ken Currie’s radical Glasgow History Mural (1987), which forms the ceiling of the People’s Palace in Glasgow Green, a short walk from George Square. In 1787, the same year as the founding of the Abolitionist Society in London, the weavers of Calton – then a village to the south-east of George Square – staged Glasgow’s first recorded strike against a cut in the price of muslin (made from cotton). As the weavers marched to Glasgow Cathedral, the 39th regiment of foot shot into the crowd, killing six strikers and wounding more. As a reward, the commanders, Lt. Col. Kellet and Major Vere Powlet, were presented with the Freedom of the City and the officers were dined at the Tontine Hotel – the Glasgow merchants’ social hub. Indeed, in August 1790 Kellet would marry into Glasgow’s slave sugar elite, his wife Janet McDowall Napier being the granddaughter of James Milliken, Glasgow’s earliest success story in St Kitts sugar and slavery.67 In 1788, Lord Hailes, who had previously supported Joseph Knight, sentenced strike leader James Granger to be whipped through the streets of Edinburgh 64 Anthony Cooke, The Rise and Fall of the Scottish Cotton Industry 1778–1914: ‘The Secret Spring’ (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010). 65 Robert Southey, Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. C. H. Herford (London: John Murray, 1929), pp. 263–64. 66 Iain Whyte, Scotland and the Abolition of Black Slavery, 1756–1838 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006), p. 91. 67 John Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire (London: Henry Colburn, 1839), p. 757. •


Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow and banished from Scotland for seven years.68 It is said that after the massacre some weavers joined that same 39th regiment of foot. If they did so, they may have taken part in that regiment’s role in Britain’s largest expedition to date under Sir Ralph Abercromby. This managed to preserve West Indian slavery when it should have been overthrown in the 1790s. The 39th helped to capture the Dutch slave colonies of Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice in April and May 1796. Around the turn of the century, it seemed a rebellious ‘Many-Headed Hydra’ threatened to destabilise the world system, and reprisals were severe. In St Lucia, as in St Domingue, freed slaves forced out the white planters, leaving the coloured planters in place. Abercromby’s expedition left young Glaswegian John Moore as Governor of St Lucia in 1796–1797, who reinstated slavery, negotiated with the rival planters and was ‘indefatigable in his exertions’ to crush the ‘Negro brigands, who swarmed in the woods.’ 69 Moore’s father, Dr John Moore, was a correspondent of Robert Burns and a friend to abolitionist poet Helen Maria Williams; his own novel Zeluco (1789) contained anti-slavery sentiments. It is clear from Moore’s journal that his initial plan was for an orderly return to slavery, the re-enslaved submitting with decorum and the planters reigning with restraint. In order to ‘reduce’ the ‘Brigands,’ Moore gave orders to ‘destroy all the ground provisions and burn all the huts.’ He was eager to note his leading role in these assaults, which served as an example ‘to inspire activity and zeal’ in his troops.70 The journal contains a remarkable example of imperial tensions between human sympathy eventually overrun by devotion to military duty: The cause in which [the Brigands] fight is praiseworthy did they not disgrace it by acts which are a shame to human nature. These acts make us feel less remorse in ordering them to be put to death. I do it however with pain, being convinced the poor fellows are misled.71

The following year, Moore was in Ireland charged with ‘driving the rebels from the counties of Wexford and Wicklow’ in the crushing of the United 68 This reminds us of the similar zeal which Lord Braxfield, who also declared for Joseph Knight, would show in transporting those agitating for political reform in the 1790s, such as the ‘father of Scottish democracy,’ Thomas Muir of Huntershill. 69 Henry Manners Chichester, ‘John Moore’, Dictionary of National Biography, online edition (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1894). 70 James Carrick Moore, The Life of Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore K. B. by his Brother James Carrick Moore in Two Vols (London: John Murray, 1834), p. 142. 71 Moore, 21 July, quoted in The Life of Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore K. B., pp. 234–35. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Irishmen.72 Moore is honoured in painting and poetry and with monuments in George Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, Corunna and Nova Scotia. St Lucian poet Derek Walcott remembers John Moore as one of the names ‘left drumming in us’ alongside British battles and generals as part of the island’s ‘thoroughly colonial education system.’73 Later, following the Peterloo massacre, weavers in Scotland would launch the ‘Radical War’ (1820), which included a banner declaring ‘Scotland Free or a Desart [sic].’ One leader, James Wilson, was hanged and beheaded on Glasgow Green. Walter Scott, who urged the crushing of this rebellion, recorded a dispassionate eyewitness report of the hanging and beheading of two other weavers, John Baird and Andrew Hardie (ancestor of Keir Hardie), at Stirling.74 In 1823, 26 years after Moore’s efforts in St Lucia, Colin Campbell was one of the highest ranking officers during the excessively bloodthirsty crushing of the Demerara slave rebellion of 1823. The reprisals saw hundreds butchered, their bodies left hanging in chains, their heads pinioned on spikes. Campbell was on the court martial which sentenced the missionary John Smith to death for complicity in the revolt. By the time a reprieve came from London, Smith had died in his cell, becoming a martyr for those making renewed anti-slavery demands in the 1820s. The extent of Campbell’s personal involvement in the gruesome excesses is unclear though he would go on to play a key role in street fighting against the Chartists in the 1840s, and crushing the Sepoy Rebellion (or Indian Mutiny) in 1857.

Conclusion Finally, to conclude this chapter, the issue of compensation and reparations was raised by the play Emancipation Acts (2014).75 Due to compensated emancipation in 1834, Glasgow merchants collected over £400,000 for their loss of property.76 Even the leading Glasgow anti-slavery advocate Rev. Ralph Wardlaw, whose chapel lay just off George Square, supported compensation as further elevating the national honour of emancipation: 72 Letter to his father. Dublin 18 July 1798, in Moore, Life of, p. 337. 73 Derek Walcott, ‘Leaving School’ [1966], in Robert D. Hamner (ed.), Critical Perspectives on Derek Walcott (Boulder, CO, Lynne Riener Publishing, 1997), p. 25. 74 Edinburgh Annual Register for 1820, vol. 13 (Edinburgh, 1823), 8 September 1820, pp. 354–56. 75 Emancipation Acts (2014), written and directed by Alan McKendrick, was inspired by an original idea from Graham Campbell and Anne McLaughlin of African Caribbean Cultures Glasgow. 76 Nicholas Draper, The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 258. •


Multidirectional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow ‘That’s noble. The honour is worth the cost.’77 Among the claimants were the first two Glasgow MPs sent to the reformed Parliament (1832): the influential James Ewing (who, as Chancellor of the Jury, pronounced the guilty verdict for radical weaver James Wilson); and the family of cotton merchant James Oswald, whose statue stands in George Square. James was grand-nephew of the notorious Richard Oswald of Auchincruive – associated with the slave fort Bance Island – whose estate he would inherit. A hundred and eighty years later, the play, a piece of roving street theatre inspired by Mullen’s walking tours, challenged the cannily sanitised memory of such figures. The audience circulated around the vicinity of George Square, visiting different sites of memory in the Merchant City in a fine example of what Rice calls ‘Guerrilla Memorialisation’: ‘community actions that begin to reclaim the cityscapes that have traditionally been designed to articulate the heroic stories of merchant adventurers and to make amends and finally tell the underside, ghostly narratives of those on whose backs the profits were made.’78 In the play, the Ramshorn Kirk graveyard became the golf course on Scottish-owned Bance Island. Enslaved caddies decked in tartan underlined the importance of slave resistance on the plantations. At City Halls, the audience heard a reconstructed version of a speech that might be heard at the Glasgow Ladies Abolitionist Society; at Virginia Court, two merchants channelled James MacQueen’s arguments to give a skilful apology for slavery, reminding the audience of our own contemporary complicity in overseas sweatshop labour. The finale opened with a vast cast drawn from Scotland’s African-Caribbean communities performing a choreographed dance outside the Cunninghame Mansion. A stone’s throw from George Square, on the steps of the old tobacco lord’s mansion – an emblem in the Great Tapestry of Scotland – the play closed by raising the question of Scottish reparations for slavery. In Glasgow’s streets, where questions of empire do still smoulder, the embers are beginning to be rekindled.

77 Ralph Wardlaw, The Jubilee, A Sermon Preached in West George St Chapel, on Fri 1st August, that memorable day of negro emancipation in the British colonies (Glasgow, 1834). Wardlaw conceded that ‘to some ears’ of his congregation, this argument ‘would sound discordant’ (p. 26). 78 Alan Rice and Johanna C. Kardux, ‘Confronting the Ghostly Legacies of Slavery: The Politics of Black Bodies, Embodied Memories and Memorial landscapes,’ Atlantic Studies: Global Currents, 9:3 (2012), p. 252. •


10 Making Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery in Olney Leanne Munroe Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery

Introduction Charles Forsdick argues that there are plural memories of transatlantic slavery and ‘it is essential to study the different ways they came about.’1 This is not only pertinent with regard to differing national traditions of remembrance across Europe, Africa and the Americas but also regarding the differences within nations in specific localities. Further, it is also essential to study the ways memories of transatlantic slavery change over time in localities and how these local remembrances intersect with or challenge emerging national and international discourses. This turn to complexity will illuminate the nuances and textures of the memory of slavery, highlighting the instability and malleability of representations of this past. This chapter takes up this challenge for complexity and charts the way narratives of slavery and anti-slavery have been constructed in a small independent museum with a specifically ‘local’ focus. The Cowper and Newton Museum (hereafter the CNM) is located in Olney, a town in the north of rural Buckinghamshire that sits on the banks of the River Ouse, surrounded by tranquil countryside and farmland. The town is popular with tourists, who stroll around the twisting lanes, watch the annual pancake race, or purchase examples of the famous Olney lace made in the town since the 1560s. It is a quiet place with ivy-covered cottages and quaint inns inhabited by a predominantly white, retired population. It is not necessarily a place where one would expect to find 1 Charles Forsdick, ‘Contrapuntal Memories of Slavery and Abolition in the FrenchSpeaking World,’ in Doug Hamilton, Kate Hodgson, and Joel Quirk (eds), Slavery, Memory, Identity: National Representations and Global Legacies (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2012), p. 105. •


Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery memories of the transatlantic slave trade yet, in the eighteenth century, Olney was home to two abolitionists: William Cowper and John Newton. Cowper was a poet who wrote a number of anti-slavery ballads such as ‘The Negro’s Complaint’ and ‘Sweet Meat Has Sour Sauce,’ and Newton was an ex-slave trader-turned-abolitionist and evangelical curate who developed a spiritual friendship with William Wilberforce. Cowper’s home, which stands in a prominent position in Olney Marketplace, is now the CNM – an independent historic house museum, established in 1900 and managed by volunteers from the community. The museum tells the story of the men’s lives, including their friendship, involvement with abolitionism and Newton’s involvement with the slave trade itself. This chapter considers how the centenary (1907) and bicentenary (2007) of the abolition of the slave trade were constructed and represented in the CNM.  Drawing on museological literature concerned with the dialogic construction of museum representations, this chapter posits a nuanced understanding of how complex transnational histories are narrated, negotiated and endowed with meanings within local museum contexts.2 Such negotiations are not free-floating but always located within the materialities and everyday realities of the local museum, its contents and its institutional focus. Ultimately, this chapter suggests that a lack of national orthodoxy surrounding the representation of slavery in 1907 led to a specifically celebratory local discourse regarding Newton that subsumed discussions of his slave trading within a narrative of evangelical redemption. However, as the bicentenary approached in 2007, changing social contexts and emerging national and international discourses began to disrupt and intersect with, but not completely destabilise, this celebratory local narrative, leading to certain ambiguities over how to represent Newton. Multiple interpretations of Newton developed concomitantly and connected Olney to wider national and diasporic frameworks. How and why the CNM chose which threads to weave into its narrative fabric is reflective of the perceived (and changing) meanings that Newton, slavery and anti-slavery held for Olney, and how Olney viewed itself and its past within a globalising world.

Negotiating the Local, National and Transnational in Museums The following is a brief exploration of how the relationship between the local, national and global has been conceived within museums studies, and offers a discussion of how a dialogic model can contribute a more nuanced 2 Marnix Beyen, ‘Introduction: Local, National and Transnational Memories: A Triangular Relationship,’ in Marnix Beyen and Brecht Deseure (eds), Local Memories in a Nationalizing and Globalizing World (Houndsmill: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery understanding of this relationship. One of the primary concerns of museologists is explicating the relationship between the museum and the nation. That the nation should be a dominant theme in museums studies is reflective of the important, symbiotic role that museums played in the development of modern nation states and vice versa. From a historical viewpoint, scholars have investigated the development of nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury nationalisms, in which nations became ‘imagined communities’ and museums were seen to house the material legacy of the ‘glorious’ pasts which underpinned them.3 The scholarly fascination with the relationship between the nation and the museum has endured in recent years yet has taken on increasingly sharper constructivist critiques. A major concern has been to disassemble the ways in which cultural materials of recent and ancient pasts could be symbolically appropriated and mobilised for political ends at the national level. Such critiques have been concerned with examining how positive visions of national identity are constructed from the selective narrativisation of the past and the silencing of alternative viewpoints. Cultural elites in the guise of curators and politicians are seen to enforce a ‘traditional, inherited and state-promoted idea of the “heart of the nation”’ which ‘identifies legitimate spokespersons of the past whilst denying others.’4 What is the role of the local in this vision of the relationship between nations and museums? Often, this relationship is conceived as one of unequal power relations, in which the national is ‘the inveterate enemy of the local.’5 Such an argument states that cultural elites may attempt to appropriate local stories for hegemonic purposes at the national level or insert dominant ‘official’ meanings into narratives at the local level. It is argued that elites do this through establishing discursive, visual or symbolic frameworks to guide and delimit interpretations of the past. For example, Smith’s notion of the Authorised Heritage Discourse6 or Wertsch’s idea of schematic narrative templates7 suggest that the past can be moulded into generalised narratives 3 Tim Winter, ‘Heritage and Nationalism: An Unbreachable Couple?,’ in Emma Waterton and Steve Watson (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Heritage Research (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), p. 331. 4 Bella Dicks, ‘Heritage and Social Class,’ in Emma Waterton and Steve Watson (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Heritage Research (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), p. 370. 5 Geoffrey Cubitt, ‘Displacements and Hidden Histories: Museums, Locality and the British Memory of the Transatlantic Slave Trade,’ in Marnix Beyen and Brecht Deseure (eds), Local Memories in a Nationalizing and Globalizing World (Houndsmill: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), p. 143. 6 Laurajane Smith, Uses of Heritage (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2006). 7 James Wertsch, Voices of Collective Remembering (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). •


Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery or discourses – approved and circulated by national elites – which influence local places to align their specific pasts within these national frameworks. The representation of transatlantic slavery has received significant attention from scholars who suggest that the state, especially in 2007, produced dominant visual and discursive frameworks that delimited how this past was seen nationally and also at the local level.8 While such works rightly expose the dominant representative tropes of this history, scholars also need to look at how dominant representative frameworks can be undermined or disrupted at the local level. Numerous scholars have redirected attention to the museum practices at the local level to look for ruptures in ‘official’ discourses of slavery and to show that the power dynamics between the local and national are more diffuse than previously thought.9 For Witcomb, although asymmetric power differentiations between the local and national do indeed exist, it would be too negative to see the local as completely powerless.10 She employs her experience as a consultant for a local museum to expose how diverse ‘interpretative communities’ operate as brakes on the implementation of vertical curatorial agendas. Such strategies include (at one extreme) non-compliancy, such as derailing exhibitions which are seen to be ‘at odds’ with the community’s identity, and (at the other end of the spectrum) dialogue, in which top-down agendas are tailored to fit the needs of the museum’s community. She suggests that there is always nuanced political wrangling at the micro-level of the institution, which needs to be studied in order to gain a picture of the complexity of the politics of representation at the local level.11 The relationship between the local and the global in museums is more difficult to pin down.12 Increasingly, museums are willing to tackle issues which may be considered transnational, such as migration, colonialism and diasporic communities, and transnational historical tragedies such 8 Laurajane Smith et al., Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums: Ambiguous Engagements (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2011); Marcus Wood, Blind Memory: Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America, 1780–1865 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000); Marcus Wood, The Horrible Gift of Freedom: Atlantic Slavery and the Representation of Emancipation (Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 2010). 9 Madge Dresser, ‘Remembering Slavery and Abolition in Bristol,’ Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, 30:2 (2009), pp. 223–46; Marian Gwyn, ‘Wales and the Memorialisation of Slavery in 2007,’ Atlantic Studies: Global Currents, 9:3 (2009), pp. 299–318. 10 Andrea Witcomb, Re-Imaging the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2003). 11 Also see Beyen, ‘Introduction,’ p. 8. 12 Cubitt, ‘Displacements and Hidden Histories,’ p. 143. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery as the Holocaust and transatlantic slavery. Such museums often stress the multiplicity and fluidity of narratives and meanings, as people, ideas, discourses and images circulate within a diverse constellation of stakeholders. Interpreted in this way, the local and the global ostensibly appear to be incompatible, the local reifying a sense of the past which is stable, insular and unchanging, while globally focused interpretations stress mobility, fluidity and interconnectivity. This may prove problematic for local museums that are connected to wider transnational stories – tensions may arise over how to handle the spatial gaps between the local and global aspects of the narrative. This is, arguably, the root of one of the main challenges in formulating narratives of transatlantic slavery at the local level: the outward-looking trope of movement, instability, inter-mixture and connection inherent to transatlantic slavery can be seen to be disruptive to the underlying remits of some local museums which aim to encapsulate a bounded, homogeneous and insular account of what makes the locality exceptional. Yet it would be too simplistic to dichotomise the global and local: the boundaries between ‘here/there,’ ‘us/them’ and ‘inside/outside’ are not always stable and can shift and change over time. ‘Diverse coalitions’ could also arise in which the local enlists its connections with the global to underscore an aspect of its past that it wishes to promote.13 Scholars must therefore be wary of solidifying the local as oppositional to the global, or as casting the local as a homogeneous, neatly bounded entity (even though the logic of heritage marketing and tourism may attempt to do just that). Local and global are relative terms, constituted in relation to one another, rather than fixed constituencies. As Sharon Macdonald argues, ‘this does not mean that categories such as “global” and “local” necessarily become irrelevant but rather than marking out the territory to be investigated at the outset, and being fixed points of reference within the analysis, the interest is instead in how such categories and divisions are themselves produced.’14 Scholars must therefore understand how local museums construct a sense of ‘here/ there,’ ‘us/them’ and ‘inside/outside’ through continual gerrymandering of the parameters of what is included and excluded in the narrative. In recognition of the complexity of the relationship between the local, national and global within museums, scholars have increasingly employed research methodologies that conceive of this relationship as a ‘network,’ ‘assemblage’ or ‘dialogue.’15 The importance of such tropes is that they are 13 Beyen, ‘Introduction,’ p. 10. 14 Sharon Macdonald, ‘Reassembling Nuremberg, Reassembling Heritage,’ Journal of Cultural Economy, 2:1 (2009), p. 119. 15 Rodney Harrison, ‘Heritage and Globalization,’ in Emma Waterton and Steve Watson (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Heritage Research (Houndsmill: •


Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery non-hierarchical, which means that they reject ‘scalar models in which, say, the micro is nestling inside the macro, or the local inside the global.’16 Instead, the notion of ‘dialogue’ suggests that museums are ‘making a series of connections’ when they create narratives, by linking different scales of stories at the local, national and international levels.17 These conversations do not simply build upon a previous text, but inform and are continually informed by the previous text and other contemporary surrounding texts at different levels. In short, every narrative is linked to other narratives; they are dialogic.18 As Kristeva argues, ‘narratives have no borders but are part of an immense unfolding tapestry. This larger cultural weave is an inextricable part of the ever-changing meanings of narrative. To interpret intertextuality is to bring out this complex embeddedness of a narrative’s meanings in the culture from which it comes.’19 Conceiving of representation as a process of dialogue – as a constantly emergent and unfinished conversation – therefore refocuses attention on the messy and often ambiguous practices of narrativisation within the museum, rather than simply analysing the narrative as a neatly bounded ‘finished text.’ Attention must therefore be given to how and why curators enact strategies to ‘particularise’ and ‘generalise’ the narrative or, more bluntly, how and why agents choose to mediate between emphasising local, national or transnational aspects of history. These choices are not arbitrary but dependent upon a range of vectors, some of which may be discursive, such as changes in local civic identity discourses or wider national rhetoric, while others may be material or embodied. It has become increasingly common for museologists to recognise that material and embodied elements of the museum are also entangled within dialogic networks and can exert influence over how the narrative is constructed. The physical nature of the museum and locality itself and the many layers of stories, resonances and emotional attachments it carries can greatly affect how a narrative turns out. What this implies is that narrative construction at the local level is not always political or ideological, but social, material and emotional too. The rest of this chapter is concerned with examining a case study which compares the narratives of slavery and abolition enacted at the CNM during the centenary of the Act of Abolition Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 297–312; Rodney Harrison, Heritage: Critical Approaches (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2013). 16 Macdonald, ‘Reassembling Nuremberg,’ p. 118. 17 Witcomb, Re-Imagining the Museum, p. 118. 18 Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, trans. and ed. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1981). 19 Quoted in H. Porter Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 101. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery in 1907 and the bicentenary in 2007. The chapter plots the complex narrative configurations between the local, national and global at two moments in time separated by 100 years.

The Narrative of John Newton in Olney in 1907 The year 1907 was the centenary of the passing of the Act of Abolition. John Oldfield has argued that this anniversary was not widely celebrated at the national level, passing with ‘barely a murmur’ in the press and without mention by the government.20 Even in Hull, the hometown of Britain’s most revered and famous abolitionist, William Wilberforce, the attitude towards the anniversary was at best ambivalent. The local newspaper lamented that ‘there was not one thoughtful pair of hands to place at the foot of [Wilberforce’s] monument the simplest and cheapest token of remembrance.’21 Madge Dresser also argues that the centenary was ignored in Bristol, as the city was more preoccupied with promoting trade with the Caribbean than reflecting on the human traffic which had once linked these two parts of the Atlantic world.22 Oldfield suggests that there were a number of reasons why the Abolition Act of 1807 was allowed to quietly slip from the national consciousness at this time. He suggests that the fortuitous timing of William Wilberforce’s death and the passing of the Emancipation Act in 1833 imbued the memory of emancipation with a ‘deeper personal significance’ than abolition.23 The centenary of emancipation in 1933 thus became symbolically entwined with the commemoration of Wilberforce, who was increasingly being constructed in hagiographic terms as a ‘statesman-saint’ and national ‘hero,’ which helped to solidify an ‘abolitionist discourse’ that subsumed discussions of slavery, the slave trade and the enslaved within a highly moralistic and positive narrative that aggrandised abolition.24 Yet despite this absence of an explicit national framework of remembrance in 1907, specifically localised vectors of memory and fortuitous commemorative intersections (also see Moody, this volume) intertwined the memories of abolition, slavery and the slave trade within particular local narratives. Although such discussions of slavery and abolition were not centralised, they fed into local civic discourses obliquely and buttressed processes of local meaning-making. For example, within Olney, 1907 was not only the centenary 20 John Oldfield, Chords of Freedom: Commemoration, Ritual and British Transatlantic Slavery (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), p. 91. 21 Oldfield, Chords of Freedom, p. 92. 22 Dresser, ‘Remembering Slavery.’ 23 Oldfield, Chords of Freedom, p. 92. 24 Oldfield, Chords of Freedom, p. 100. •


Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery of the abolition of the slave trade; it also coincided with the centenary of the death of John Newton. As shall be seen, the coincidence of these anniversaries greatly affected the ways in which the memory of abolition and the slave trade were constructed in Olney: although the centenary of abolition was ignored, slave trade and abolition became refracted through a positive, affirmative and celebratory narrative that had Newton, his evangelicalism and his relationship to Olney at its heart. In 1907, John Newton was a figure much revered in Olney yet he had a complex biography that had to be ‘arranged’ in certain ways by the CNM. Where men like Wilberforce and Clarkson could be easily construed as ‘saints,’ Newton had, by his own admission, been a ‘sinner’ for much of his life.25 He made four voyages to Africa as a slave-ship captain between 1748 and 1754. During a brutal storm off the coast of Ireland in 1748, he converted to Christianity yet he continued to participate in the slave trade for the next six years. After suffering a severe stroke in 1754, Newton left the slave trade and began to pursue a career in the clergy, eventually becoming curate of St Peter’s and St Paul’s church in Olney in 1764. In the same year, he published his Authentic Narrative, which detailed his involvement with the slave trade, including his growing uneasiness ‘with an employment that was perpetually conversant with chains, bolts and shackles,’ and expressed his desire for a more ‘humane calling’ within the Church.26 Despite Newton’s discomfort with his former occupation, the Authentic Narrative did not posit explicit anti-slavery sentiments; within it, Newton stated that ‘during the time I was engaged in the slave trade, I never had the least scruple as to its lawfulness; I was on the whole satisfied with it, as the appointment Providence had marked out for me.’27 Rather, the Authentic Narrative charted Newton’s personal spiritual evolution and his desire for ordination, which he fulfilled by accepting his position at Olney. Newton’s time at Olney was spent comfortably; he wrote the famous hymnal The Olney Hymns with his friend, William Cowper, which included such songs as ‘Amazing Grace.’ He also engaged in Christian philanthropic endeavours, including establishing a fund for poor lacemakers. After a number of years in Olney, Newton became the Rector of St Mary Woolnoth parish in London in 1779. It was there that he became more closely involved with the abolitionist cause, renouncing his former life as an ‘infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in West Africa’ (as quoted on his tombstone in Olney). He forged close friendships with other 25 Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery (London: Pan Macmillan, 2006), p. 18. 26 Quoted in Helen Thomas, Romanticism and Slave Narratives: Transatlantic Testimonies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). 27 Thomas, Romanticism and Slave Narratives, p. 68. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery members of the Clapham Sect, including William Wilberforce. Although not directly involved in the parliamentary campaign for abolition, Newton is credited with inspiring and nourishing Wilberforce’s commitment to the cause and providing first-hand evidence to the Privy Council of the cruelties of the trade through the publication of his pamphlet Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade (1788). His Thoughts relocated the personal salvation sentiment of his Authentic Narrative within explicit anti-slavery arguments.28 Newton died in December 1807, living just long enough to see the Act of Abolition succeed in Parliament. Newton’s memory was therefore complex and the CNM had to engage in the construction of a narrative that was highly selective and coincided with a growing civic-religious discourse regarding the local identity of Olney. As 1907 approached, the CNM decided to host its first large-scale event: the centenary of Newton’s death. Considering his popularity in Olney during this time, it is no surprise to note that the Newton centenary was well-organised, well-attended and highly popular among the townspeople. Citizens hung flags out of their windows as prominent clergymen paraded down the High Street on their way to St Peter and St Paul’s church. Townspeople also laid flowers on Newton’s tomb and were advised by the local newspaper to use the quiet location of Newton’s tomb in Olney’s churchyard to ‘moralise at will.’29 School children also sang renditions of Newton’s most famous hymns at the Market Place, surrounded by a large crowd of well-dressed onlookers. The museum arranged a free exhibition of Newton ephemera which was busy until dusk, aided by special travel arrangements by the Midlands Railway Company. Throughout the centenary, the image of Newton and the rhetoric surrounding his memory was couched in highly religious terms, primarily praising Newton’s contributions to the evangelical movement. The local church played a large role in the celebrations and had a close relationship with the CNM. It organised sermons from dozens of famous clergymen, including the Bishop of Durham, who travelled to Olney to pay his respects to the memory of one of the founding figures of the evangelical movement. A special service was held for the citizens of Olney, in which Reverend Prebendary Fox (who, interestingly, was the clerical secretary of the Church Missionary Society, which had been founded by Newton and a number of other evangelicals in 1799) gave an address entitled ‘Some Fruits of John Newton’s Teaching.’ This was followed by a well-attended public meeting chaired by Reverend Marston, who delivered a lecture discussing ‘Our Evangelical Forefathers, Their Power, Depth and Limitation.’ The memory and civic resonance 28 Thomas, Romanticism and Slave Narratives, p. 69. 29 Anon., ‘The Cowper and Newton Centenary,’ Northampton Herald, 26 April 1907. •


Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery of Newton were thus tightly intertwined with the ongoing practices of religious life within Olney. Olney undoubtedly derived great pride from its associations with Newton and his Christian works, as demonstrated by the fulsome praise in the museum’s centenary guidebook and in the local newspapers: the town thanked Newton for ‘immortalising’ its image and spreading its ‘fame’ to the four corners of the earth. During these events Newton was described as ‘world-famed,’ ‘a divine,’ ‘immortal,’ ‘the greatest of Evangelical leaders,’ the creator ‘of the noblest developments in modern Christian life,’ and ‘the most distinguished ornament of the Evangelical party.’30 Newton’s Christian ethos was seen to be mirrored in the identity of the local people. A local commentator, Oliver Ratcliffe, stated that Newton had left ‘great riches’ in Olney by inspiring local people to emulate his Christian teachings.31 Even schoolchildren were urged ‘to imitate [Newton]; Newton was strong, brave and true and let them be so when they grow up.’32 The memory of Newton was therefore rooted in a positive sense of civic identity, which saw his spirit of Christian philanthropy and evangelicalism as a foundational tenet. The museum itself became revered as an almost sacred or hallowed location – in the Northampton Herald, it was described as a ‘cherished shrine’ to which ‘devoted pilgrims’ came from far and wide to view the ‘relics’ of the great man. Much like the Wilberforce House Museum (which opened six years after the CNM), the quiet and dark historic house setting and the intimate nature of the items displayed (such as Newton’s bible, clerical bands, diary, furniture and items of clothing) only further reinforced the emotive ‘shrine-like’ atmosphere of the museum. In the UK and the US, early twentieth-century public representations of slavery could most likely be found in such historic houses, where abolitionists or plantation owners resided. Eichstedt and Small argue that, in the US, slavery was largely concealed at historic houses and plantations, and that more attention was paid to (and more value placed upon) the ‘authentic’ furnishings of the slave owners than to the memory of the enslaved.33 Partly, this is dictated by the genre of historic house museum: this genre of museum prizes ‘authentic,’ ‘aesthetically pleasing’ and ‘nostalgic’ experiences of the past more than, say, a history museum. As narrative-making is a process ‘located in the world’ and embedded in the corporeality of the social and physical environment 30 Anon., The Centenary Guidebook (Olney: The Cowper Press, 1907). 31 Oliver Ratcliffe, Olney, Bucks (Bedford: Cranfield University Press, 2008 [1907]). 32 Anon., ‘The Cowper and Newton Centenary.’ 33 Jennifer Eichstedt and Stephen Small, Representations of Slavery: Race and Ideology in Southern Plantation Museums (Washington, DC and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery which surrounds us, the CNM’s representations of Newton could never be completely disconnected from the intense emotional resonances of the materiality of the house itself. The house was obviously a crucial component of the museum experience – it was ‘the actual place’ where Newton had worked and thus became an almost ‘shrine-like’ location for local people. Gregory and Witcomb have discussed the intensely affective and emotional resonances that historic house museums can elicit. They suggest that historic house museums excite ‘pleasure, delight and wonder […] when we perceive the imprints of past lives that are somehow embodied within the house.’34 An intangible atmosphere is created through the perceived ‘presences’ of the people who used to live there, invoking a particular type of affective reaction – wonder, a sense of ‘haunting,’ a reverence for things that the owners might have once touched. As such, historic house museums privilege the ‘here’ rather than the ‘there,’ the ‘present’ rather than the ‘absent,’ as the house itself is the material evidence of the lived experience at the local level.35 The historic house museum creates a sense of place and continuity, firmly rooted in the physicality of the local environment. The enslaved, residing ‘elsewhere,’ were considered tangential to the story of the house and its illustrious occupants – they were not seen to be part of the ‘local’ story that the house represented. Although abolition and the slave trade were never addressed explicitly during the centenary, they were subtly woven into this positive local narrative in very specific ways. First, certain discursive strategies were utilised to turn Newton’s slave trading past into a positive story centred on his Christianity. The story of Newton’s evangelical conversion from ‘sinner’ to ‘saint’ – or, as Aitken puts it, from ‘disgrace’ to ‘amazing grace’ – became the trope through which his involvement in the slave trade was reconciled.36 Simmons argues that ‘two tenets of both mainstream and Evangelical Christianity, then as now, are the sinfulness of human beings and the possibility of divine redemption through grace.’37 Drawing upon this, Olney constructed Newton’s narrative as one of Christian redemption. In doing so, it made a firm distinction between the man Newton was in Olney (‘here’) and the 34 Kate Gregory and Andrea Witcomb, ‘Beyond Nostalgia: The Role of Affect in Generating Historical Understanding at Heritage Sites,’ in Sheila Watson, Suzanne MacLeod and Simon Knell (eds), Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and Are Changed (London: Routledge, 2007), p. 265. 35 Christina Hodge and Christa Beranek, ‘Dwelling: Transforming Narratives at Historic House Museums,’ International Journal of Heritage Studies, 17:2 (2011), pp. 97–101. 36 Jonathan Aitken, John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007). 37 Thomas Simmons, Imperial Affliction: Eighteenth-Century British Poets and their Twentieth-Century Lives (New York: Peter Lang Publishing 2010), p. 152. •


Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery man he had been at sea (‘elsewhere’). During the centenary ceremony at the church, Newton was described as ‘flagrantly profane,’ ‘dark,’ mired in ‘degradation’ and ‘untroubled, like most men of his time, by conscience’ during his time on the slave ships.38 His behaviour is explained as the product of a lawless and cruel life on the coast of Africa and the ‘rough conditions’ of the slaving life: ‘life at sea had a bad effect on him, no doubt induced by his vicious surroundings.’ Yet his ‘profane’ behaviour is portrayed as only being harmful to himself and he is praised for being ‘as kind as he could be to his human cargo’ as a result of his growing evangelical beliefs, avoiding profanity, drinking and other temptations available to sailors aboard slave ships. The question of whether Newton’s conduct was indeed tempered by his growing evangelicalism is unimportant here: rather, it is telling that the only mention of the enslaved during the centenary is to bolster a sense of Newton’s Christian philanthropy towards others. The potency of the ‘redemption’ rhetoric lies in its teleological nature. What comes before conversion (i.e. Newton’s slave trading) only acquires meaning in relation to what comes after (i.e. Newton’s Christian conversion and abolitionism). The latter supersedes all the wrongs which have gone before and crystallises the moment of conversion (rather than the original sin) as the meaningful apex of the narrative. Therefore, there was practically no sign of a more detailed biographical account of Newton’s time in the slave trade – of which there are many in his autobiography and his abolitionist pamphlet – in the museum during the centenary. Newton’s experience of life ‘elsewhere’ was deemed irrelevant for constructing a positive, meaningful local narrative of Newton and was thus silenced. Instead, local meaning clustered around the moment of religious redemption, which occurred ‘here’ in Olney when he began his career in the Church. The rhetoric of redemption, of renouncing sin and embracing a moral life allowed the museum to ameliorate the darker threads of Newton’s slaving past into a narrative that focused on the moment of renunciation as a cause for celebration. Second, although not addressed in its own right, the history of abolition also played a significant supporting role in constructing a positive image of Newton and his Christianity. Olney attempted to link Newton to growing national discourses about social reform, civic philanthropy and imperial paternalism, and to recalibrate his image into that of a ‘Christian philanthropist.’ A number of strategies were used to do this. During the centenary, much discussion of Newton focused upon his friendships with other evangelicals and reformist figures who had garnered veneration at the national level, including abolitionists. As Newton was not an MP and therefore had no direct influence in ensuring the parliamentary success of 38 Anon., Centenary Guidebook. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery the Act of Abolition, it was his role in providing spiritual guidance, moral direction and Christian teaching to prominent members of the Clapham Sect that was emphasised by the museum. Newton’s relationship with William Wilberforce was promoted and he was credited with providing the spiritual nourishment necessary for Wilberforce to undertake his campaign. For example, a commentator in the Northampton Herald wrote: ‘Wilberforce found in Newton a wise and helpful friend. Little though he knew it, the old slave trader (Newton) gave his part in the making of the man who more than any dealt the heaviest blow at that accursed slave traffic.’39 The Bishop of Durham’s address at the centenary also credited Newton with ‘rising up’ a generation of social reformists and abolitionists which included Wilberforce, John Venn, Thomas Scott and Charles Simeon; and he was described as their ‘spiritual father’ in the centenary guidebook. Reverend Prebendary Fox suggested that ‘but for Newton’ there would never have been ‘that little band, the men of heroic faith and foresight’ whose achievements not only included abolition, but also the founding of the Church Missionary Society in 1799. Such discourses also played a role in aggrandising Olney, through symbolising that it was not an insular or parochial place, but at the forefront of Christian and social reformist Georgian life. Therefore, although slavery and abolition were never addressed explicitly in the museum at this time, they became entangled within the construction of a celebratory local narrative by highlighting the Christianity of John Newton and his involvement in wider social reform movements, including abolition. This entanglement ultimately reinforced the silence surrounding the experience of enslaved peoples during the first half of the twentieth century and displaced a sense of blame or shame about Newton’s (and Britain’s) role in the slave trade.

The Narrative of John Newton in Olney in 2007 It was late the twentieth century before slavery began to receive sustained attention from a number of museums in the UK (discussed further in the Introduction to this volume). In the 1990s, the CNM began to think more explicitly about the role the slave trade and abolition had played within Newton and Cowper’s story. However, at this time, only a temporary solution of typed and laminated A4 sheets of paper (which addressed the slave trade in quite general terms) supplemented the permanent displays. It wasn’t until the bicentenary of abolition in 2007 that the CNM received two grants to help redevelop its displays and to carry out a specific community project. The first was a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for £49,000 called ‘From Slave Trade to Fair Trade,’ which aimed to ‘commemorate the 200th anniversary of the 39 Anon., ‘The Cowper and Newton Centenary.’ •


Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery Abolition of the Slave Trade and the part that Olney played in it.’40 This money was to be used for a range of events and community engagements, discussing the place of the slave trade, abolition and Newton within Olney and the wider Milton Keynes area. The CNM’s chairman of trustees, Tony Seward, said that the project aimed to ‘bring home that slavery and its legacy are important issues for everyone, regardless of whether they live in a former slaving port or far inland.’41 The second was a more general grant for the reinterpretation of the museum, including improving displays, identifying strong narrative themes and redesigning text panels. An independent curatorial consultant, Paul Baker, was employed to oversee the project. Newton’s story underwent an evaluation and plans were drawn up to reinterpret the abolition and slave trade elements of the narrative. Unlike the centenary in 1907, the bicentenary was marked by wide-ranging discussions in the museums sector, Parliament and in the press. These discussions gave rise to certain discursive grooves, particularly regarding abolitionism, at the national level which acted as guidelines for many museums when dealing with this thorny subject. Laurajane Smith et al. have argued that, at the national level, a pervasive ‘abolitionist discourse’ promoted ‘a story of the heroic moral efforts of mainly white, mainly male and mainly British abolitionist movement’ at the expense of attempting to critically engage with Britain’s role in the slave trade.42 Moreover, certain discursive tropes developed, including an obfuscation of the agency of the enslaved, the sanitisation of the brutality of the slave system, a valorisation of Wilberforce and other British abolitionists, and the perpetuation of a moralistic national rhetoric.43 Yet explicitly local renderings of this past also had the capacity to interpolate alternative viewpoints into the national narrative. Similarly, counter-narratives or alternative interpretations, interjected primarily by African-Caribbean communities, sometimes reared up unexpectedly, providing contrapuntal perspectives.44 Cubitt therefore suggests that the relationship between the local, national and diasporic 40 Heritage Lottery Fund, [accessed 15 July 2015]. 41 Anon., ‘Bringing Home Slave Trade Story,’ Milton Keynes Citizen, 22 March 2007. 42 Smith et al., Representing Enslavement, p. 3. 43 Emma Waterton and Ross Wilson, ‘Talking the Talk: Policy, Popular and Media Responses to the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade using the “Abolition Discourse,”’ Discourse Society, 20:3 (2009), pp. 381–99; Emma Waterton, ‘Humiliated Silence: Multiculturalism, Blame and the Trope of “Moving On,”’ Museum and Society, 8:3 (2010), pp. 128–57. 44 Toyin Agbetu, ‘Restoring the Pan-African Perspective,’ in Laurajane Smith et al. (eds), Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums: Ambiguous Engagements (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011), pp. 61–74. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery in museum representations of slavery in 2007 cannot be conceived as static or unidirectional, but involved an ‘imaginative shuttling.’45 As such, bicentennial exhibitions of slavery often contained many layers of meaning and were marked by ambiguous and often unstable engagements. As shall be seen, during 2007, the Newton story was sometimes obliquely, and sometimes explicitly, influenced by wider conversations at the national and diasporic levels regarding slavery and its representations as the bicentenary approached. Yet the traces of past narratives and explicitly local meanings could not be wholly erased, resulting in a complex dialogic exchange. This dialogic exchange was located within the concrete materialities of the social and institutional milieu of Olney and its museum and, as such, the agency of specific individuals and imperatives greatly affected the construction of bicentennial narratives of Newton. Unlike in 1907, the bicentenary of Newton’s death and of abolition were commemorated separately in 2007. On 21 December, a bicentennial celebration of Newton’s life was held at St Peter’s and St Paul’s church. The line-up of speakers demonstrated the close collaboration between local organisations which constructed of the memory of Newton. Two trustees from the CNM were closely involved in the commemorative activities at the church, giving readings and leading prayers during the service. A related Christian organisation called the John Newton Project was also closely involved and saw the bicentenary as an opportunity to ‘publicise the works of Newton and the considerable contribution he made towards the reformation of society.’46 The local charity the Olney-Newton Link, which provided relief to the eponymous village of Newton in Sierra Leone, was also tangentially involved. This interconnectedness between the local guardians of Newton’s memory allowed a consensual narrative regarding Newton, his Christian philanthropy and his relationship to Olney to develop in some quarters. In this narrative, his slave trading and abolition were barely mentioned: in the transcript of the church service, discussions of Newton’s early occupation are completely absent. However, this interpretation of Newton was not necessarily hegemonic in Olney. Owing to complex discussions in the wider museums sector, as well as the presence of the ‘outside’ influences in the CNM (such as the external curatorial consultant and partnerships with organisations such as World Vision and African-Caribbean groups), another image of Newton – critical, unstable and emergent – was taking shape. Diverse narratives of Newton therefore existed simultaneously in Olney 45 Geoffrey Cubitt, ‘Bringing it Home: Making Local Meaning in 2007 Bicentenary Exhibitions,’ Slavery and Abolition, 30:2 (2009), p. 261. 46 Marylynn Rouse, The John Newton Project, http://www.cowperandnewtonmuseum. [accessed 15 July 2015]. •


Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery at this time which variously struck across local, national and international registers of meaning. At first glance, the newly developed exhibition at the CNM could be read across a specifically local register which used Newton to present a highly particularised interpretation of the slave trade and abolition. The CNM liberally employed excerpts from Newton’s autobiography Narrative and his pamphlet Thoughts to discuss his personal journey from slave trader to abolitionist in text panels. The voice of Newton was omnipresent in the exhibition, as the CNM allowed him to narrate his own story through the use of extracts, lyrics and hymns. If Newton’s voice was omnipresent, so was his physical presence. The CNM possessed collections of his personal accoutrements such as his clerical bands, his diaries, his furniture, his pew from St Peter’s and St Paul’s church and various portraits. These artefacts adorned the exhibition, cultivating a highly personalised and emotive atmosphere befitting that of the historic house museum. Yet the CNM also linked the story of Newton to wider abolitionist discourses in order to add lustre to the local narrative. For example, a service held at Olney church on 27 March to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade foregrounded Newton but contextualised the role Olney played within a wider abolitionist framework. The service was largely celebratory and climaxed in a rendition of Newton’s most famous hymn, ‘Amazing Grace.’ Further, the CNM highlighted Newton’s relationship with William Wilberforce, suggesting that Newton was his ‘spiritual adviser’ and had urged Wilberforce to carry on fighting against the slave trade. Yet, owing to its highly specialised collections, the CNM lacked the material to critically bridge the spatial gaps between Newton and the wider abolitionist story. In an attempt to contextualise and resituate Newton’s story within national parameters, the CNM borrowed abolitionist artefacts from the Wilberforce House Museum, including Wedgwood cameos and a tobacco box lid with an abolitionist message. As has been thoroughly discussed by many critics, these objects and images possess a difficult legacy as they have the capacity to portray enslaved people as passive and in need of liberation by benevolent white abolitionists.47 Uncritical or decontextualised use of such objects can lead to problems of reductionism, obfuscation and negative symbolisation. The CNM used these objects as a visual shorthand to locate a specifically local story within a national context but neglected to see the negative meanings which they carried for many African-Caribbean peoples. Cubitt has argued that this type of display was a common discursive strategy for local museums during the bicentenary, especially for museums which lacked specific slavery 47 Mary Guyatt, ‘The Wedgwood Slave Medallion: Values in Eighteenth-Century Design,’ Journal of Design History, 13:2 (2000), pp. 93–105. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery collections.48 This approach, Cubitt argued, maintained the primacy of locally resonant narratives but added prestige by uncritically harnessing elements of the largely celebratory abolitionist discourse perpetuated at the national level. Yet the biographical approach of the CNM was often more complex than this and, in some ways, was a means to facilitate a fertile interrogation of Newton, his place in the wider history of abolition and the relevance of his story within Olney. Despite the somewhat standardised and uncritical interpretations of Newton within the ‘official’ text panels, numerous local community events acted as ‘guerrilla memorialisations’ to open up interpretations of Newton and his abolitionism.49 Guerrilla memorialisations, Rice argues, are dynamic, insurgent memory interventions which disrupt traditional or ‘official’ remembrances. Such interventions may have the aim of injecting alternative perspectives or of challenging silences. Working with black and ethnic minority groups from Milton Keynes, as well as local school groups, the CNM dialogised Newton’s abolitionist tracts and hymns with African and West Indian songs as well as self-authored poetry, providing a dynamic and unexpected reinterpretation of Newton’s works. The poetry of eighteenth-century abolitionists, including William Cowper (to whom half of the museum was dedicated), was reworked in the present day, and provocative interventions in public space, through the use of drama performances by Stantonbury College and the vocal group Black Voices, disrupted the hegemony of the abolitionist narrative. Such interventions brought to light the nuances of Newton’s memory among diverse constituents in the local area and suggested that, even at the local level, there existed not one but many memories and narratives of Newton which intersected and conversed with one another, bringing the specifically local into contact with the national and diasporic. The resonances of slavery are transnational and in an increasingly globalised world it is possible for explicitly local narratives and meanings to travel and to be adopted and adapted by others. New meanings surrounding Newton’s memory were being forged at the international level which challenged the ways his narrative was constructed locally. By the mid-twentieth century, Newton’s ‘Amazing Grace’ had become a popular song in African American communities and was described by Basker as the ‘paradigmatic Negro spiritual.’50 Newton wrote ‘Amazing Grace’ in 1779 and, despite the song’s later associations, it was not originally intended as an anti-slavery hymn but 48 Cubitt, ‘Bringing it Home.’ 49 Alan Rice, Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press, 2009). 50 James Basker, Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery 1660–1810 (New York: Vail Ballou Press, 2002), p. 281. •


Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery instead charts Newton’s personal journey to Christian redemption. ‘Amazing Grace’ was not one of his most popular hymns at home; even during his centenary in 1907, the hymn was not listed as one of his masterpieces. Yet in America, the song was adopted to symbolise the struggles of African Americans. The song was sung by Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin and another verse, passed down orally by African American communities, was added. The song took on a political tone in the 1960s when Mahalia Jackson and Fannie Lou Hamer sang it for Civil Rights marchers, and the ‘dangers, toils, and snares’ referred to were understood as universal testimony of the African American experience. The African American resonances surrounding the song subtly changed the tenor of the narrative surrounding Newton in Olney. In some respects, this was opportunistic as the CNM had identified American tourists as a potentially valuable visitor base. Organised by a local tour company, the CNM hosted a number of American ‘hymn-writing tours’ on which religious tourists (a large proportion of whom were African American) undertook a guided tour of the homes of historic hymnologists. The CNM therefore promoted itself as the ‘home’ of ‘Amazing Grace’ in 2007 and invited the American gospel choir the Todd Murray Group to sing in the church and the museum during the bicentenary. This also affected the tone of displays in the museum. On a text panel, the song is described as the ‘international anthem for the human rights movement.’ Further text states that the song was sung during the American Civil War and during Martin Luther King Jr’s march on Washington to deliver his ‘I have a Dream’ speech. This emphasis on ‘Amazing Grace’ as a song of resistance (rather than a song of religious conversion) summoned the language of international human rights into the CNM and subtly altered the local meanings surrounding Newton and his works. The intertwining of narratives and discourses of slavery and of civil rights is something that became prevalent in the twentieth and twenty-first century as museums increasingly addressed the social legacies of slavery. For example, the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool has a ‘legacies’ wall depicting the many moments of black resistance against inequality in the UK, the Caribbean and America (e.g. the black panther movement in America or the Toxteth riots in Liverpool).51 Similarly, Oldfield has also stated that Wilberforce was cast in the role of ‘modern human rights campaigner’ in various circles, which his hometown, Hull, used to construe itself as the birthplace of the human rights movement.52 51 See Richard Benjamin, ‘Museums and Sensitive Histories: The International Slavery Museum,’ in Ana Lucia Araujo (ed.), Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space (New York: Routledge, 2012), pp. 178–98. 52 Oldfield, Chords of Freedom, p. 3. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery In addition to this, the CNM realised that it needed to integrate a more critically aware narrative about Newton’s role as a slave trader and to link this to a broader exploration of the experiences of the slave trade. At a curatorial level, this aim was informed by recognition of wider conversations happening in museums nationally and internationally: for example, the use of the phrase ‘enslaved Africans’ rather than ‘slaves’ in the CNM showed understanding of the linguistic debates which arose in relation to 2007.53 There was an attempt to encompass the viewpoints of enslaved peoples, which also demonstrated dialogue with discussions occurring in AfricanCaribbean communities. But this expansion of the museum’s remit – to provide a more general examination of the slave trade beyond Newton – proved tricky for the CNM. Owing to limitations in its collections and its specifically ‘local’ institutional remit, it was difficult for the CNM to bridge to spatial gaps between the highly personal (Newton) and the perceived ‘other’ (the enslaved), the ‘here’ (Olney) and the ‘elsewhere’ (Africa or the Caribbean). A number of discursive and exhibitionary strategies were employed, some of which were successful while others were more problematic. For example, in an effort to explore African experiences of the Middle Passage, a shoulder-high model of a slave ship was mounted, sliced in cross-section, complete with figurines of enslaved people. Underneath this model was a white outline, the size and shape of coffin, representing the amount of space available for an enslaved person, surrounded by replica yokes and shackles. There are various ethical problems when using decontextualised models and images of the Middle Passage to represent the experiences of the enslaved. Wood has argued that experience of the slave ship is ‘untranslatable’ and representations of it, especially those from the abolitionist tradition such as the image of the Brookes, are at best inadequate and at worst construct an impression of enslaved Africans as passive, inanimate objects, denying them human agency.54 Such representations also have the effect of closing down dialogue between different perspectives, as the enslaved are there to be ‘gazed upon’ rather than engaged with. Yet the CNM employed another discursive strategy which more successfully opened up dialogue between the ‘local’ and the ‘other.’ This strategy was the juxtaposition of Newton’s voice with those of enslaved Africans. For example, the CNM introduced Newton as a slave trader and used a quotation from his diary in 1788 describing the shockingly putrid conditions of the slave ship hold as he experienced it. It depicted the ‘heat and smell’ of the hold and made observations about the high number of deaths aboard ship. This quote was juxtaposed with an excerpt from 53 Smith et al., Representing Enslavement, p. 3. 54 Wood, Blind Memory, p. 15. •


Museum Narratives of Slavery and Anti-Slavery

Image 10.1: The slave ship model at the Cowper and Newton Museum. Reproduced with the permission of the Trustees of the Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney

Ottobah Cugoano – an enslaved African – discussing his violent treatment by slave merchants. Many museums chose to employ first-person narratives as a way to ‘humanise’ the inherently dehumanising trade in people and to insert African or diasporic voices into their narratives. Although such slave •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery narratives, with their connection to voyeuristic practices of the eighteenthcentury abolitionist movement, are not – as Zoe Norridge and Barnor Hesse point out – unproblematic, this exhibitionary technique has the potential to decentre the ‘local’ and destabilise narrative authority within the museum, allowing multiple viewpoints to exist concomitantly.55 Moreover, it places both viewpoints within a dialogic context, which subtly alters the meanings and resonances of both narratives as they converse and challenge each other. The narratives of Newton were somewhat destabilised through this technique and brought into conversation with wider frameworks that connected the local to the diasporic and transnational. This chapter has examined how the complex transnational history of slavery was narrated, negotiated and endowed with meanings within a local museum context at two moments in time 100 years apart. At a fundamental level, this study has demonstrated the changing and emergent nature of slavery remembrance and has highlighted ‘locality’ as a fertile lens through which to study this. At a more specific level, it has examined the complex negotiations and tensions involved in crafting and recrafting a narrative of slavery within a specific local context. Yet, in doing so, it has questioned the idea of the ‘local’ as something fixed or homogeneous. A dialogic approach allows the unravelling of multiple conversations and tangles between local, national and international meanings and narratives which always impinge upon the construction of narratives at the local level. By tracing the threads woven into the narrative fabric of the CNM, this chapter has reflected upon the changing meanings of Newton, slavery and anti-slavery in Olney, suggesting that an initial narrative of evangelical redemption was displaced by a more unstable narrative that struck across local, national and diasporic registers. Ultimately, as a transnational history, inherently concerned with the interconnection of localities, the representation of slavery in museums should be sensitive to the multiple historical entanglements between people and places around the Atlantic world, in an effort to create what Cubitt has called a ‘joined up understanding’ of the many impacts and legacies of transatlantic slavery.56

55 Zoe Norridge, ‘Finding a Home in Hackney? Reimagining Narratives of Slavery through a Multicultural Community Museum Space,’ African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, 2:2 (2009), pp. 167–79; Barnor Hesse, ‘Forgotten Like a Bad Dream: Atlantic Slavery and the Ethics of Postcolonial Memory,’ in Ato Quayson and David Theo Goldberg (eds), Relocating Postcolonialism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), pp. 143–73. 56 Cubitt, ‘Displacements and Hidden Histories,’ p. 155. •


Afterword John Oldfield Afterword

Slavery was an unavoidable and, some might have deemed, necessary adjunct of empire during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. All of the major European powers at one time or another entered the Atlantic slave trade, just as most of them possessed slave colonies. Yet it was the British who came to dominate the trade. Between 1662 and 1807, British imperial ships carried just over 3.4 million slaves from Africa, or roughly half of all the slaves shipped from Africa to the Americas in this period.1 Moreover, the slave trade was protected by powerful state interests, among them the Royal Navy, whose maritime ascendancy kept Britain’s rivals – especially the French and Portuguese – at arm’s length. Even after the abolition of the British slave trade in 1807, Britain remained an important slave power, with colonial possessions in the Caribbean that included Jamaica, Barbados, Nevis and St Kitts. Eventually, in 1833, slavery too was abolished but not without the British government having to make significant concessions. Not only were slaveholders in the Caribbean offered an apprenticeship system designed to ease the transition from slavery to freedom, they also received £20 million pounds in compensation, a huge sum that imposed a significant burden on the British taxpayer.2 Needless to say, the victims in this story – the 800,000 men, women and children who had survived the degradation and inhumanity of being enslaved – received nothing. 1 David Richardson, ‘The British Empire and the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1660–1807,’ in P. J. Marshall (ed.), The Oxford History of the British Empire, Volume II, The Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 441. 2 After vociferous opposition from abolitionists, the apprenticeship system was finally abandoned in August 1838. See Howard Temperley, British Anti-Slavery, 1833–1870 (London: Macmillan, 1972), pp. 16–18, 36–41. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Not surprisingly, Britons chose not to dwell on this tangled history. Instead, they concentrated on a rather different narrative, one that stressed Britain’s role in bringing slavery to an end. This culture of abolitionism was already in place by 1859, perhaps even earlier, and has proved remarkably enduring.3 To be sure, there were dissenting voices, among them Eric Williams, whose Capitalism and Slavery (1944) controversially dismissed the role of humanitarian reformers like William Wilberforce and instead argued that abolition was best understood in terms of the ‘decline’ of the British West Indies. ‘When British capitalism depended on the West Indies, [capitalists] ignored slavery or defended it,’ he boldly asserted. ‘When British capitalism found the West Indian monopoly a nuisance they destroyed West Indian slavery as the first step in the destruction of West Indian monopoly.’4 Williams made two other claims that are important here: the first was that Caribbean slavery stimulated industrial expansion in Britain; the second was that slave wealth contributed significantly to Britain’s social, cultural and political life. Yet, for a variety of reasons, not least his professed Marxism, Williams’s ideas gained little purchase, at least outside the Caribbean. On the contrary, what is so often striking is the determination of scholars on both sides of the Atlantic to prove Williams – and particularly his decline thesis – wrong.5 In recent years, however, debate has shifted yet again, leading to a re-evaluation of Williams’s arguments.6 Several trends are important here, among them the emergence of what is often referred to as the ‘new imperial history,’ which, at the risk of oversimplification, sees metropole and colony 3 See J. R. Oldfield, ‘Chords of Freedom’: Commemoration, Ritual and British Transatlantic Slavery (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), pp. 2, 89–90. 4 Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1944), p. 169. 5 See, in particular, Seymour Drescher, Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977). Drescher’s refutation of Williams’s decline thesis proved remarkably influential, especially outside the Caribbean. For a brief overview of this debate, see David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 240–45. Interestingly, Davis broadly supports Drescher’s arguments which, he says, ‘totally destroyed the widely accepted belief that the British slave system had declined in value before Parliament outlawed the slave trade’ (p. 241). 6 See Catherine Hall, Nicholas Draper, Keith McClelland, Katie Donington and Rachel Lang, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), especially pp. 9–14; Nicholas Draper, ‘The Rise of a new Planter Class? Some Countercurrents from British Guiana and Trinidad, 1807–1833,’ Atlantic Studies, 9:1 (2012), pp. 65–83; David Beck Ryden, West Indian Slavery and British Abolition, 1783–1807 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). •


Afterword as constituent parts of what might be called ‘Greater Britain.’7 Meanwhile, the language of diversity and more inclusive notions of Britishness have led to a much greater emphasis on minorities and history ‘from below.’ These trends, in turn, have neatly dovetailed with developments in the United States where, in response to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, historians began to look again at plantation life in the Americas. The last quarter of the twentieth century witnessed a remarkable outpouring of books and articles on transatlantic slavery, nearly all of which rejected the traditional model of slave brutality in favour of slave autonomy, a term that has become synonymous, since the 1970s, with slave culture, community and resistance. This inquiry was also driven by a more flexible approach to and interaction with new sources and new methodologies, among them literary theory, anthropology and historical archaeology. The result was a revolution in slave studies that, in many ways, reflected developments in other fields, notably women’s history. Suspicious of what in the past had undoubtedly been an over-reliance on European or ‘white’ perspectives, scholars of transatlantic slavery called instead for much greater emphasis on black agency and, just as important, African ‘voices.’8 No less important was a radical change in the way in which we access, handle and make available historical data. Today, we take it for granted that archives will have catalogued all of the references in their collections to slave voyages or slave holding in the Caribbean; but that was not how things were in the 1980s or even the 1990s. The early twentieth century witnessed an archival revolution, led principally by the National Archives (TNA) in Kew, whose various projects (Coming Here, for instance) made accessible huge amounts of material relating to the Caribbean, the slave trade and Africa.9 7 For the ‘new imperial history,’ see Antoinette Burton, ‘Who Needs the Nation? Interrogating “British” History,’ in Burton (ed.), Empire in Question: Reading, Writing, and Teaching British Imperialism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), pp. 41–55; L. Tabili, ‘Colony and Metropole: The New Imperial History,’ The Historian, 69:1 (2007), pp. 84–86; Catherine Hall and Sonya Rose (eds), At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Kathleen Wilson (ed.), A New Imperial History: Culture, Identity and Modernity in Britain and the Empire, 1660–1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); David Feldman, ‘The New Imperial History,’ Journal of Victorian Culture, 9:22 (2004), pp. 235–39; Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830–1867 (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002). 8 See, in particular, Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003); Peter Kolchin, American Slavery (London: Penguin, 1995); James Walvin, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery (London: HarperCollins, 1992); Eugene Gonovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (New York: Pantheon Books, 1974). 9 Sadly, the ‘Moving Here’ site is no longer maintained by the National Archives •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery These efforts were replicated at the local level, where libraries and record offices began to look afresh at their holdings, harnessing the latest computer technology to link their slavery-related material to national depositories like the TNA.10 This pioneering work, in turn, underpinned the development of massive new digital resources, chief among them the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, containing details of over 35,000 slave voyages, and the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project based at University College London, which has made available in a searchable format all of the records of the Slave Compensation Commission (1833).11 These various initiatives prompted (and reinforced) a reconceptualisation of transatlantic slavery, not as something distant but as a fundamental part of British social and economic life. Just how fundamental became apparent when scholars began to scratch below the surface, shifting their attention from the national to the local. One thinks, for instance, of Madge Dresser’s pioneering work on Bristol, which linked slavery – and specifically the slave trade – to the city’s built environment, or ‘squares of distinction,’ as she calls them.12 In recent years – particularly since 2007 – this historiographical trend has gathered momentum. Resources like the Legacies of British SlaveOwnership database have made it possible for the first time to trace with some precision how the profits from slavery filtered into Britain, in the process helping to shape local businesses and communities. As a result, new vistas have opened up, but no less important has been the re-evaluation of older histories that for whatever reason obscured the impact and legacy of British transatlantic slavery. This is necessarily painstaking work. Nevertheless, we are already beginning to get a much clearer picture of just how influential but an archived version can be accessed using the UK Government Web Archive. See (accessed 9 September 2015). 10 See (accessed 9 September 2015). 11 See ‘Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database,’ (accessed 9 September 2015). Many of the findings of this pioneering project are summarised in David Eltis and David Richardson, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010). For ‘The Legacies of British Slave-Ownership,’ see (accessed 9 September 2015). See also the accompanying book by Catherine Hall, Nicholas Draper, Keith McClelland, Katie Donington and Rachel Lang, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership. 12 Madge Dresser, ‘Squares of Distinction, Webs of Interest: Gentility, Urban Development and the Slave Trade in Bristol,’ Slavery and Abolition, 21:3 (2000), pp. 21–47. Dresser developed these ideas in her subsequent book, Slavery Obscured: The Social History of the Slave Trade in an English Provincial Port (New York: Continuum, 2001). For similar perspectives on Liverpool, see Anthony Tibbles, Suzanne Schwarz and David Richardson (eds), Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010). •


Afterword slave ownership was, not only in creating immense individual fortunes but also in enriching the nation’s social and cultural heritage. Region by region and locality by locality, scholars are starting to (re) write slavery back into British history. As is amply demonstrated in the present volume, the richness of this work makes a powerful case for the value of local history. Seen up close in this way, it is clear just how pervasive slavery was, encompassing the remotest quarters of the British Isles, including Cornwall, and creating links between the Caribbean, Britain and the East Indies that rested on complex patterns of investment and land ownership. Equally compelling is the new light that this collection sheds on the mentalities of slave merchants and the complex relationship that existed between abolitionists and anti-abolitionists. As Longmore and Donington stress in their respective chapters, these seemingly antagonistic groups (in Liverpool and Hackney) frequently lived and worshipped in close proximity to one another. Only in rare cases do they seem to have maintained what Longmore describes as ‘unwavering distinctions’ of the sort that made business and social contact impossible. Here and elsewhere, we can see clearly the influence of resources like the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership database. Interestingly, these same records also reveal the involvement of women in slavery, both as absentee slave owners and, later, as claimants for compensation. This is a hitherto untold story. Yet, as Hannah Young makes clear in her chapter, women like Anna Elizabeth Elletson negotiated this male-dominated world with considerable skill and ingenuity, using their gender (when necessary) to bully, manipulate and flatter attorneys and plantations managers alike. Not content with reshaping our understanding of the legacies of slavery, in recent years scholars have also turned their attention to the black presence in Britain. Until relatively recently, this was a discourse dominated by a handful of people, principally Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho, who had left behind them important literary relics: in one case an autobiography, in the other a collection of edited letters. We now know that behind these figures there were others, among them George Augustus Bridgetower, Charles McGee, Joseph Johnson, Dido and William Ansah Sessarakoo.13 13 For further information on these figures, see the ‘London, Sugar and Slavery’ gallery at London Docklands Museum, docklands/whats-on/permanent-galleries (accessed 9 September 2015). For Sessarakoo and Bridgetower, see Ryan Hanley, ‘The Royal Slave: Nobility, Diplomacy and the “African Prince” in Britain, 1748–1752,’ Itinerario, 39:2 (2015), pp. 329–47; ‘Two African Gentlemen,’ Victoria and Albert Museum, two-african-gentlemen-in-london (accessed 8 September 2015); ‘African Heritage in Classical Music,’, (accessed 9 September 2015). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Ryan Hanley introduces us to another one of these African travellers, John Jea, an itinerant Methodist preacher who visited London and Portsmouth between 1801 and 1817. Jea is a compelling figure, not simply because he was black and American but because he clearly adopted radically different styles of sermonising, depending on local circumstances. Thus while on one level Jea’s career reflects the strength of proslavery feeling in slave ports like Liverpool (and, conversely, the strength of abolitionism in Portsmouth), on another it sheds important light on the complex relationship between religion, anti-slavery and working-class radicalism. In other words, local context was everything, as it was when it came to slave ownership and the power and influence of the West India lobby. Read in this way, Hanley’s chapter sits neatly alongside Longmore’s analysis of the life and career of Thomas Staniforth, a seemingly unapologetic slave trader whose interests and opinions were diametrically opposed to those of Jea. The work of excavating Britain’s slave past, and tracing its local and regional resonances, has inevitably had an impact on how slavery is remembered. If one can talk of an orthodoxy here, it is that for many years, really from the Abolition Act of 1807, slavery and the slave trade were seen through the prism of abolition, and, more specifically, Britain’s heroic role in bringing slavery to an end. As Reginald Coupland explained to a meeting in Hull in 1933, abolition demonstrated that idealism was ‘not after all a romantic illusion.’ ‘It may be that politics is often no more than a mask for the strife of rival interests,’ he went on, fixing his sights on post-war cynics, ‘[b]ut the lives and work of Wilberforce and the “Saints” are certain proof that not merely individuals but the common will, the State itself, can rise on occasion to the height of pure unselfishness.’14 Whether we look at commemorative acts (those that took place in 1933, 1983 and 2007, for instance) or at the heritage industry, this culture of abolitionism held a powerful grip over public responses to slavery, as articulated by museums and galleries, community groups and, on occasion, government ministers.15 Only since the 1980s have we seen a concerted effort to disrupt this narrative and even then the response in some quarters has been slow and halting. If 2007 demonstrated anything, it was just how important figures such as William Wilberforce remained in the construction of national discourses around slavery and the slave trade. Nevertheless, much old orthodoxy has been overturned. A key role here has been played by museums. Starting in the 1980s and 1990s, new galleries 14 Reginald Coupland, The Empire in these Days: An Interpretation (London: Macmillan, 1935), p. 268; emphasis in original. 15 For a broader treatment of these ideas, see chapters 4 and 5 of Oldfield, ‘Chords of Freedom.’ •


