Category Archives: Primary Sources

Sally the Midwife: Enslaved Medical Practitioners and Historical Erasure

University of Glasgow Library Blog

Guest blog post by Linsey McMillan, PhD Student in History, University of Edinburgh.

This article was written by PhD student Linsey McMillan in conjunction with the current exhibition Call and Response: The University of Glasgow and Slavery. The exhibition seeks to explore the unknown or unexpected ways collections can be related to racial slavery, and continues the conversation by widening the range of responses to these historic legacies. McMillan’s research uniquely considers the role of undocumented histories and the impact that has on our understanding of the transatlantic slave trade today.

At first glance, this 1829 appraisal of the Invera Estate in Tobago appears to be nothing more than a cold, cursory account of the value attributed to the estate’s enslaved labourers, stock, and buildings. Alone it provides little to no evidence of the lives of the enslaved men, women, and children included in it.

But it is a…

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A letter from Mary Williamson to her former owner: History Workshop

History Workshop has published an 1809 letter written by a formerly enslaved woman, Mary Williamson, to her former owner in Jamaica. I know from my own research that uncovering the voices of women in the Caribbean past is extremely difficult, and it is even more so when it comes to enslaved women. Take a look at the letter over on the History Workshop website here

Manuscripts online at the Beinecke Collection of the Lesser Antilles

I stumbled across this fantastic collection of digitised manuscripts today. The Beinecke Collection is held by the Hamilton College Library. They have digitised hundreds of manuscripts from the 16th-19th century relating to the Lesser Antilles – the documents include maps, correspondence, legal documents and plantation reports. A document which particularly interests me is Grenada’s Book of Patents for 1765 to 1770, which is digitised in its entirety:) I’m constantly amazed at the online resources I can stumble across as I research places far away from my desk in Australia.

Click here to access the Collection.

The picture is from the Beinecke Collection. I’ll publish a separate blogpost about the picture collection because it’s wonderful!

 

 

Archives Diary: Stephen Fuller Letterbooks

This 2011 blog post from the John J. Burns Library at Boston College describes two eighteenth-century letterbooks held in the Library’s Collection. The letterbooks belonged to Stephen Fuller, a British agent for Jamaica in the late eighteenth century. If you click on the hyperlink towards the end of the blogpost, you’ll go to the finding aid for the Williams Ethnological Collection, of which the Fuller letterbooks are a part. This Collection seems to hold some fascinating primary sources, relating to eighteenth and nineteenth century Jamaica. This would be a great place to start for anyone seeking a Jamaican research topic.

 

John J. Burns Library's Blog

Time consuming and laborious, hand-written letterbooks were employed to keep a record of correspondence before modern technologies such as photocopiers, scanners and computers became commonplace tools.  As part of the Williams Ethnological Collection, the Burns Library holds two letterbooks that belonged to Stephen Fuller.  Fuller (1716 – 1808) was the British Agent for the Caribbean island of  Jamaica in the late 18th Century, which was under British colonial rule from 1655 until 1962.  Fuller held this post from 1765 to 1795 and these letterbooks cover his correspondence during the years 1762-1773 and 1776-1784. Thus, the books include transcriptions of letters regarding Fuller’s application for the position in the months leading up to his appointment.  Fuller cited many well-connected potential supporters, including William “Alderman” Beckford—Lord Mayor of London in 1762, owner of two lucrative plantations in Jamaica, and father of the important author William Thomas Beckford who was…

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Endangered Archives: digitising 19th Century Haitian newspapers

The British Library’s Endangered Archives programme contributes to the preservation of archival material that is in danger of destruction, neglect, or physical deterioration world-wide.  In exciting news for historians of Haiti, the Endangered Archives programme has just approved a grant to work with the Bibliothèque Haïtienne des Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne (BHFIC) in Port-au-Prince to digitise ninety-one Haitian newspapers published between 1813 and 1913. As set out in the Project overview, the material in the collection has been identified as BHFIC staff as vulnerable to degradation. The newspapers date from the years when Haiti was emerging from the Revolution. As the project team note, a rich and expanding international scholarship engages with the central impact of the Haitian Revolution—but research on Haiti’s post-revolutionary years “declines precipitously,” leaving an enormous gap in our understanding of the new nation after the first decade of the nineteenth century. Making the newspapers for that period accessible online will open up research possibilities in the future.

The digitised newspapers will eventually be available online via the British Library and the Digital Library of the Caribbean.

I learnt about this project on twitter—to monitor progress on the project, I suggest following Claire Antone Payton, a historian and PhD candidate at Duke University, and Erin Zavitz, Latin American and Caribbean History professor at University of Montana-Western.

Click here to go to the British Library Project Overview.