Caribbean History and Culture


‘Catch the Itch’: Three Newly Digitized Works from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The January release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a 17th-century report on the British territories across the Atlantic, an 18th-century essay on diseases of the West Indies and their remedies, and a 19th-century collection of casually racist drawings.


 

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The Present State of His Majesties Isles and Territories in America (1687)

By Richard Blome

Richard Blome (1635-1705) was an English author and cartographer. His report on the American Territories is accompanied by maps, astronomical charts, and “a table by which, at any time of the day or night here in England, you may know what hour it is in any of those parts.”

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In addition to charts and tables, Blome’s book contains thrilling descriptions of the natural world of the Caribbean. Here’s his account of dangers beneath the surface of the seas around Antigua.

‘Catch the Itch’: Three Newly Digitized Works from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

“Thy Chains Are Broken, Africa, Be Free!”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The April release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a collection of observations on tropical medicine, an anthology of poems by James Montgomery, and an assemblage of laws pertaining to the British West Indies. 


Medical and Miscellaneous Observations, Relative to the West India Islands (1817) 

By John Williamson, M.D.  

Dr. John Williamson was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, and had served as a surgeon for the Caithness Highlanders, a regiment of the Highland Fencible Corps.

In 1798 Williamson traveled to Jamaica where he remained for over a decade. Williamson writes about encountering specific ailments: “The yaws have been long a loathsome and disgusting disease, as well as an immense source of loss to proprietors.” And describes the need for reforming the administration of the island’s health services: “The hospital management of negroes being defective, improvements are suggested, to place these establishments on a foundation consistent with the comfort and welfare of mutual interests.” 

“Thy Chains Are Broken, Africa, Be Free!”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

“A Portrait of Artifice, Duplicity, Haughtiness, Violence, Rapine, Avarice, Meanness, Rancor, and Dishonesty”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The December release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an illustrated multi-volume history of Jamaica published in 1774, an examination of the early-19th century slave laws of Jamaica and St. Christopher, and a two-volume history of Haiti published in 1830. 


The History of Jamaica (1774) 

By Edward Long 

A British colonial administrator, historian and author, Edward Long is best known for this three-volume work examining the governmental, legal, social, and commercial structures of Jamaica. Long also includes a survey of the island by parish and illustrations depicting several of the island’s rivers and bays. 

My intention is, to give a competent information of the establishments civil and military, and state, of Jamaica, its productions, and commerce; to speak compendiously of its agriculture; to give some account of the climate, soil, rivers, and mineral waters; with a summary description of its dependencies, counties, town, villages, and hamlets, and the most remarkable natural curiosities hitherto discovered in it; to display an impartial character of its inhabitants of all complexions, with some strictures on the Negro slaves in particular, and freed persons, and the laws affecting them; and to recommend some general rules and cautions for preserving the health of those who come hither from Northern climates. 

Long was critical of both the island’s administrators and the organizational system that allowed their malfeasance, writing: 

“A Portrait of Artifice, Duplicity, Haughtiness, Violence, Rapine, Avarice, Meanness, Rancor, and Dishonesty”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

“Like a Tiger in the Toils”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The June release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a biography of the “Terror of Jamaica,” a letter from British slavery apologists justifying continuation of the institution in the Bahamas, and the descriptions of an English naturalist.


The Life and Exploits of Three-Finger'd Jack, the Terror of Jamaica (1801)

By William Burdett

 

To some, Jack Mansong was the most feared runaway slave in Jamaica during the 1700s. In fact, Mansong was so infamous his life has been the subject of several books, two of which became bestsellers, and dramatic performances, such as the musical Obi which had a run of at least nine years in British theatres. William Burdett’s work begins by describing Mansong’s early life in Africa and his eventual capture and enslavement:

Mansong, with gleaming saber, like a tiger in the toils, darted on the foremost, and cleft him to the ground. The weapons of his adversaries clashed over his head; but he heeded not death, and struggled hard to break the chains that encircled him. He still fought, and his blood streamed around; till at length quite exhausted, he fell, covered with wounds; and four of his adversaries lay dead beside him. The others bound up his wounds, and, with the rest of his party, sent him to the caravan of a Slatee, or Slave-merchant.

Burdett continues, writing of Mansong’s arrival in Jamaica as a slave, his unbreakable spirit, and his promise to seek revenge against his captors:

“Like a Tiger in the Toils”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

Sights Hostile to the Feelings of an Englishman: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The May release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several works that illustrate differing perspectives on the British presence in the West Indies, including England’s role in the slave trade and subsequent slave revolutions.


A Letter from Percival Stockdale to Granville Sharp Esq.: Suggested to the Author by the Present Insurrection of the Negroes, in the Island of St. Domingo (1791)

By Percival Stockdale

Percival Stockdale was an English poet, writer, and social reformer who opposed slavery.  After serving as a lieutenant in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, Stockdale became an ordained deacon and later took priests’ orders. As a priest Stockdale was well positioned to explore the world of literature and develop contacts with leading intellectuals and poets.

Stockdale’s letter is preceded by general information about the lives of Africans who were transported to, and enslaved in, the West Indies as well as the cost of the slave trade as a whole, a cost in human lives that remains staggering:

It is not exaggeration, to assert, that for one who lives to labor, for any time, in the West Indies, ten are destroyed.    

It appears…that if mankind, in general, were to die, in proportion to the mortality of the Slaves during their transportation to the Colonies, the human race would be extinct in ten years. Since this detestable trade began, nine millions of our fellow-creatures have been torn from their dearest connections, and sold into slavery.

  Sights Hostile to the Feelings of an Englishman: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

“The Disagreeable Practice of Shaving”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The April release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a history of the French and Indian War, a narrative of a global circumnavigation, and the diary of 19-year-old George Washington while traveling to Barbados.


The History of the Late War in North-America, and the Islands of the West-Indies, Including the Campaigns of MDCCLXIII and MDCCLXIV against His Majesty's Indian Enemies (1772)

By Thomas Mante

Thomas Mante was a historian and officer in the English army. He was also a spy for the French government. Mante was recruited by Jean-Charles-Adolphe Grant de Blairfindy in 1769 and became involved in British intelligence in the 1770s. He operated as a double agent until 1774 when the British, then aware of his disloyalty, ceased to pay him. His history of the French and Indian War is nearly as dramatic as was his life. Recounting the 1759 naval bombardment of French-held Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, Monte wrote:

“The Disagreeable Practice of Shaving”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

“A thousand rooted and hallowed prejudices”: Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

View of St. Thomas, West IndiesThe initial release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an 18th-century account of natural disasters in the West Indies, an early 19th-century description of sugar cultivation and rum production, and a later report enumerating the terrible punishments meted out under the Danish crown to insubordinate and recaptured slaves.


A General Account of the Calamities Occasioned by the Late Tremendous Hurricanes and Earthquakes in the West-India Islands, Foreign as Well as Domestic (1781)

The Great Hurricane of 1780 is the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, killing between 20,000 and 22,000 people. The hurricane struck the Lesser Antilles with winds possibly as strong as 200 mph leaving extensive damage to the many islands’ coastlines as well as causing heavy losses to the British and French fleets patrolling the area.

Within this account the devastation is described as:

…perhaps the most complicated and universal catastrophe that ever yet befell the islands under our immediate contemplation.

The natural disaster was so destructive this imprint concludes with an advertisement seeking support throughout Great Britain for the storm victims:

“A thousand rooted and hallowed prejudices”: Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

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