Afterword and museums were opened in the former slave ports, while others – in Hull, for instance – were extensively refurbished.16 There was a further burst of activity in 2007, when no less than four new slave exhibitions, five if we include the opening of the new ‘Atlantic Worlds’ gallery at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, were launched to coincide with the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade.17 Collectively, these different displays stressed a number of key themes. Slavery, for one thing, stopped being exotic – a curious outgrowth of Britain’s mercantile trade – and became instead an integral part of the nation’s rise to mercantile and military dominance. It was also ‘domesticated’ in the sense that it was linked to everyday ‘objects’: to street names, buildings, fashionable suburbs and even local schools. Correspondingly, there was much greater emphasis on black agency, reflected in elaborate displays devoted to slave rebellions and acts of slave resistance. Africa was also reimagined, not as a place where Europeans went to get ‘slaves,’ but as a rich and diverse continent capable of producing artefacts of the most stunning originality and complexity. The abolition story, meanwhile, was represented as a broad-based, popular movement that included blacks, as well as women. These museums, in short, set out to (re) write the history of slavery and abolition for a new generation of Britons, in the process presenting them with new ideas, new approaches and new sensations. Another important impetus came from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which in June 2006 launched a new initiative called ‘Remembering Slavery,’ although it is worth noting that by this date it had already made over 40 awards to a total value of over £10 million to projects connected to the then forthcoming bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade, including £1.6 million to National Museums Liverpool to establish a National Centre for the Understanding of Slavery and £800,000 to Wilberforce House 16 New displays were opened at Wilberforce House Museum in Hull in 1983, at Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool in 1994 and at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery in 1999. For details, see Oldfield, ‘Chords of Freedom’, pp. 119–20. The National Maritime Museum included a section on transatlantic slavery in its controversial ‘Trade and Empire’ gallery, which was opened to the public in 1997 and reopened in 2001, following extensive refurbishment. 17 The following museums or exhibitions were all opened in 2007: International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, ‘Breaking the Chains’ at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, ‘London, Sugar and Slavery’ at London Docklands Museum and new galleries at Wilberforce House Museum in Hull. The ‘Atlantic Worlds’ gallery at the National Maritime Museum opened in November 2007, that is, some months after the other museums and galleries mentioned above. There is even some doubt whether the NMM meant the gallery to be part of the 2007 ‘celebrations’ at all. The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum closed to the public in 2008. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Museum in Hull.18 By definition, these were large capital projects intended to have a lasting impact. At the same time, however, the HLF was keen to encourage community-based projects linked to the anniversary and, more important, to involve black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in 2007. The response was enthusiastic. Initiatives came from all parts of the country, including Scotland, Wales, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the North-East. Equally striking, an impressively wide range of organisations gained support from the HLF, among them schools, museums, archives, local authorities, community groups, theatre companies and arts organisations. In all, the HLF funded over 280 projects connected with the bicentenary – ranging from capital projects to touring exhibitions and workshops in local schools – at a total cost of between £15 and £20 million, or roughly 10 per cent of its operating budget.19 Several things were interesting about ‘Remembering Slavery.’ One was the aim to embed slavery in British national history; that is, to see it not in terms of the empire or British colonial history but as part of the web and weave of everyday life. Many of the projects supported by the HLF explored the slave trade links of specific regions and localities, often with the intention of challenging national orthodoxies or making connections where none had been thought to exist. Others sought to allow black communities to tell stories about themselves; hence the emphasis on opening up heritage collections and preserving documents related to slavery and the slave trade.20 Nothing was ruled out. Funds could be used to document the lives of black campaigners such as Olaudah Equiano, but equally they could be used to commemorate the work of William Wilberforce, the chief parliamentary supporter of abolition. The overriding factor was that projects should aim to conserve the UK’s diverse heritage and to highlight the many ways in which Britishness is imagined. In design and conception, therefore, ‘Remembering Slavery’ was an ambitious initiative, framed by an agenda that at once set a value on inclusivity, creativity and accessibility.21 18 Heritage Lottery Fund, The Heritage Lottery Fund and the Bicentenary of the Parliamentary Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in 2007 (London: HLF, 2006), p. 2. 19 Heritage Lottery Fund, A Review of HLF’s Activity during 2005–2007 to Mark the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade in British Ships (2007), available at http:// (accessed 9 September 2015). I am most grateful to Dr Jo Reilly at the HLF for providing me with a breakdown of the different projects funded by the HLF in 2005–2007. However, I should stress that she is in no way responsible for my interpretation of these figures, or for what I say below about the HLF’s activities in 2005–2007. 20 To take an obvious example, the HLF awarded £50,000 to Tyne & Weir Museums to identify slavery-related archives in the region and make them more accessible. 21 Heritage Lottery Fund, Remembering Slavery in 2007 (London: HLF, 2006). •


Afterword Important as these various initiatives were, they sometimes had the effect of ‘compartmentalising’ slavery, both in terms of displays and audiences. (This is particularly true in the case of slave museums, which, by definition, tend to treat slavery as exceptional, thereby creating a visitor experience that is self-contained and, in a sense, self-limiting.) As Leanne Munroe suggests in her chapter, the real challenge is to integrate slavery ‘into the mainstream of our history.’ Here again, the local museum context is important. Just as visitors go to the Cowper and Newton Museum in Olney for different reasons, so they go to stately homes, castles or country estates for different reasons. These sites provide the opportunity to introduce slavery into broader histories of collecting, building and estate management, thereby challenging visitors’ expectations. English Heritage and the National Trust are already beginning to explore these hidden histories in greater depth, even if there is much more they could be doing to acknowledge the role slavery sometimes played in making these estates and collections possible.22 The broader point is that such interventions create opportunities to introduce slavery to much larger numbers of people and to do so in contexts that are neutral or, at least, not immediately associated with either slavery or the slave trade. In this sense, there is a vital link between local, regional and national memories of slavery. But it is not just the heritage industry that is important here. So, too, is the need to (re)write local histories. As the essays by Jessica Moody and Michael Morris make clear, the traditional or accepted histories of former slave ports such as Liverpool and Glasgow suffer from a sense of collective amnesia when it comes to slavery and the slave trade. Very often, slavery is flooded by what Moody describes as a ‘discourse of maritime romanticism’ characterised by heroic endeavour, commercial ingenuity and rugged individualism. Stripping away the myths surrounding these histories is an important part of an evolving memory work that emphasises the extent to which the past is constructed. So, too, is the need to reinterpret sites like Glasgow’s George Square, or to reveal the ways in which slave owners represented themselves, not just to their families but to future generations. As Catherine Hall rightly says in her fascinating essay on the Caribbean slave owner and proslavery advocate Edward Long, ‘disavowal’ was an important part of this process, perhaps 22 English Heritage has already done important work in this area. See, in particular, Madge Dresser and Andrew Hann (eds), Slavery and the British Country House (London: English Heritage, 2013). The National Trust has arguably been slower to respond, but see The National Trust Magazine (Summer 2015, p. 49) for a piece on some of the Trust’s ‘hidden histories,’ and the recent interview with the National Trust’s new chairman, Tim Parker, in Country Life, 29 April 2015. •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery no better illustrated than by Long’s elaborate memorial in Slindon Church in West Sussex, which celebrates not his slaving past but his merits as a historian and a local (Caribbean) judge. More work of this kind needs to be done, just as more ‘institutions’ (the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, for example) need to be brought on board. Nevertheless, the contours of a very different history of British slavery are starting to emerge, linking together local, national and global perspectives into a compelling narrative. It is a cliché but the best local history sheds light on bigger issues, helping us to see them in new and different ways. This is particularly true in the case of transatlantic slavery, where national myths about the past have proved difficult to dislodge. As the essays in this volume make clear, local studies are important, not least because they demonstrate just how far the tentacles of transatlantic slavery reached. If it was once tempting to see slavery as a maritime activity confined to Britain’s slave ports, we can now see it for what it was: a highly profitable enterprise that touched upon the lives of ordinary men and women from one end of the country to the other. The work presented here also sheds important new light on anti-slavery; indeed, these two histories were inextricably linked and need to be seen as such. It may be some time before a comprehensive picture of the legacies of British slave ownership emerges. Nevertheless, even at this distance it is clear that the old consensus, the one that focused almost exclusively on Britain’s tradition of humanitarianism, has broken down. As the bicentenary of emancipation in 2033 approaches, we have an opportunity to ‘repair’ some of these histories. One thing is certain: Britons will never look upon slavery in quite the same way again.


Selected Bibliography Selected Bibliography

Abbott, H. Porter, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). Adogame, Afe and Andrew Lawrence (eds), Africa in Scotland, Scotland in Africa: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Hybridities (Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill, 2014). Aitken, Jonathan, John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007). Anstey, Roger, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition (London: Macmillan, 1975). — and P. E. H. Hair (eds), Liverpool, the African Slave Trade, and Abolition (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1976). Araujo, Ana Lucia (ed.), Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space (New York: Routledge, 2012). Armitage, David and Michael Braddick, The British Atlantic World, 1500–1800, 2nd ed. (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (London: Routledge, 2002). Aslanian, Sebouh David, Joyce E. Chaplin, Ann McGrath and Kristin Mann, ‘AHR Conversation – How Size Matters: The Question of Scale in History,’ American Historical Review, 118:5 (2013), pp. 1431–72. Aughton, Peter, Liverpool: A People’s History, 2nd ed. (Lancaster: Carnegie, 2003). Bailyn, B. and P. Morgan (eds), Strangers within the Realm: Cultural Margins of the First British Empire (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1991). Bakhtin, Mikhail, The Dialogic Imagination, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1981). Bannet, Eve Tavor, Empire of Letters: Letter Manuals and Transatlantic Correspondence, 1688–1820 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Barker, E. E. and A. Kidson, Joseph Wright of Derby in Liverpool (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2007). Basker, James, Amazing Grace, An Anthology of Poems about Slavery, 1660–1810 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002). Bayly, Chris, ‘The First Age of Global Imperialism, c. 1760–1830,’ Journal of Imperial and Colonial History, 26:2 (1998), pp. 28–47. —, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780–1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (London: Wiley Blackwell, 2004). Beckles, Hilary, Centering Women: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Society (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 1999). —, Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide (Mona: University of the West Indies Press, 2012). Beech, John, ‘A Step Forwards or a Step Sideways? Some Personal Reflections of How the Presentation of Slavery Has (and Hasn’t) Changed in the Last Few Years,’ 1807 Commemorated, exhibitions/museums/step.html, [accessed 21 August 2013]. Belcham, John (ed.), Popular Politics, Riot and Labour: Essays in Liverpool History, 1790–1940 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1992). — (ed.), Merseypride: Essays in Liverpool Exceptionalism (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000). — (ed.), Liverpool 800: Culture, Character and History (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2006). —, Irish, Catholic and Scouse: The History of the Liverpool Irish, 1800–1939 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007). Bentley, Michael, The Climax of Liberal Politics: British Liberalism in Theory and Practice, 1868–1918 (London: Edward Arnold, 1987). Berg, Maxine, ‘Women’s Property and the Industrial Revolution,’ The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 24:2 (1993), pp. 233–50. —, Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). Bernstein, Marion, A Song of Glasgow Town: The Collected Poems of Marion Bernstein, ed. Edward H. Cohen, Anne R. Fertig and Linda Fleming (Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2013). Beyen, Marnix and Brecht Deseure (eds), Local Memories in a Nationalizing and Globalizing World (Houndsmill: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Blackburn, Robin, The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern (London: Verso, 1997). Bohls, Elizabeth, Slavery and the Politics of Place: Representing the Colonial Caribbean, 1770–1833 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). Bowen, H. V., E. Mancke and J. G. Reid (eds), Britain’s Oceanic Empire: Atlantic and Indian Ocean Worlds, c. 1550–1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).


Selected Bibliography —, John McAleer and Robert J. Blyth (eds), Monsoon Traders: The Maritime World of the East India Company (London: Scala Arts and Heritage, 2011). Brathwaite, Kamau, ‘The Emigrants,’ in The Arrivants, A New World Trilogy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973). Bressey, Caroline, Empire, Race and the Politics of Anti-Caste (London: Bloomsbury, 2013). Brocklehurst, Helen and Robert Phillips (eds), History, Nationhood, and the Question of Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). Brown, Christopher, Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006). Brown, Vincent, The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008). Burnard, Trevor, Mastery, Tyranny and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and his Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004). —, ‘Passengers Only: The Extent and Significance of Absenteeism in EighteenthCentury Jamaica,’ Atlantic Studies, 1:2 (2004), pp. 178–95. Burton, Antoinette (ed.), Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005). — (ed.), Empire in Question: Reading, Writing, and Teaching British Imperialism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011). Butler, Kathleen Mary, The Economics of Emancipation: Jamaica and Barbados, 1823–1843 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995). Cain, P. J. and A. G. Hopkins, ‘Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Overseas Expansion: The Old Colonial System, 1688–1850,’ The Economic History Review, 39:4 (1986), pp. 501–25. Calder, Angus, Scotlands of the Mind (Edinburgh: Luath, 2002). Carey, Brycchan, British Abolitionism and the Rhetoric of Sensibility: Writing, Sentiment, and Slavery, 1760–1807 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). —, ‘Guernsey and the Slave Trade: A Reassessment,’ Report and Transactions of La Société Guernesiaise, 27 (2008), pp. 360–74. Carretta, Vincent, Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2005). Carrington, Selwyn H. H., ‘The American Revolution and the British West Indies’ Economy,’ Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 17:4 (1987), pp. 823–50. Carruthers, G. (ed.), Edinburgh Companion to Robert Burns (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009). Cavanagh, Terry, Public Sculpture of Liverpool (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997). Chalus, Elaine, Elite Women in English Political Life, c. 1754–1790 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2005). Chater, Kathleen, Untold Histories: Black People in England and Wales during


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery the Period of the British Slave Trade, c. 1660–1809 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009). Christopher, Emma, Cassandra Pybus and Marcus Rediker (eds), Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2007). Cohen, Deborah, Family Secrets: The Things We Tried to Hide (London: Penguin, 2014). Cohen, Stanley, States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001). Colledge, J. J. and Ben Warlow, Ships of the Royal Navy (London: Casemate, 2010). Colley, Linda, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837 (London: Pimlico, 1994). Connerton, Paul, How Societies Remember (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Cooper, W. Donald, Methodism in Portsmouth, 1750–1932 (Portsmouth: Portsmouth City Council, 1973). Costello, Ray, Black Liverpool: The Early History of Britain’s Oldest Black Community 1730–1918 (Liverpool: Picton Press, 2001). —, Black Salt: Seafarers of African Descent on British Ships (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012). Craton, Michael and James Walvin, A Jamaican Plantation: The History of Worthy Park, 1670–1970 (London: W. H. Allen, 1970). Crawford, Robert, On Glasgow and Edinburgh (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). Cubitt, Geoffrey (ed.), Imagining Nations (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998). —, ‘Bringing it Home: Making Local Meaning in 2007 Bicentenary Exhibitions,’ Slavery and Abolition, 30:2 (2009), pp. 259–75. Dann, G.  M. and A. V.  Seaton (eds), Slavery, Contested Heritage, and Thanatourism (New York: Haworth Hospitality Press, 2001). Davidoff, Leonore and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2002). Davies, John, ‘Liverpool Guides, 1795–1914,’ Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 153 (2004), pp. 63–85. Davis, David Brion, ‘James Cropper and the British Anti-Slavery Movement, 1821–1823,’ Journal of Negro History, 45:4 (1960), pp. 241–58. —, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). Dawson, N. M. and Felix Larkin (eds), Lawyers, the Law and History: Irish Legal History Society Discourses and Other Papers, 2005–2011 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2013). Day, Ann and Ken Lunn, ‘British Maritime Heritage: Carried along by the Currents?,’ International Journal of Heritage Studies, 9:4 (2003), pp. 289–305. •


