American Collections blog

33 posts categorized "Digitisation project"

30 July 2019

James Knight’s “History of Jamaica”

We are delighted to share this blog by Jamie Gemmell. Jamie is a third year undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh and was awarded a Carnegie Vacation Scholarship to produce a partial digital edition of James Knight’s “History of Jamaica”, focussing on its account of the social and cultural aspects of enslaved Africans. He recently presented his work at the British Library as part of the Eccles Centre's Summer Scholars season.

When I first came across James Knight’s “History of Jamaica” (1742) I was unsure what I would find. Historians have often neglected British Jamaica during the early eighteenth century. Instead, they have focused on the later seventeenth century, when the British conquered and established themselves on the island, or the later eighteenth century, when the slavocracy was at its peak. This meant it was difficult to have any expectations about Knight’s manuscripts, although it did provide an opportunity to develop new insights.

Jamie G book title I

James Knight, "History of Jamaica". Vol. 1, title page. (Add MS12415)

My primary concern was to see whether Knight could provide new information on the debate surrounding the origins of enslaved people’s cultures. Following a first read, I was disappointed. Like most European planter-historians, Knight’s primary focus was on the political debates between the metropole and colony or great acts of piracy committed by the likes of John Davis or Henry Morgan. I began to realise why most historians of Atlantic slavery begin their analyses by discussing the fragmentary nature of the evidence.

However, whilst Knight was by no means concerned with enslaved people, they appear throughout the manuscript. In the first volume, predominantly a narrative history of the island dating from the Spanish discovery, Knight described several rebellions by enslaved people as well as a relatively detailed account of the Maroons, communities of people who had escaped slavery. For Knight, the leader of the Leeward Maroons, Cudjoe, was a “very sensible fellow,” whilst the enslaved people who rebelled at Guanaboa in 1685 were “desperate Villains.”

Jamie G 2

Edward Long's letter collection. (Add MS 22677)

The second volume takes the form of an ethnography, covering subjects ranging from the climate to the legal system in Jamaica. Knight dedicates a significant portion to his views on enslaved people within the chapter describing the inhabitants of Jamaica. He discusses enslaved physicians, and advices Europeans to learn their “many secrets.” He embarks on a long discussion of slavery, fighting accusations of the “Inhumanity of and Cruelty of the planters,” which may prove useful to scholarship in the way that it deals with early criticisms of slavery. For my own research, Knight’s description of the traits of the various African ethnic groups proved most pertinent.

Despite not being Knight’s primary focus, his manuscript raises new questions about enslaved cultures. Currently, the historiography has been primarily concerned with tracing cultural connections between enslaved groups in the Americas and specific regions of Africa. Over time significant research has been undertaken, such as James Sweet’s work on Portuguese Brazil.[1] After reading Knight’s manuscripts, I believe new questions can be raised. It seems inappropriate to accept Knight’s links between ethnicity and behaviour. Instead, further work must be done to understand the origins of these stereotypes and how they functioned in the European worldview. If we can grasp why Knight thought it pertinent to associate “particularly Eboes” with suicide or “Angolas” with the consumption of human “flesh,” we may come to a greater understanding of how the system of Atlantic slavery maintained itself.

Jamie Gemmell

 

http://www.jamesknightjamaica.com/

[1] Sweet, Recreating Africa (2003).

 

10 July 2015

Canada in the UK: waiting and training in WW1

26th battalion departure

Above: Canadian troops leave New Brunswick for Europe [BL: HS85/10 30438, from the Picturing Canada project]

We've not talked about Europeana 1914 - 1918 for a little while here on the Americas blog but their work continues and we're still digging around our First World War collections, so here's a little update. You'll remember that last year we launched the Library's contributions to Europeana, as well as an Entrance Hall Gallery exhibition and an in-depth learning resource and the online elements of this are still open for use. But the work, digging and research involved inevitably opened up new questions for those of us curating the material.

For me the research highlighted my personal proximity to sites associated with Canadian troops in the First World War. While I lived in South West London I learnt that my nearby green space, Bushy Park, hosted Canadian troops and medical facilities during the First World War. This is often forgotten in the face of the more dramatic presence of US Air Force base 'Camp Griffiss' in the park during the Second World War but Royal Parks commemorate Canada's place here with a totem pole installed in 1992.

