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A plan of a slave ship used to transport enslaved Africans to the Caribbean.

A plan of a slave ship used to transport enslaved Africans to the Caribbean.

Shelfmark: 1881.d.8.

The collection 'Caribbean Views' records an experience that is simultaneously beautiful, terrible, disturbing and exhilarating. Beautiful, because many of the images (both pictures and text) are extraordinary and arresting - snapshots which short-circuit the distance in space and time, placing directly in front of you the look and the feel of landscapes and events from more than 200 years ago - like a memory to which the only access is these images.

It is terrible because the way of life in this memory is marked by a litany of horror, where the most disturbing element is the fact that it was a routine and commonplace way of life. Most of the people who operated and defended its institutions seem more or less indifferent to the suffering they were causing. What is exhilarating about the collection is the story of the fight against slavery, underpinned by the determination with which individuals, subject to the most intense forms of brutality, preserved their humanity and survived to bear witness. Exhilarating again, is the fact that this struggle is matched by individuals on the other side who resist the 'commonsense' consensus of their times with every resource they can command, and commit themselves to asserting the claim of human beings to freedom.

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