Selected Bibliography Deacon, Bernard, Cornwall: A Concise History (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007). Devine, T. M. Tobacco Lords: A Study of the Tobacco Merchants of Glasgow and their Trading Activities, 1740–1790 (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1975). —, ‘Did Slavery Make Scotia Great?,’ Britain and the World, 4 (2011), pp. 40–64. —, (ed.), Remembering Scotland’s Slavery Past: The Caribbean Connection (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015). Dian Kriz, Kay, Slavery, Sugar and the Culture of Refinement: Picturing the West Indies, 1700–1840 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008). Draper, Nicholas, ‘The City of London and Slavery: Evidence from the First Dock Companies, 1795–1800,’ The Economic History Review, 61:2 (2008), pp. 432–66. —, The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Drescher, Seymour, Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977). —, ‘The Slaving Capital of the World: Liverpool and National Opinion in the Age of Abolition,’ Slavery & Abolition, 9:2 (1988), pp. 128–43. Dresser, Madge, Slavery Obscured: The Social History of the Slave Trade in Bristol (London: Continuum, 2001). —, ‘Set in Stone? Statues and Slavery in London,’ History Workshop Journal, 64:1 (2007), pp. 162–99. —, ‘Remembering Slavery and Abolition in Bristol,’ Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, 30:2 (2009), pp. 223–46. — and A. Hann (eds), Slavery and the British Country House (Swindon: English Heritage, 2013). Driver, F., and D. Gilbert (eds), Imperial Cities: Landscape, Display and Identity. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999). pp. 215–37. Duffill, M. ‘The Africa Trade from the Ports of Scotland 1706–66,’ Slavery and Abolition, 25:3 (2004), pp. 102–22. Edward, Mary, Who Belongs to Glasgow? (Glasgow: Glasgow Libraries, 1993). Eichstedt, Jennifer and Stephen Small, Representations of Slavery: Race and Ideology in Southern Plantation Museums (Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002). Elder, Melinda, The Slave Trade and the Economic Development of EighteenthCentury Lancaster (Halifax: Ryburn, 1992). Erickson, Amy, Men, Women and Property in England, 1780–1870 (London: Routledge, 1993). Evans, Christopher, Slave Wales: The Welsh and Atlantic Slavery 1660–1850 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2013). Ferguson, Moira, Subject to Others: British Women Writers and Colonial Slavery, 1670–1834 (New York: Routledge, 1992). Finn, Margot, ‘Slaves out of Context: Domestic Slavery and the Anglo-Indian •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Family, c. 1780–1830,’ Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6:9 (2009), pp. 181–203. —, ‘Anglo-Indian Lives in the Later Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries,’ Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 33:1 (2010), pp. 49–65. Fryer, Peter, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London: Pluto Press, 1984). Gates, Henry Louis, The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988). Gauci, Perry, Emporium of the World: The Merchants of London 1660–1800 (London: Bloomsbury, 2007). Gikandi, Simon, Slavery and the Culture of Taste (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011). Gillis, John R. (ed.), Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994). Gleadle, Kathryn, Borderline Citizens: Women, Gender and Political Culture in Britain, 1815–1867 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Grant, Alexander and Keith J. Stringer, Uniting the Kingdom? The Making of British History (London: Routledge, 1995). Green, W. A., ‘The Planter Class and British West Indian Sugar Production, before and after Emancipation,’ The Economic History Review, 26:3 (1973), pp. 448–63. Greene, Jack P., Negotiated Authorities: Essays in Colonial Political and Constitutional History (Charlottesville, VA and London: University of Virginia Press, 1994). —, ‘Liberty, Slavery, and the Transformation of British Identity in the Eighteenth Century West Indies,’ Slavery & Abolition, 21:1 (2000), pp. 1–31. — (ed.), Exclusionary Empire: English Liberty Overseas, 1600–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Griffin, Paul, ‘Labour Struggles and the Formation of Demands: The Spatial Politics of Red Clydeside,’ Geoforum, 62 (2015), pp. 121–30. Guyatt, Mary, ‘The Wedgwood Slave Medallion: Values in Eighteenth-Century Design,’ Journal of Design History, 13:2 (2009), pp. 93–105. Gwyn, Marian, ‘Wales and the Memorialisation of Slavery in 2007,’ Atlantic Studies: Global Currents, 9:3 (2012), pp. 299–318. Haggerty, Sheryllynne, ‘Risk and Management in the Liverpool Slave Trade,’ Business History, 51:6 (2009), pp. 817–34. Hall, Catherine, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830–1867 (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002). —, ‘Troubling Memories: Nineteenth-Century Histories of the Slave Trade and Slavery,’ Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6:21 (2011), pp. 147–69. —, Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain (London and New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012).


Selected Bibliography —, ‘Gendering Property, Racing Capital,’ History Workshop Journal, 78:1 (2014), pp. 22–28. —, Nicholas Draper and Keith McClelland (eds), Emancipation and the Remaking of the British Imperial World (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014). —, Nicholas Draper and Keith McClelland, Katie Donington and Rachel Lang, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). — and Sonya Rose (eds), At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). Hall, Douglas, ‘Absentee Proprietorship in the British West Indies to about 1850,’ Journal of Caribbean History, 35:1 (2001), pp. 97–121. Hamilton, Douglas, Kate Hodgson and Joel Quirk (eds), Slavery, Memory, Identity: National Representations and Global Legacies (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2012). Hamner, Robert D. (ed.), Critical Perspectives on Derek Walcott (Boulder, CO, Lynne Riener Publishing, 1997). Hancock, David, Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community, 1735–1785 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). Harrison, Rodney, Heritage: Critical Approaches (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2013). Hendricks, Wanda, Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2014). Higman, B. W., Jamaica Surveyed: Plantation Maps and Plans of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Kingston: Institute of Jamaica, 2001). —, A Concise History of the Caribbean (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). Hilton, Boyd, ‘1807 and All That: Why Britain Outlawed Her Slave Trade,’ in Derek Peterson (ed.), Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa and the Atlantic (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2010), pp. 63–83. Hochschild, Adam, Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery (London: Pan Macmillan, 2006). Hodge, Christina and Christa Beranek, ‘Dwelling: Transforming Narratives at Historic House Museums,’ International Journal of Heritage Studies, 17:2 (2011), pp. 97–101. Holmes, Donna, ‘Passive Keepers or Active Shapers: A Comparative Case Study of Four Archival Practitioners at the End of the Nineteenth Century,’ Archival Science, 6 (2006), pp. 285–98. Hourcade, Renaud, ‘Commemorating a Guilty Past: The Politics of Memory in the French Former Slave Trade Cities,’ in Ana Lucia Araujo (ed.), Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space (New York: Routledge, 2012), pp. 124–40.


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Huzzey, Richard, Freedom Burning: Anti-Slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012). Jaggard, Edwin, Cornwall Politics in the Age of Reform, 1790–1885 (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1999). Jamieson, A. G. (ed.), A People of the Sea: The Maritime History of the Channel Islands (London: Methuen, 1986). Jasanoff, Maya, Liberty’s Exiles: The Loss of America and the Remaking of the British Empire (London: Harper Collins, 2011). Jordan, Kate, ‘The Captains and Crews of Liverpool’s Northern Whaling Trade,’ International Journal of Maritime History, 22:1 (2012), pp. 185–204. Kaminsky, Arnold, The India Office, 1880–1910 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1986). Kaul, Suvir, Poems of Nation, Anthems of Empire: English Verse in the Long Eighteenth Century (Charlottesville, VA and London: University of Virginia Press, 2007). Kazanjian, David, ‘Mercantile Exchanges, Mercantilist Enclosures: Racial Capitalism in the Black Mariner Narratives of Venture Smith and John Jea,’ The New Centennial Review, 3:1 (2003), pp. 147–78. Kelman, James, Some Recent Attacks, Essays Cultural and Political (Stirling: AK Press, 1992). Kerrigan, John, Archipelagic English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Kielstra, Paul, The Politics of Slave Trade Suppression in Britain and France, 1814–48: Diplomacy, Morality and Economics (London: Macmillan, 2000). Klein, Kerwin Lee, ‘On the Emergence of Memory in Historical Discourse,’ Representations, 69 (2000), pp. 127–50. Lambert, David, Mastering the Niger: James MacQueen’s African Geography and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2013). — and Alan Lester (eds), Colonial Lives across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). Lamont, Craig R. ‘Georgian Glasgow: The City Remembered through Literature, Objects, and Cultural Memory Theory,’ PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 2015. Langton, John and Laxton, Paul, ‘Parish Registers and Urban Structure: The Example of Late-Eighteenth Century Liverpool,’ Urban History, 5 (1978), pp. 74–84. Lerner, Gerda, ‘Reconceptualizing Differences among Women,’ Journal of Women’s History, 1:3 (1990), pp. 106–22. Levine, Philippa (ed.), Gender and Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Lincoln, C. Eric and Lawrence Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990).


Selected Bibliography Linebaugh, Peter and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (London: Verso, 2000). Macdonald, Sharon, ‘Reassembling Nuremberg, Reassembling Heritage,’ Journal of Cultural Economy, 2:1 (2009), pp. 117–34. Maclean, Gerald, Donna Landry and Joseph P. Ward (eds), The Country and the City Revisited: England & the Politics of Culture 1550–1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Macneill, Hector, Observations on the Treatment of the Negroes in the Island of Jamaica (London, 1788). Major, Andrea, Slavery, Abolitionism and Empire in India, 1772–1843 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012). Marr, James, The History of Guernsey: The Bailiwick’s Story (St Peter Port: The Guernsey Press, 2001). Marshall, P. J., ‘The Making of an Imperial Icon: The Case of Warren Hastings,’ Journal of Imperial and Colonial History, 27:3 (1999), pp. 1–16. —, The Making and Unmaking of Empires: Britain, India, and America c. 1750–1783 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). Mason, Matthew, ‘Keeping up Appearances: The International Politics of Slave Trade Abolition in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World,’ William and Mary Quarterly, 66:4 (2009), pp. 809–32. Mathurin Mair, Lucille, A Historical Study of Women in Jamaica (Mona: University of West India Press, 2006). McCalman, Iain, ‘Anti-Slavery and Ultra-Radicalism in Early NineteenthCentury England: The Case of Robert Wedderburn,’ Slavery & Abolition, 7:2 (1986), pp. 99–117. —, Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries and Pornographers in London, 1795–1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). Meyer, W. R., ‘Paul Le Mesurier, Lord Mayor of London,’ Report and Transactions of La Société Guernesiaise, 21:5 (1985), pp. 701–14. Middleton, S. and B. G. Smith (eds), Class Matters: Early North America and the Atlantic World (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008). Midgley, Claire, Women against Slavery: The British Campaigns, 1780–1870 (London: Routledge, 1992). —, Feminism and Empire: Women Activists in Imperial Britain, 1790–1865 (London: Routledge, 2007). Mingay, G. E., English Landed Society in the Eighteenth Century (London: Routledge, 1963). Molineux, Catherine, Faces of Perfect Ebony: Encountering Atlantic Slavery in Imperial Britain (Cambridge. MA: Harvard University Press, 2012). Morgan, Kenneth, Slavery, Atlantic Trade and the British Economy, 1660–1800 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000). Morgan, Thomas M., ‘The Education and Medical Practice of Dr. James


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery McCune Smith (1813–1865), First Black American to Hold a Medical Degree,’ Journal of the National Medical Association, 95:7 (2003), pp. 603–14. Morris, Michael, Scotland the Caribbean 1740–1833: Atlantic Archipelagos (London: Routledge, 2015). Morris, R. J., Men, Women and Property in England, 1780–1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). Mullen, Stephen Scott, ‘The “Glasgow West India Interest”: Integration, Collaboration and Exploitation in the British Atlantic World, 1776–1846,’ PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 2015. Myers, Norma, Reconstructing the Black Past: Blacks in Britain, 1780–1830 (London: Routledge, 1996). Nechtman, Tilman, Nabobs: Empire and Identity in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Newman, Las, ‘A West Indian Contribution to Christian Mission in Africa: The Career of Joseph Jackson Fuller (1845–1888),’ Transformation, 18:4 (2001), pp. 220–31. Nora, Pierre, ‘Between Memory and History, Les Lieux De Memoire,’ Representations, 26 (1989), pp. 7–25. Norridge, Zoe, ‘Finding a Home in Hackney? Reimagining Narratives of Slavery through a Multicultural Community Museum Space,’ African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, 2:2 (2009), pp. 167–79. O’Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson, ‘The Formation of a Commercial Lobby: The West India Interest, British Colonial Policy and the American Revolution,’ The Historical Journal, 40:1 (1997), pp. 71–95. —, An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). Oldfield, John, Chords of Freedom: Commemoration, Ritual and British Transatlantic Slavery (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007). — and Cora Kaplan (eds), Imagining Transatlantic Slavery and Abolition (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010). Osborne, Angelina, Equiano’s Daughter: The Life of Joanna Vassa (London: Krik Krak, 2007). Owens, Alistair, ‘Property, Gender and the Life Course: Inheritance and Family Welfare Provision in Early Nineteenth-Century England,’ Social History, 26:3 (2001), pp. 299–317. Page, Anthony, ‘“A Species of Slavery”: Richard Price’s Rational Dissent and Antislavery,’ Slavery and Abolition, 32:1 (2011), pp. 53–73. Parker, Matthew, The Sugar Barons (London: Walker, 2011). Parkinson, C. Northcote, ‘The Idea of a Maritime Museum,’ Nautical Research Society Transactions, 3 (1946), pp. 24–29. Patterson, Orlando, The Sociology of Slavery: An Analysis of the Origins, Development and Structure of Negro Slave Society in Jamaica (London: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1967). •


Selected Bibliography —, Slavery and Social Death (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982). Payton, Philip, Cornwall: A History, 2nd ed. (Fowey: Cornwall Editions, 2004). Peters, Caroline Marie, ‘Glasgow’s Tobacco Lords: An Examination of Wealth Creators in the Eighteenth Century,’ PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 1990. Petley, Christer, Slaveowners in Jamaica (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2009). —, ‘Plantations and Homes: The Material Culture of the Early NineteenthCentury Jamaican Elite,’ Slavery and Abolition, 35:3 (2014), pp. 437–57. Pettigrew, William, Freedom’s Debt: The Royal African Company and the Politics of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1672–1752 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2013). Porter, Bernard, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: What the British Really Thought about Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Quayson, Ato and David Theo Goldberg (eds), Relocating Postcolonialism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002). Ragatz, Lowell Joseph, ‘Absentee Landlordism in the British Caribbean, 1750–1833,’ Agricultural History, 5:1 (1931), pp. 7–24. Rawley, James, London, Metropolis of the Slave Trade (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2003). Rice, Alan, Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press, 2009). — and Johanna C. Kardux, ‘Confronting the Ghostly Legacies of Slavery: The Politics of Black Bodies, Embodied Memories and Memorial Landscapes,’ Atlantic Studies: Global Currents, 9:3 (2012) pp. 245–72. Richardson, David, Anthony Tibbles and Suzanne Schwarz, Liverpool and Transatlantic Slavery (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007). Roberts, Justin, Slavery and the Enlightenment in the British Atlantic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). Rodgers, Nini, Ireland, Slavery and Antislavery, 1612–1865 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). Rothschild, Emma, The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011). Rubenstein, William D., Men of Property: The Very Wealthy in Britain since the Industrial Revolution (London: Social Affairs Unit, 2006). —, Who Were the Rich? A Biographical Directory of British Wealth-Holders 1809–39 (London: Social Affairs Unit, 2009). Ryden, David Beck, West Indian Slavery and British Abolition, 1783–1807 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). Saillant, John, ‘Travelling in Old and New Worlds with John Jea, the African Preacher, 1773–1816,’ Journal of American Studies, 33 (1999), pp. 473–90. Satchell, Veront M., Hope Transformed: A Historical Sketch of the Hope Landscape, St. Andrew, Jamaica, 1660–1960 (Mona: University of the West Indies Press, 2012). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Sebastiani, Silvia, The Scottish Enlightenment: Race, Gender and the Idea of Progress (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Sekers, D. (ed.), The Diary of Hannah Lightbody, 1786–1790 (Aberystwyth: Martin Fitzpatrick and James Dybikowsk, 2008). Seymour, Susanne, Stephen Daniels, and Charles Watkins, ‘Estate and Empire: Sir George Cornewall’s Management of Moccas, Hertfordshire and La Taste, Grenada, 1771–1819,’ Journal of Historical Geography, 24:3 (1998), pp. 313–51. Sheridan, Richard, ‘Samuel Martin, Innovating Sugar Planter of Antigua, 1750–1776,’ Agricultural History, 34:3 (1960), pp. 126–39. —, ‘The Rise of a Colonial Gentry: A Case Study of Antigua, 1730–1775,’ The Economic History Review, 13:3 (1961), pp. 342–57. —, Sugar and Slavery: An Economic History of the British West Indies, 1623–1775 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974). Shyllon, Folarin, Black People in Britain 1555–1833 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977). Simey, Margaret B., The Disinherited Society: A Personal View of Social Responsibility in Liverpool during the Twentieth Century (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996). Sinclair, Iain, Hackney, That Red-Rose Empire (London: Penguin, 2010). Smith, Gene, The Slaves’ Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Smith, Kate, ‘Imperial Families: Women Writing Home in Georgian Britain,’ Women’s History Review, 24:6 (2015), pp. 843–60. Smith, Laurajane, Uses of Heritage (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2006). —, Geoffrey Cubitt, Kalliopi Fouseki and Ross Wilson (eds), Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums: Ambiguous Engagements (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011). Smith, Simon D., Slavery, Family and Gentry Capitalism in the British Atlantic: The World of the Lascelles, 1648–1834 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). Stoler, Ann Laura, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009). —, ‘Colonial Aphasia: Race and Disabled Histories in France,’ Public Culture, 23:1 (2010), pp. 121–56. Stumpf, V. O., Josiah Martin: The Last Royal Governor of North Carolina (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 1986). Swaminathan, Srividhya, ‘Developing the West India Proslavery Position after the Somerset Decision,’ Slavery and Abolition, 24:3 (2003), pp. 40–60. —, Debating the Slave Trade: Rhetoric of British National Identity, 1759–1815 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009). Sypher, Wylie, ‘The West Indian as a “Character” in the Eighteenth Century,’ Studies in Philology, 36:3 (1939), pp. 503–20.


