By Chris Jeppesen, AHRC Cultural Engagement Fellow, UCL History
Uncovering the linkages between the East India Company and Caribbean slave economy is a complicated process. During the 18th and early 19th century an ever growing network of connections spread across Britain’s imperial possessions, linking England, Scotland and Wales with the colonies and also the colonies with each other. This finding aid, based on preliminary research, seeks to establish a starting point for further investigation by suggesting some of the ways in which India, the Caribbean and Britain were intertwined during the hundred years between 1757 and 1857—and how these links can be traced in the British Library’s collections. Initial efforts have uncovered only a tiny portion of a far larger picture that requires much more archival and family research to build a fuller understanding. It is our hope that this guide may be of use to others interested in unearthing the links that connected India and the Caribbean.
The organisation of the British Library’s archival collections means it is not immediately obvious how to go about exploring the ways in which these spheres, conventionally considered in isolation by historians, were connected through the movement of officials, merchants, families, ideas, money, trade, material objects and, later in the period, colonial peoples. This guide offers an introduction into how to explore potential connections through the British Library’s collections. It provides a brief historical context of the East India Company and Caribbean slavery at the start of the nineteenth century before suggesting how other researchers might start to think about the connections between India and the Caribbean. The third section surveys which British Library archival collections and resources will prove helpful in revealing these links. This is followed by a case-study of one family who had constructed a global network linking the Caribbean, Britain and India. The finding aid finishes with a list of suggested secondary reading.
To enter the finding aid, click here.