Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture: Enslaved revolt and the Royal Navy in the Caribbean, c. 1790-1832

Thursday 14 October 2021, 5.30PM – 7.30PM BST

Wilberforce Institute, 27, High Street, Hull. HU1 1NE

Or join us by livestreaming on Microsoft Teams

Professor Douglas Hamilton

Sheffield Hallam University

This year our Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture will be given by Douglas Hamilton, Professor of History at Sheffield Hallam University. He is an historian of the eighteenth-century British Atlantic empire, with a particular interest in the Caribbean and slavery. He is currently working on two projects. The first is ‘An empire of islands’ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council which explores how islands contributed to the establishment, extension, and maintenance of the British Empire in the Age of Sail. The second project assesses the role of the Royal Navy in eighteenth-century Caribbean society.

For this lecture, Professor Hamilton will focus on this second project, and he offers an abstract below of what he intends to cover.

While the actions of foreign navies and enemy privateers occupied the minds of naval officers, one of the gravest threats to the security of the British colonies in the Caribbean came from within. For a generation or more scholars have placed considerable emphasis on what Hilary Beckles has called ‘the 200-years war’ against enslavement, highlighting the role of the enslaved in their struggle for self-liberation. The actions of the Royal Navy as an instrument of the state to be used in suppressing revolt have received much less attention. Yet in virtually every major rising across the British Caribbean from the mid-18th century, the Royal Navy was instrumental in securing victory for the colonial elite. The existing scholarship currently highlights the ways in which the navy blurred the lines between enslavement and emancipation and provided routes into freedom; this lecture makes plain the extent to which it helped Britain and the Caribbean planter class face down challenges to the system of enslavement.

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Adolphe Duperly (1833): Destruction of the Roehampton Estate in 1832.