Selected Bibliography Tadmor, Naomi, Family and Friends in Eighteenth Century England: Household, Kinship and Patronage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). Taylor, Alan, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832 (London: W. W. Norton, 2013). Temperley, Howard, British Anti-Slavery, 1833–1870 (London: Macmillan, 1972). Thomas, Dominic (ed.), Museums in Postcolonial Europe (London: Routledge, 2009). Thomas, Helen, Romanticism and Slave Narratives: Transatlantic Testimonies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). Thompson, E. P., The Making of the English Working Class (London: Random House, 1963). Trouillot, Michel-Rolphe, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1995). Waddams, S. M., Law, Politics and the Church of England: The Career of Stephen Lushington 1782–1873 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992). Walker, Christine, ‘Pursuing her Profits: Women in Jamaica, Atlantic Slavery and a Globalising Market, 1700–60,’ Gender and History, 26:3 (2014), pp. 478–501. Wallerstein, Immanuel, The Capitalist World-Economy (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1986). Walsh, Kevin, The Representation of the Past: Museums and Heritage in the Post-Modern World (London: Routledge, 1992). Walvin, James, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery (London: Harper Collins, 1992). Waterton, Emma, ‘Humiliated Silence: Multiculturalism, Blame and the Trope of “Moving On,”’ Museum and Society, 8:3 (2010), pp. 128–57. — and Steve Watson (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Heritage Research (Houndsmill: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). — and Ross Wilson, ‘Talking the Talk: Policy, Popular and Media Responses to the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Using the “Abolition Discourse,”’ Discourse Society, 20:3 (2009), pp. 381–99. Watson, Sheila, Suzanne MacLeod and Simon Knell (eds), Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and are Changed (London: Routledge, 2007). Wedderburn, Robert, The Horrors of Slavery and Other Writings, ed. Iain McCalman (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1991). Welsh, Louise (ed.), Yonder Awa: Poetry from the Empire Café (Glasgow: The Empire Café, 2014). Wertsch, James, Voices of Collective Remembering (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). Wheeler, Roxann, The Complexion of Race: Categories of Difference in EighteenthCentury British Culture (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). Whyte, Iain, Scotland and the Abolition of Black Slavery, 1756–1838 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006). •


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Williams, Eric, Capitalism and Slavery (London: Andre Deutsh, 1944). Williams, G., History of the Liverpool Privateers 1744–1812 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2004). Wilson, Ross, ‘Remembering to Forget? – the BBC Abolition Season and Media Memory of Britain’s Transatlantic Slave Trade,’ Historical Journal of Film, 28:3 (2008), pp. 391–403. Witcomb, Andrea, Re-Imaging the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2003). Wood, Marcus, Blind Memory: Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America, 1780–1865 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000). —, The Horrible Gift of Freedom: Atlantic Slavery and the Representation of Emancipation (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2010). Yerxa, Donald (ed.), British Abolitionism and the Question of Moral Progress in History (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2012). Zacek, Natalie, ‘Cultivating Virtue: Samuel Martin and the Paternal Ideal in the Eighteenth-Century English West Indies,’ Wadabagei: A Journal of the Caribbean and its Diasporas, 10:3 (2007), pp. 8–31. Zinsser, William (ed.), Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1995).


Index Index

Abercromby, Sir Ralph 213 Abney Park Cemetery (Hackney) 178–9, 194 abolition movement 2, 39 bicentenary of abolition (2007) 6, 13–15, 25, 60, 151n4, 174, 178, 200, 219, 237 Centenary of abolition (1907) 221–8 compensation paid to owners on abolition of slavery 32, 175, 237 evangelicalism 40 mixed attitudes of working-class 39–59, 60 reframing of roles through abolition 10, 13–14, 164, 165, 242 role played by women 86, 241 sugar boycotts 25–6, 108–110, 177 absentee slave ownership 83–101, 104, 184 geographic removal allowed psychological distance from exploitation 98 informal gentlemanly networks 92–4 male dominance of ownership 85, 92–4 profitability of West Indian colonies 84 •

stereotypical representations 83–4, 98–9, 101 Agbetu, Toyin 14n47 Aiken, John 177 Aikenhead, John 53 Aitken, Jonathan 226 Allan, Dr Douglas 156 Allen, William 178 Allmond, Charles 188 Araujo, Ana Lucia 200 Ashcroft, Bill 3 Atherton, John 66–7 Aughton, Peter 160, 161 Baird, John 214 Baker, Paul 229 Bambridge, George 31n29 Barbauld, Anna Laetitia 176–7, 188, 194 Barbauld, Rochemont 177 Barber, Jude 197 Basker, James 36 Baxter, Alexander 185 Bebb, John 124 Beckles, Hilary 4 Beech, John 12, 17, 164 ‘maritimising’ of slavery theory 150–51n4, 152, 156, 171 Beeston, Sir William 134


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Belcham, John 46n29, 154n15 Bellamy, Thomas 98n81 Benson, Moses 69 Bentley, Michael 150 Bernier, Celeste-Marie 180 Bernstein, Marion 206 bicentenary of abolition (2007) 6, 13–15, 25, 60, 151n4, 174, 178, 200, 219, 237 Binney, Rev. Dr Thomas 178 Binns, Dr Jonathan 165 Birdwood, G. C. M. 110–111 Blake, William 37 Boats, William 66, 69, 81 Boddington, Benjamin 186–8 Boddington, Samuel 184, 186–7, 188 Boddington, Thomas 139–40, 186–8 Bohls, Elizabeth 142 Boldero, John 102–3 Bolton, John 69, 78–9 Bor, Walter 166 Bostock, Robert 81 Boswell, James 205 Bourke, Nicholas 138 Bridgetower, George Augustus 241 Bristol 6–7 commemoration of abolition 15 exhibitions focused on slavery 11, 12, 151, 240, 243n17 ‘Pero’s Bridge’ 12 Britain Asian and Caribbean empires see British Raj; EIC (East India Company); West Indies decision to leave the European Union 4 depiction of planters as dissolute and despotic 107–8 examination of ‘big history’ datasets 5–6, 28–9, 112, 125, 239 geographic distance allows ‘forgetting’ of role in slavery 9–10 juxtaposition of perception of British Rule in India and Caribbean 108–110 •

‘maritimising’ of slave trade involvement 12, 17, 150–71 national identity and ‘Britishness’ 3–4, 9, 59, 154, 218 provincial and local experiences of slavery 6, 7–8, 15, 16 reframing of role in slave trade through abolition narrative 10–11, 13–14, 17, 237–8, 238 remembrances and re-remembering slavery 129–49 representations of slavery in public history 2, 9–15, 17–18, 105, 216–36 Royal Navy and role in slave trade 57–8, 237 transnational networks of families across empire 103–125 understandings of race in the eighteenth-century 97–8n75 ‘whitewashing’ of colonial history 2–3, 11, 105, 132, 229 British Raj 105, 112, 114 Broad Green (Liverpool) 74–5, 76, 78, 79 Bromley, Rev. Henry 190 Brookes slave ship 73, 158, 234 Brooks, Joseph 69, 72 Brooks, Joseph Junior 72–3 Brown, Christopher Leslie 137 Brown, Vincent 129 Brydges, James 91–2 Bunting, Jabez 53 Burchell, Rev. Dr Thomas 178 Burman, Mary 188 Burnet, Peter 211 Burns, Robert 205, 209 Burton, Antoinette 112 Byam, Sir Edward 116 Camden, William 182, 183 Cameron, David 2, 5, 114n54 Cameron, James 32 Campbell, Alexander 209 Campbell, Charles 211 Campbell, Colin 214 Campbell, Thomas 209–210


Index Carey, Brycchan 16, 19–38 Caribbean slave economy 105–6 separation from India in public perception 108–110 see also CARICOM; EIC (East India Company); West Indies CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) 4 reparations plan 4, 5 Carretta, Vincent 27 Carteret, Philip 28 Case, Thomas 69 Caspar, John 191 Caspar, Laura Ellen 191 Cass, Sir John 181–2, 183, 194 Centenary of abolition (1907) 221–8 Chambers, Charles 121 Chandler, George 162n51 Channel Islands 21–2 slave trade not documented in local history 23–5 see also Guernsey; Jersey Channon, Howard, Portrait of Liverpool 165–6 Chater, Kathleen 31 Chorley, John 74n36 Christie, James 26n25 Churchill, Winston 207 Clarke, Adam 46 Clarkson, Thomas 2–3, 12, 49, 205, 223 CNM (Cowper and Newton Museum) 216–17, 245 narrative of slavery during Abolition Centenary (1907) 221–8 narrative of slavery during bicentenary (2007) 221–2, 228–36 Colley, Linda 2 Compensation Commission 175, 237, 240 Cook, Alastair 197 Cooper, Thomas 54 Coote, Samuel 124 Copley, John Singleton, The Death of Major Pierson 26 •

Corbin, Francis 30 Cornwall literary works concerned with slavery 33–8 local experience of slave trade 21–38, 241 reluctance of historians to engage with evidence of slave trade 25–6 sugar boycott 25–6 Cornwallis, Charles 121 Coupland, Reginald 242 Coutart, William 29 Cowper, William 217, 223, 228, 232 Cozens, Kenneth 182 Cropper, James 109, 165 Cubitt, Geoffrey 14, 177, 179, 205, 229–30, 231–2, 236 Cugoano, Ottobah 48n36, 234–5 Cullen, Susannah 190 Cunninghame Graham, Robert Bontine 207–8 Currie, James 73–4 Currie, Ken 212 Dale, David 211 Dalton-Johnson, Kevin 12n39 Danvers, F. C. 110–111 Darnall Hall (Sheffield) 62, 63, 67, 79 Davenport, William 69 David, David Brion 238n5 Day, Ann 154, 156 De Beauvoir, Anne De Lisle 26–7 De Beauvoir, James 26–7 Deacon, Bernard 25 Devine, T. M. 204 Diboll, Charlotte 193 Dicey, Thomas, Historical Account of Guernsey 23 Dobrée, Nicolas 28 Dobrée, Pierre 29 Doegood, Robert 30 Dolan, Chris 196–7 Donington, Katie 1–18, 17, 98n81, 172–94 Donkor, Godfrey, ‘Financial Times’ 180


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Doran, Captain James 27 Douglas, Walter 185 Douglass, Frederick 212 Draper, Nicholas 4 Drescher, Seymour 7, 48–9, 152–3, 238n5 Dresser, Madge 7, 15, 222, 240 Drew, Julyan 25 Duncan, Jonathan 23–4, 33 Earle, Thomas 76 East, Edward 86–7, 89–91, 94 East India Company see EIC (East India Company) Ebsworthy, Thomas 29 Edwards, Bryan 34, 139–40 EIC (East India Company) 102, 104–5 archival structure 105–6, 110–112 separation from Caribbean in public perception 108–110 Eichstedt, Jennifer 225 Elletson, Anna Eliza 16, 83, 86–101, 241 gendered correspondence with plantation attorneys 87–91, 100–101 management of plantation 94–7, 100 marriage to James Brydges 91–2 paternalistic attitude towards enslaved workers 97–100 spirit of agricultural improvement 94–5n62 Elletson, Anna Eliza (Daughter) 92 Emidy, Joseph 30–31 Englefield, Sir Henry Charles 122–3 Equiano, Olaudah 14, 26, 30, 42n10, 178, 190, 212, 241, 244 Interesting Narrative 21–2, 27–8, 32–3, 190 Ewing, James 215 Fagen, Graham 200 Falmouth (Cornwall) 21, 27 evidence of connections to slave trade 30–32 •

Field, John 51 Firebrace, Sir Basil 185 Fordyce, James 85 Forsdick, Charles 216 Foster, John 74–5 Foster, W. F. 111 Fox, Charles James 131 Fox, Rev. Prebendary 224, 228 Franco, Moses 32 Fryer, Peter 33 Fuller, Alexander McCloud 192 Fuller, Joseph Jackson 192–4 Fuller, Stephen 137 Galton, Francis 103 Gates, Henry Louis 32 Gikandi, Simon 146–7 Gillis, John 152 Gladstone, Robert 158 Gladstone, William 158, 210 Glasgow emphasis on working-class politics 207 George Square 198, 207, 208–210, 215, 245 Glasgow Emancipation Society 202 importance of cotton industry 210–211 Kelvingrove Museum 196 memories of slavery 195–215 reliance on slave produce for economic growth 197–8 selective memories of involvement with slavery 206–7 Tobacco Lords 196, 203–4 Goore, Charles 63, 64n9, 66, 67–9, 81 Goore, Elizabeth 64 Gordon, Robert 96 Gove, Michael 9 Goveia, Elsa 148 Graham, Eric 200 Graham, James 210 Graham, Robert 207 Graham, Thomas 209, 210 Granger, James 212–13


Index Green Castle estate (Antigua) 115, 116–17, 118, 119, 124 Greenock port 197 Gregory, Kate 226 Grenfell, Pascoe 34 Grey, Patrick 188 Grey, Sarah 188 Griffin, Paul 207 Griffiths, Gareth 3 Grotius, Hugo 146, 148 Guerin, Maynard 28n23 Guernsey 21, 27–9 evidence of connections to slave trade 28–30 focus of historiography towards abolitionism 23–4 slave trade not documented in local history 23–5 Hackney local history and memories of slavery 172–94 tradition of dissent and non-conformity 176–7 Haggerty, Sheryllyne 7 Hall, Catherine 7, 9–10, 17, 87, 105, 129–49, 245–6 Hall, Douglas 84 Hall, Stuart 11, 172, 173, 189 Hamer, Fannie Lou 233 Hamilton, Thomas 205 Hancock, David 92, 104 Hanley, Ryan 1–18, 16, 39–59, 242 Hardie, Andrew 214 Harris, John 37 Harvey, Ann 188 Hastings, Warren 107, 122 Hatch, Nathan 44 Haydon, Benjamin Robert, The Anti-Slavery Society Convention 33 Hempton, David 39–40, 44 Herdman, W. G. 68 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), ‘Remembering Slavery’ 243–4 Hesse, Barnor 235–6 •

