Tag Archives: Slavery

Framing Slavery in Eighteenth-Century French Portraiture at the Château des Ducs de Bretagne

This is an excellent article about the way that the curators at the Musée de l’Histoire de Nantes have displayed the portraits of Dominique and Marguerite Deurbroucq—and in particular, the way that the curators draw museum-goers’ attention to the enslaved Africans depicted in the portraits.

Age of Revolutions

By Nathan H. Dize

In May 2015, theMusée de l’Histoire de Nantes welcomed two of their most influential citizens of the eighteenth century to their permanent collection. The museum, housed in the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, received two portraits – one of Dominique Deurbroucq and the other of his wife Marguerite – both of which feature prominently in the main exhibition on Atlantic slavery and the slave trade in Nantes. Painted in 1753 by Pierre-Bernard Morlot, the Deurbroucqs are portrayed in all of the luxe of the century, accompanied by their domestic slaves who lived with them in Nantes.  I recently visited the collection and was particularly interested in the framing of these two portraits within the narrative of the tran-Atlantic slave trade and the history of Nantes.

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 10.55.21 AM Pierre-Bernard Morlot, Portraits des Deurbroucq, 1753. (Photo credit to Nathan H. Dize)

For museums, memorial sites, and monuments, context…

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Good Luck at Cannes 1745!

The short film 1745 An Untold Story of Slavery had its first screening last week in Edinburgh for cast, crew and supporters, and soon they are off to Cannes.  The film highlights a forgotten part of Scotland’s history: while Scotland was fighting for its national freedom in that fateful year, its economy was in large part founded on the booming colonial slave trade. While the majority of slavery happened elsewhere – off-stage, across the Atlantic – there were African slaves here, kept as trophies and pets in the houses of their rich merchant masters. 1745 was inspired by advertisements that writer, Morayo Akandé, discovered for runaway slaves, placed in Scottish newspapers of the time.

Check out the beautiful website and trailer for the film here and follow updates on the Facebook page here.

For more on the historical background on runaway slaves in Britain – it’s well worth checking out the University of Glasgow/Leverhulme Trust’s project page for Runaway Slaves in Britain: Bondage, Freedom and Race in the Eighteenth Century. The project is ongoing and you can follow progress via their blog here.

Slavery, Freedom and the Jamaican Landscape | British Library – Picturing Places

The link below will take you to an article written by Miles Ogborn, Professor of Geography at Queen Mary University of London.

Jamaican Maroons fought two major wars against the British during the 18th century. With reference to maps and views in the King’s Topographical Collection, Miles Ogborn investigates this community of escaped slaves and their attempts to win back independence.

Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database gets some updates & additional features

The Voyages Database as we know it today—an open-access website—was launched in the mid-2000s, after initially being released as a subscription-based CD-ROM. Voyages comprises more than 35,000 individual slaving expeditions between 1514 and 1866. The records provide information about vessels, enslaved peoples, slave traders and owners, and trading routes.

The Voyages team have recently developed some new features, including an animation feature that helps bring into clearer focus the horrifying scale and duration of the trade. The site also recently implemented a system for visitors to contribute new data. As a result, in the last year alone, the project team has added more than a thousand new voyages and revised details on many others.

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This is a link to an article recently published on The Conversation by the project team which provides background on the challenges of working with the complex data that sits behind Voyages, as well as a great explanation of the ways that users (you and I) can engage with Voyages. The article also points out that Voyages continues to collect lesson plans that teachers in middle school, high school and college have created around the database. There are some great resources available on the site for teachers, students, and researchers.

Hilary McD. Beckles: the legacy of slavery in Barbados

Black Perspectives, the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society, has published an excerpt from the preface to Professor Beckles’s most recent book: The First Black Slave Society: Britain’s “Barbarity Time” in Barbados, 1636—1876.  In the book, Beckles explores the brutal course of Barbados’s history, and argues that the distinct social character and cultural identity of modern Barbados are rooted in its past as the birthplace of British slave society.

This is a link to the blogpost on Black Perspectives: On Barbados, the First Black Slave Society

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‘The Capture of Tubabakalong, Gambia, 1866, oil painting by Chevalier Louis William Desanges (1866), Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance.

Warwick University’s history department is hosting this conference 12-13 May this year—it’s related to a four-year research project entitled ‘Africa’s Sons Under Arms: Race, Military Bodies and the British West India Regiments in the Atlantic World, 1795-1914.’ The draft programme is available on the conference website… so if any blog-readers are interested in this topic, scan the programme and follow up the work of the historians. If I was in the UK, I’d be doing my best to get to this conference. Please let me know if you are fortunate enough to attend!

As Warwick’s website explains, the conference is concerned with the use of armed men of African descent by the European empires and American states of the Atlantic world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This encompasses both those deliberately armed and those who had taken up arms, perhaps to liberate themselves, and later came to an accommodation with the regime, as well as short-term enrolments and permanent military establishments. The broader ‘Africa’s Sons Under Arms’ project focuses on military units raised by the British, initially as enslaved people, that served in the Caribbean and West Africa. A primary aim of the conference is to contextualise the Regiments in relation to similar formations and policies elsewhere. In so doing, the conference organisers hope that papers will build on and go beyond work on armed slaves, notably Brown and Morgan, Arming Slaves (2008), to think more broadly about the significance and impact of deploying armed men of African descent in a period when most were imperial subjects and generally denigrated within Euro-American discourse.

