'"Home" and "this country": Britishness and creole identity in the letters of a transatlantic slaveholder


Petley, Christer (2009) '"Home" and "this country": Britishness and creole identity in the letters of a transatlantic slaveholder. Atlantic Studies, 6, (1), 43-61. (doi:10.1080/14788810802696295).

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Description/Abstract

This article uses a case study of the transatlantic correspondence of Simon Taylor, a wealthy Jamaican planter, to examine the cultural identity of slaveholders in the British Caribbean at the end of the long eighteenth century. White settlers in the Americas faced metropolitan criticisms from as early as the seventeenth century. These became more pronounced in the period after the American Revolution with the development of an organised British anti-slavery campaign. Opponents of the planters claimed white West Indians lacked self-control and that they exhibited characteristics of excessive ostentation, cruelty and sensuality. In his letters, Taylor tried to avoid discussion of those aspects of his life that might attract censure, such as his long-term sexual relations with women of colour and his daily involvement with slavery. He wished others to consider him as a transplanted Briton and downplayed the distinctively local, or Creole, features of his life, presenting himself in his letters as an industrious, self-restrained and loyal colonist. Taylor's letters highlight the anxieties of white slaveholders in the Caribbean, who worried about how their Creole lives in a distant slave society would affect their status as Britons. This evidence illustrates the importance of national belonging to such colonists. They fashioned a distinctively colonial British identity, seeking metropolitan acceptance as useful subjects of an extended British world, and these features of their worldview fed into the unsuccessful pro-slavery campaigns of the period.

Item Type: Article
ISSNs: 1478-8810 (print)
Related URLs:
Keywords: slavery, planters, jamaica, letters, national identity
Subjects: J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Humanities > History
ePrint ID: 68712
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2009
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 18:48
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/68712

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