Hext, Francis Margery 64n11 Heywood, Arthur 66, 69 Heywood, Benjamin 66, 69 Higman, B. W. 136 Hill, Pascoe Grenfell 34–5 Himid, Lubaina 211 Hoare, Samuel Junior 177 Hobbes, Thomas 146 Hodson, Raj V. C. P. 102 Hope Elletson, Roger 87, 89–90, 93, 99, 139 Hope Estate (Jamaica) 87, 92, 93, 96–7n72 Hopper, Christopher 54 Howard, Elizabeth (née Long) 130–31 Howard, Henry 67, 130–31 Howman, Brian 48 Huggins, William John 184 Hugo, Victor 32 Hull, commemoration of abolition 15 Hume, David 146 Hume, Thomas 156 Hutcheson, Francis 205 Huws, Richard 167, 170 Huzzey, Richard 206 Ignatieff, Michael 173 India archival structure 105–6 India Office Records (IOR) 105, 111–12 see also EIC (East India Company) Ingram, Francis 75 Ingram, Kenneth, Manuscript Sources for the History of the West Indies 105 Irish, William 116 Jackson, George 183 Jackson, John 183 Jackson, Mahalia 233 Jamaica (West Indies) 130 Tacky’s rebellion 36, 136, 144 James, C. L. R. 4 Jamieson, A. G. 24 Jea, Elizabeth 43


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Jea, John 16, 26, 39–59, 242 adaptation of preaching to suit audiences 41–2, 43–50, 59, 242 Portsmouth 51–8, 59 time in Liverpool 43–50, 59 Jeppesen, Chris 16, 102–125 Jeremie, Sir John 23–4 Four Essays on Colonial Slavery 33 Jersey (Channel Islands) 22 Johnson, Elizabeth 193 Johnson, Joseph 241 Jones, Ron 165n67, 168–9 Kay, Jackie 200 Kazanjian, David 44 Kelley, Rev. Joseph 178 Kelman, James 208 Kemp, Rev. George 32 King, Martin Luther 233 King, Thomas 182–4 King, William 183 Kingsley, Charles 17 Kipling, Rudyard 102, 125 Klein, Kerwin Lee 171 Knight, Joseph 142, 206, 212–13, 213n68 Kowaleski-Wallace, Elizabeth, The British Slave Trade and Public Memory 12–13 Kristeva, Julia 221 Lace, William 80 Lacey, Louis 164 Laird, MacGregor 167 Lamont, Craig R. 202 Lancaster 11–12 ‘amnesiac’ memory of slavery 15 ‘Captured Africans’ memorial 12n39, 201 Lancaster, Joan 111 Lane, Thomas 90, 93 Langton, John 46 Lawrence, Stephen 13 Laxton, Paul 46 LBS (Legacies of British SlaveOwnership) 104, 175, 180–81, 240 •

Le Mesurier, Paul 28 Lecky, W. E. H. 2–3 Leigh, H. Hindley 76 Lewis, David 169–70 Lewis, Frances Maria 103 Lewis, Matthew 103 Lightbody, Hannah 72 Linnaeus, Carl 146 Littledale, Mary 77 Liverpool 6–7, 17 anti-abolitionist activity 48–9, 72, 74, 80, 153n12 attempts to romanticise maritime trade and minimise slave trade 160–62 attitude towards abolition 7, 48–9, 80 exhibitions focused on slavery 11, 156–60 Goree Piazza 162–71 high number of Irish immigrants 46n29 International Slavery Museum 160, 162, 233, 243n17 ‘maritimisation’ of slavery in memory work 150–71 ‘Merseypride’ discourse surrounding maritime history 154–6n15 Merseyside Maritime Museum 156–9n40 participation in slave trade 60–61 self-identification as area of enterprise and entrepreneurship 45, 59, 63, 152 Slavery Remembrance Day 12 Transatlantic Slavery Gallery 159–60, 162 working-class attitude to slavery 39, 46, 48–9 Livingstone, David 206 Locke, John 146 London 6–7, 242 exhibitions focused on slavery 11, 151 ‘Gilt of Cain’ monument 12


Index Long, Beeston 136, 137 Long, Colonel Charles 134–5, 141 Long, Edward 17, 97n76, 129–49, 245–6 advocate of legitimacy of slavery as an institution 130, 144–5 denial of humanity of enslaved 129–30, 138–9, 141, 144–5, 147–8 History of Jamaica 33–4, 97n75, 129–30, 137, 142–9 language of contamination when discussing racial mixing 145–6 memorial 131–2, 246 reaction to Mansfield judgement in Britain 140–41 sanitisation of plantation and colonial violence 143–4 time spent in Jamaica 135–6 Long, Elizabeth 130–31 Long, Mary (née Beckford) 131, 135 Long, Mary (née Tate) 135 Long, Robert 135–6 Long, Samuel 133–4, 137, 141 Longmore, Jane 16, 49, 60–82, 242 Longville Estate (Jamaica) 135–6 Lucas, Anna Maria 189 Lucas, Philip Monoux 189 Lucas, Phillip 189 Lucky Valley Estate (Jamaica) 135, 136 Lunn, Ken 154, 156 Lushington, Charles 123 Lushington, Sir Henry 103 Lushington, Matthew 102, 103 Lushington, Sir Stephen 102–3 Lushington, Dr Stephen 103 Lushington, Sir Stephen 123 Lyttelton, Henry 138–9 Macaulay, Thomas Babington 110 McCune Smith, James 202 Macdonald, Sharon 220 Macfarlane, Alexander 209 McGee, Charles 241 Mack, Sheree 197 McKendrick, Alan 214n75 MacKenzie, John M. 196, 207 •

Mclachlin, Sarah Evena 191 MacNeill, Hector 97 MacQueen, James 205, 215 Mais, Howard 191 Mais, John 191 Mais, John Casper 191 Major, Andrea 109 Mansfield judgement 140, 144 Marryat, Frederick 17 Marryat, Joseph 109 Marshall, Peter 107 Martin, Charlotte (née Yorke) 122 Martin family, international spread of family connections 114–16 Martin, George 116 Martin, Henrietta 117, 118 Martin, Henry (Grandson) 117, 118, 119 Martin, Henry William 119–20, 124–5 Martin, Henry Yorke 124 Martin, Josiah 116 Martin, Josiah (Grandson) 117, 118, 120–21 Martin, Josiah Henry 124 Martin, Matthew 121n87 Martin, Samuel 116 Martin, Samuel Jnr (Grandson) 117, 118–19, 122 Martin, Samuel (Son) 116–18, 122 Essay Upon Plantership 85 Martin, Sarah (née Wyke) 116 Martin, William Byam (Grandson) 117, 118, 121–3n87 Martin, William Byam Jnr 123–4 Mauger, Charles 24, 29 Mauger, John 29, 30 Methodism 39–41 contrast of American-style and Wesleyan Methodism 44, 53 fear of political radicalism among dissenting preachers 54–6 variation of political message by region and local exigencies 39–41 Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) 44, 46–8, 54 Mignard, Pierre 27 Millar, John 205


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Nichols, Grace 1, 9 Norridge, Zoe 179–80, 235–6 Nottingham, Alexander 76

Milliken, James 212 Mitchell, Stephen 197–8 Modyford, Jane 134 Moir, Martin 111 Molineux, Catherine 139 Montesquieu 146 Moody, Jessica 1–18, 150–71, 245 Moore, Sir Henry 135, 136 Moore, Sir John 210, 213–14 Moore, Dr John 213 Moran, Joe 62–3 More, Hannah 14, 37, 38 Morris, Michael 17, 195–215, 245 Morrison, Toni 129, 162 Muir, Ramsay, History of Liverpool 163, 164 Mullen, Stephen 200, 204, 215 Munroe, Leanne 17, 216–36, 245 Murray, George 123 museums changing slavery narrative at local level 216–36, 242–6, 245 differing transatlantic traditions of remembrance 216 historic house genre 225–6 International Slavery Museum 160, 162, 233, 243n17 Kelvingrove Museum 196 negotiating the local, national and transnational 217–22, 242–6 representation as process of dialogue 221 Wilberforce House Museum 225, 231, 243n16 Myers, Norma 46

Oakeley, Sir Charles 108 Oldfield, John 10, 15, 164, 206, 222, 233, 237–46 Olney (Buckinghamshire) 17, 216–36 Olusoga, David 5, 9n26 Oswald, James 210, 215 Oughton, Rev. Samuel 178 Owen, Robert 211–12 Page, Anthony 188 Palmer, Sir Geoff 200 Parkinson, Cecil Northcote 158 Parr, Thomas 123 Pascal, Michael 27, 28 Payton, Philip 25 Pearse, Eldred Lewis Blight 32 Peel, Robert 210 Pellew, Sir Edward 30 Pettigrew, William 182 Phillippo, Rev. James 192 Pierson, Major Francis 26 Pitt, William 137 Pole, William 76 Polwhele, Richard 36–7 Pool, John 86–7, 89–91 Pope, David 61, 69n19 Porter, Bernard 125 Portsmouth (Cornwall) 41, 51–8, 242 Prendergast, Lou, Blood Lines 197 Price, Richard 176–7, 187, 188 Priestley, Joseph 176–7, 187

New Lanark 211–12 Newton, John 17, 217 Authentic Narrative 223, 224, 231 discourse of evangelical redemption 217, 226–7 hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ 232–3 narrative of Newton in bicentenary events (2007) 228–36 narrative of Newton in centenary remembrances 222–8 •

Quilley, Geoff 154 racial ideology language of contamination when discussing racial mixing 145–6 persistent hierarchies even after abolition of slavery 132–3 understandings of race in the eighteenth-century 97–8n75, 132–3


Index Ranelagh Street (Liverpool) 68, 75, 78 Ratcliffe, Oliver 225 Rathbone, William 80, 165 reparations, demanded by Caribbean countries 4 Reynolds, K. D. 85–6 Rice, Alan 15, 211, 232 Robert, Jeanette 189 Roberts, Justin 95 Robertson, James 200 Rodney Street (Liverpool) 77 Rodney, Walter 4 Rogers, Samuel 176–7 Roscoe, William 49–50n49, 80, 165 Rothberg, Michael 199 Roughley, Thomas 85n12, 90n39 Royal African Company (RAC) 181 Rubenstein, William D. 183 Rubinstein, W. D. 96–7 Saillant, John 41 St Peter Port (Cornwall) 24 evidence of connections to slave trade 32 Saintsbury, George 109 Sancho, Ignatius 241 Sassi, Carla 202–3, 208 Scarlett, Eliza Virgo 100n91 Scotland colonial relationship with England 3–4 national memory of participation in slave trade 3–4, 195–215 referendum to leave the European Union 4 Scottish independence referendum 198, 199–200 ‘whitewashing’ of connections to slavery 200 Scott, Andrew 206 Scott, Daniel 210 Scott, Michael 205 Scott, Thomas 228 Scott, Walter 205, 209, 210, 214 Scrutton, Hugh 167 Seaborn, James 24, 29 •

Sebastiani, Silvia 146 Sessarakoo, William Ansah 241 Seward, Tony 229 Shankland, Graeme 166 Sharp, Granville 140, 144 Sheridan, Richard B. 95 Sherman, Rev. James 178 Sicard, Jacques 191 Simeon, Charles 228 Simey, Lady Margaret 150 Sinclair, Iain 176 slavery absentee slave ownership 83–101, 104 apprenticeship of emancipated slaves 132, 237n2 bicentenary of abolition of slave trade (2007) 6, 13–15, 25, 60, 130, 237 compensation paid to owners for loss of property 32, 132, 175, 183, 186, 214–15, 237 deregulation of slave trade 182 disavowal and re-remembering 129–49 Emancipation Act (1833) 132, 222, 237 examination of ‘big history’ datasets 5–6, 28–9, 112, 125 geographic distance allowed psychological distance from exploitation 98, 174 local history as means of engaging people 172–5, 241 maritimisation of slavery in memory works 150–71, 245 memory works focus on abolition narrative 10–11, 13–14, 17, 164–5, 229 reductive narrative on slave ‘trade’ rather than slavery 151–71 Slavery Compensation Commission 175, 237, 240 Small, Stephen 225 Smartt, Dorothea 195, 196 Smith, Adam 203, 205


Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery Smith, Edward 31 Smith, Gene 57 Smith, John 214 Smith, Laurajane 218–19, 229 Smollett, Tobias 101 Humphrey Clinker 83 Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade 177 Society of West India Merchants and Planters 137, 139–40, 185 Somerset, James 140 Southey, Robert 212 Staniforth, Alethea 77, 81 Staniforth, Charles 77 Staniforth, Elizabeth (Daughter of TS) 77 Staniforth, Elizabeth (née Goore; wife of TS) 64, 78 Staniforth, Henry 77 Staniforth, Mary 61n61 Staniforth, Samuel (Brother of TS) 61n61, 66–7 Staniforth, Samuel (Son of TS) 77, 78–82 Staniforth, Thomas 16, 60–78, 81, 242 apprenticeship 63–6 involvement in slave trade 69–72, 75, 81 lack of reference to abolitionism 69–72, 79, 81 private notebooks 61–3, 70–72 Staniforth, Thomas (Grandson of TS) 78–82n57 Stephen, James 130 Stevens Cox, Gregory 24, 28–9 Stewart, Charles 140 Stott, Ann 7 Stowe, Harriet Beecher 212, 233 Sturz, Linda 97–8 sugar boycott 25–6, 108–110, 177 Sulter, Maud 200 Tadmor, Naomi 93–4 Tarleton, Thomas 76 Taylor, Alan 57 Thompson, E. P. 40 •

Thomson, James 143 Tiffin, Helen 3 Timbs, John 185 Trahey, Erin 100n91 Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database 66, 69, 78 Trelawney, Edward 34 Trelawney, Sir William 34, 35 Tull, Jethro 94–5 UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) 9 Vale, Edmund 160–61 Vassa, Anna Maria 190 Vassa, Joanna 178, 179, 190–91, 192–3 Vaughn, Morgan 29 Venn, John 228 Vickers, John 51 Walcott, Derek 214 Walker, James 188–9 Wallace, James, General and Descriptive History of Liverpool 152–3, 153n11 Wallerstein, Immanuel 199 Walvin, James 1–2, 153n12 Ward, John 184–6 Wardlaw, Rev. Ralph 214–15 Wardle, Arthur C. 160–61 Watt, James 209 Watts, George Warren 69, 76 Wedderburn, Robert 55, 56 Weise, Johann Casper 191 Weise, Philippina 191 Welsh, Louise 197 Wertsch, James 218–19 Wesley, John 25–6, 39, 54 West Indies 102 CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) 4 documentation of government processes 105–6, 112–14 reparations plan 4, 5 sugar boycott 108–110


Index Westmacott, Richard 131 Whale, Derek 155–6 Wheeler, Roxanne 97n75, 149n60 Whyte, Iain 200 Wilberforce, William 10–11, 12, 34, 37, 38, 80, 109, 164–5, 222, 223, 233, 238, 242 friendship with John Newton 217, 224, 228, 231 Williams, Eric 4, 204, 238n5 Williams, Helen Maria 213 Wilson, James 214, 215 Wilson, Kathleen 134 Winder, Betty 66

Witcomb, Andrea 219, 226 Wolcot, John 35–6 Wollstonecraft, Mary 37, 176 Wood, James 46 Wood, Joseph Senior 177 Wood, Marcus 10, 160n41, 164 Wright, Joseph 60, 61, 63, 72, 79 Yates, Reverend John 72 Yeamans, Frances 116 Young, Arthur 95n64 Young, Hannah 16, 83–101, 241 Younge, Elizabeth (née Staniforth) 63 Younge, John 63



Image 1.1: Oil portrait of Ann De Lisle De Beauvoir, with young servant; circle of Henri Gascars, c. 1669. Courtesy of Guernsey Museums & Galleries (The States of Guernsey)

Image 3.1: Portrait of Thomas Staniforth, 1769, by Joseph Wright of Derby (1734–1797). There is no reference to Staniforth’s significant interests in the slave trade in this portrait yet one of his notebooks records his involvement in four voyages to Africa in the year in which the portrait was painted. These voyages included one of his least profitable investments: the 140-ton Betty, owned by a partnership of three Liverpool merchants, a ship carpenter and a sea captain, left Liverpool on 4 August with the intention of purchasing 300 slaves from Sierra Leone. Only 20 slaves were secured for the middle passage to Jamaica. Photograph © Tate, London 2015

Image 3.3: Portrait of Charles Goore (1701–1783) by Joseph Wright of Derby, c. 1769. Goore was one of eighteenth-century Liverpool’s leading merchants and father-in-law of Thomas Staniforth. Wright used the same unusual colour palette for this painting as for his portrait of Staniforth, presumably with the family’s approval. Copyright © Bridgeman Images

Image 9.1: Panel from the Great Tapestry of Scotland showing the Glasgow Tobacco Lords. Image courtesy of Alex Hewitt/ Great Tapestry of Scotland Trust