Click here to go to the Conference Website

Imperial Entanglements: Britain and the Spanish slave trade

[Author’s note: this post is the second in a series of three about the trial of Pedro de Zulueta on charges of slave-trading. Please see the blog’s first post and the post ‘Zulueta on Trial‘ for more context on the Zulueta family and their involvement in the slave trade.] In 1844, a few months after […]

via In His Own Defence: Zulueta’s Response to Accusations of Slave Trading — Imperial Entanglements

‘The Colour of Shadows: Images of Caribbean Slavery’ by Judy Raymond

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The Colour of Shadows centres on the life and career of Richard Bridgens, the artist and planter who published West India Scenery in 1836. Many of the drawings from  West India Scenery are well-known, but as Raymond explains, Bridgens himself is a little-known character. Before moving from England to Trinidad in 1826, Bridgens had a successful career as an artist and furniture-maker and is known to historians of that milieu.  When his wife inherited a stake in the St. Clair plantation in Trinidad, the young family crossed the Atlantic to take on the life of the sugar planter. In documenting the world around him, however, Bridgens didn’t draw his peers in the colonial hierarchy, or the life he led, but instead he depicted the enslaved people who worked on his estate, documenting the conditions under which they lived and worked, and the new creole culture they were beginning to create.

Judy Raymond combines biography, history and art criticism to shed light on the closing years of slavery in Trinidad, and the lives of enslaved Africans before emancipation in 1834. Through her analysis of Bridgens’ drawings and their context, Raymond traces the social and cultural history of enslaved Africans and free coloured people in the early 1830s, covering subjects such as living and working conditions, clothing, and religious and spiritual observance. Raymond also engages with the historiographical debate around Bridgens’ motivation for publishing his images, and his position vis a vis abolition and emancipation.  Many art historians have dismissed Bridgens’ book as pro-slavery polemic. But by placing the drawings in the context of Bridgens’ life, and contemporary society, Raymond can at once acknowledge the sometimes discordant notes in the book, but recognise his drawings for what they are—a unique account of the final years of slavery in Trinidad.

Although The Colour of Shadows is essentially a book about Trinidad, Raymond’s analysis can be extended to other islands in the British Caribbean around the time of emancipation. West India Scenery contained 27 drawings—The Colour of Shadows reproduces 15 of them.  There is a select bibliography, which contains a mix of primary sources (nineteenth-century books) and recent works by historians and art critics. Raymond has been a journalist in Trinidad and Tobago for over 25 years, and the book showcases her elegant style of writing. The book would appeal to scholars and everyday readers interested in the 1830s Caribbean, art and history.

Bridgens’ drawings constitute a rare catalogue of slavery and creole life in the British Caribbean at a turning point in the region’s history—by contextualising the drawings, Raymond has made a substantial contribution to historical scholarship. I’m no art historian, but I’m sure her work also challenges scholarship in that field too.

To see the book on amazon: click here

Amazon Affiliate disclosure: clicking on the book cover image will take you to an amazon site. If you purchase the book, Caribbean Histories will receive a percentage of the purchase price. 

Picturing Slavery

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Thomas Jefferys, The West Indian Atlas (London, 1780, copy in the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University), as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record contains 1,280 images, many of them dating from the time of slavery.  The website was created as part of a joint project of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Digital Media Lab at the University of Virginia Library. The authors of the site (Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite) note that there is little interpretation of the images on the site, and they do not make claims as to the historical authenticity or the accuracy of what the images display—that is, these are images that have been in circulation, some of them will be an accurate representation of what the artist/author saw, but some will not. A lot of work has gone into ensuring the source of the pictures is accurate….as historians, it is up to us to interpret the images and make up our own minds about what those images tell us. As with all representations of the past, often the image can tell us just as much about the time or place where the image was produced (or the person who produced it), as it can tell us about the subject matter depicted in the image.

You can access the website and browse the collection here: Slavery Images

Take note that some of the images on the site remain subject to copyright—where this is the case, the notes accompanying the images will notify you of this. For more information on using the images, visit the ‘Acknowledging the Website, Conditions of Use’ page here.

 

Final Passages: A podcast about the intercolonial slave trade, 1619—1807

I recently rediscovered this interview Gregory O’Malley did on an early episode of Ben Franklin’s World. O’Malley wrote ‘Final Passages: The intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619—1807,’ about the often deadly final voyage enslaved Africans were forced to make after their trans-Atlantic crossing, to other colonies in the Caribbean, British America and beyond. The book and the interview range beyond the Caribbean, but O’Malley’s research reinforces the fact that the Caribbean was the site of inter-imperial interaction, and the heart of the slave trade.

The podcast is well-worth a listen, and the book is written in a very approachable style—despite the nature of the subject matter.

This is a link to the podcast and show notes: Ben Franklin’s World Episode 8

Amazon Affiliate disclosure: clicking on the book cover image will take you to an amazon site. If you purchase the book, Caribbean Histories will receive a percentage of the purchase price.