Africa's Sons Under Arms

Print depicting the Kingston Barracks

This project used the history of the British West India Regiments to understand changes in racial thought.

Published date:

Africa's Sons Under Arms was a collaborative research project between partners at Warwick University and the British Library, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) between 2014 and 2018.

The project used the history of the British West India Regiments (BWIR) to explore how British armed people of African descent served within the wider British army. This research enables improved understanding of the nature of racial thought from the 18th to 20th centuries.

Three additional areas of interest for this project were:

  • BWIR soldiers as subjects of medical scrutiny
  • BWIR soldiers as figures of public interest
  • BWIR soldiers as participants of army sporting events

The first two of these additional areas of interest had PhD projects associated with them, including one co-supervised by the British Library:

Picturing the West India Regiments in an Age of Unrest, Civil War and Tourism, c.1850–1914 –  Melissa Bennett, co-supervised by Dr David Lambert (Warwick) and Dr Elizabeth Cooper (British Library). 

The Library holds numerous items of importance to the study of the regiment. These include unique manuscripts about the regiment’s formation, newspapers from the Caribbean and United Kingdom, maps of Caribbean military facilities, printed histories of the regiment and much more.

There are also various photographic and illustrated items such as Adolph Duperly's print, A View of the Kingston Barracks, shown above.

Many of these items are now available to view of the British Library's West India Regiment website

The Africa's Sons Under Arms blog and Twitter account (@AfricasSons #ASUA) provides further information about the project.

Key British Library partner: Dr Elizabeth Cooper (Curator for Latin American and Caribbean Collections)

Arts and Humanities Research Council


Americas and Oceania

Extensive collections from the Americas and Oceania

Case studies

…Everyone is really willing to help each other out…

Melissa is doing collaborative PhD research on photographs of the British West India Regiments between 1865-1914.