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18th century letters from Jamaica posted online give new insights into slavery

Published: 18 October 2012Origin: History
Dr Christer Petley

Historian and Senior Lecturer Dr Christer Petley has used digital technology to create an online teaching and research resource about slavery in the British Caribbean in the 18th century.

Slavery and Revolution showcases the letters of a wealthy and powerful landowner in Jamaica. The website uses a blogging format to explore the world of Simon Taylor (1738-1813), a slaveholder and plantation owner who lived on the island during a period characterised by revolution, war, and imperial reform. His letters to family, friends and associates in Britain provide a unique insight into life in Jamaica and the history of the British Atlantic. The letters posted on the blog carry authentic dates from the 18th century to help capture the rapid changes experienced by slaveholders and slaves during the conflict over the future of slavery in the ‘age of revolution’.

“I wanted to create a teaching resource which would go beyond academic books and articles to engage students, researchers and people with a general interest in the subject,” explains Christer. “It is an on-going project, and I will be adding more material in months to come.”

The website is an outcome of Christer’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Early Career Research Fellowship. It also has a direct link to his teaching as undergraduate, master’s and research students can use the site in their work. In its first month online, the site attracted more than 800 visitors, around half from the USA. A discussion board welcomes comments and questions about the letters and the subject of slavery.

Follow Slavery and Revolution on Twitter: Slavery & Revolution @SlandRev

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