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Cutting the Sugar Cane, from 'Ten Views in the Island of Antigua', 1823

If Caribbean Views describes a world drenched in misery, it also describes a world of amazing natural beauty, exceptional ingenuity, and an extraordinary capacity for endurance and survival. The collection also lays bare the extent to which Caribbean identity was determined by economic needs and social dynamics in Europe, and Britain in particular. We know about the passion that the Abolitionists brought to their anti-slavery campaigns and their effect on public opinion. What is interesting and, it seems, largely forgotten, is the extent to which society and daily life in Britain were linked to those two terrible twins: the trade in Caribbean sugar and slavery.
Over the space of a century the issue is hotly debated in Parliament and the newspapers; budding entrepreneurs win and lose fortunes by the trade; books urging investment in the region sell in large numbers, as do tracts urging boycotts; arguments rage in drawing rooms; freed slaves are kidnapped off the streets; and an endless stream of books and pamphlets describing the beauties or the horrors of the Caribbean emerge. As long ago as the middle of the 18th century the Caribbean was Britain’s backyard.
The implicit linkages are a feature in all the apparent contradictions of the collection - between high-minded rationality and gut-wrenching savagery, between domestic accumulation and overseas enterprise, and between the suffering of the slaves and the greed of their owners. For the most part the stories in this collection are about individuals, and about the differences and resemblances between them.

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