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Caribbean: Manuscripts

Works of Caribbean interest can be found throughout our  Manuscript Collections, not least in some of the Library's early 'foundation' collections. This is not surprising when one remembers the interest in exploration and economic exploitation during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Of particular note are the collections that belonged to Sir Hans Sloane MD FRS (1660-1753). These were acquired from his executors under the British Museum Act of 1753. Sloane was physician to the Governor of Jamaica (the 2nd Duke of Albemarle) from 1687 to 1688, and his manuscript collections contain material on West Indian natural history and agriculture as well as works on travel and commerce. Sloane's published writings on the area, for example A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers, and Jamaica, with the natural history ... of the last of those islands. (London, 1707-25), are also held by the Library.

Although the manuscript records of Government departments, or of public institutions, are not to be found at the British Library, it is still possible to find much correspondence that relates to political affairs. Many of the manuscripts of Caribbean interest fall into this category and include numerous examples of the papers of colonial officials who served in the area over differing periods of history. The Slave Trade is a recurring theme in many of these papers - both from the perspective of the traders and plantation proprietors and that of the abolitionists. It is not possible to list all the manuscripts that may be of interest to researchers, but they include the papers of:

Thomas Povey (member of the Council for the Colonies, 1657, and Receiver General for the Rents and Revenues of the Plantations in Africa and America, 1661), and his brothers Richard (Commissioner-General of Provisions, Jamaica) and William (Provost-Marshall of Barbados)
Charles Jenkinson, first Earl of Liverpool (a West Indian proprietor and from 1786-1801 President of the Board of Trade).
William Eden, Earl of Auckland (the British envoy sent in 1787 to persuade the French to abolish the slave trade)
Admiral Horatio Nelson
, Viscount Nelson (Nelson spent some years in the West Indies from 1777)
William Huskisson (Under-Secretary for War, 1795, who supervised arrangements for Sir Charles Grey's expedition to the West Indies, and was Secretary of State for the colonies, 1827-28)
Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846, a leading advocate of abolition of the slave trade) and his brother John (1764-1828)
William Wyndham Grenville, Baron Grenville (Foreign Secretary 1791-1801 and Prime Minister 1806-7). The Dropmore Papers, Grenville's archive, include, for example, correspondence with abolitionists William Wilberforce and James Stephens.
Charles Edward Long (1796-1861), antiquary and genealogist, and his grand-father Edward Long (1734-1813). The latter went to Jamaica in 1757 where he became private secretary to his brother-in-law Sir Henry Moore (lieutenant-governor of Jamaica 1756-1762), judge of the Vice-Admiralty court and speaker of the House of Assembly. He is best known for his History of Jamaica, or a general survey of the ancient and modern state of that island.which was published anonymously in 1774. Long's manuscripts contain correspondence, maps, genealogical and other historical material relating to the history of Jamaica and include several watercolours of his property: the Lucky Valley Plantation.

Lucky Valley Plantation

Lucky Valley Plantation (Plans of the Lucky Valley Estate at Clarendon, Jamaica, Add.Mss.43379). Copyright © The British Library Board

Arthur Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Baron Stanmore (Governor of Trinidad 1866-1870)
Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon (Colonial Secretary 1866-67 and 1874-78)
Paul Emrys-Evans
(Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, 1942-45).

Material of Caribbean interest can also be found in unexpected collections. For example:
The Holland House papers contain correspondence of Stephen Bourne and Edward Baynes, special magistrates in Jamaica.
The South Sea Company collection contains papers and genealogical material relating to Jamaica in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

A fairly detailed listing of Caribbean-related material in the British Library's Manuscripts Collections is to be found in: Peter Walne (editor), A Guide to manuscript sources for the history of Latin America and the Caribbean in the British Isles (Oxford University Press, 1973), pp. 57-123. Please note, however, that the manuscripts are stated to be at the British Museum, but are now all located in the British Library at St. Pancras.

 

Contact

Manuscripts and Maps Reference Team
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