Joker fund collector

Above: 'Joker, a patriotic fund collector', looking delighted by his job [BL: HS85/10 29607, from the Picturing Canada project]

Having now fled London's cramped trains and busy roads I find I've inadvertently moved to the epicentre of the Canadian presence in the UK during the First World War. After being originally posted to Salisbury Plain Canadian reserve troops, hospitals, engineers and other corps were moved to garrisons around Kent, particularly the Folkestone and Shorncliffe areas. From here the reserve regiments were sent to various training sites around Kent, including some small trench operations based on a common just down the road from where I live.

By now you can guess where this is going. Spurred by this knowledge, I've been digging through Europeana and our physical holdings to see if we hold anything about the Kent camps and, most especially, the training centre near where I live. There are various items about the Kent camps on Europeana including photographs and personal letters sent home to Canada from Shorncliffe. It also turns out there are films of some of the Shorncliffe based training, courtesy of Canada's NFB. Unfortunately, I've not been so lucky trying to find material about places a little closer to home but I'll keep digging at the weekends.

Canadian_Official_War_Photographs_(BL_l.r.233.b.57.v1_f059r)

Above: photographs of snipers in training from the Canadian War Records Office photographs. There's a small chance these are taken in Kent, near my home. Or, they were taken in France... [BL: L.R.233.b.57, from the Picturing Canada project]

The best hope is a collection of Canadian War Records Office photographs submitted to the Library in 1923. These photographs were sponsored by Lord Beaverbrook in an attempt to document, as well as promote, Canadian achievements during the war and these contain a number of photographs of reserve regiments training in and around Kent. I've not found anything astounding yet but here are a lot of them and the location data in the title isn't always helpful. However, digital copies are available from ourselves and Library and Archives Canada so there's plenty of scope for sitting with a drink and sifting through the mass.

One final note, if this has caught your interest the Eccles Centre is hosting a #BLScholars talk about, 'Cliveden, Canadians and the First World War', by Martin Thornton, on 27th July at 12:30. As for me, I'll let you know if I find anything!

[PJH]

08 May 2015

Off the Wall Fridays

800px-Pelorus_Jack_Mascot_of_HMS_New_Zealand_(HS85-10-29327)

Above: Pelorus Jack, mascot of HMS New Zealand, looking none-too-pleased. From Picturing Canada and the Library's Colonial Copyright Collection [BL: HS85/10/29327]

Another Friday image, however you feel this morning Jack should raise a smile.

[PJH]

01 May 2015

Off the Wall Fridays

1280px-The_Globe_kittens_(HS85-10-13446-3)

Above: the Globe kittens, from our 2012 Picturing Canada work [BL: HS85/10/13446]

The end of the week will see something a little different on the Team Americas blog from now on. We've got a whole heap of digital content that rarely sees the light of day because we've not had a chance to do further research on it yet so as of now we're posting it for your enjoyment and interest. There won't be much interpretation from us but expect something quirky and often amusing to get you talking about the Library's Americas and Australasian collections.

With that in mind, today we bring you kittens with books - enjoy!

[PJH]

23 April 2014

Marking ANZAC Day: 'Fighting Australasia'

Fighting-australasia-cover

Front cover from, Fighting Australasia. You can see more on the Library's item viewer.

Public Domain Mark
These works are free of known copyright restrictions.

As Friday marks ANZAC Day Team Americas and Australasia dig into the Library's Europeana contributions and look back on Australia and New Zealand in the First World War.

Quoting from from the Australian War Memorial Website, ‘ANZAC Day – 25 April – is probably Australia's most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.’ To mark the event, the British Library’s ‘Item of the Week’ is currently, Fighting Australasia: a souvenir record of the Imperishable story of the Australian Forces in the Great War.

The Supreme Test (sinking of RMAT Ballarat)

Sinking of R. M. A. T. "Ballarat", from Fighting Australasia. You can also view the item on the Library's World War One learning resource.

Published in London in 1917 the publication sits alongside other works such as, The Anzac Book, which commemorate the actions of Australian and New Zealand forces in the war, often while working as a means to raise money for the soldiers’ Comfort Funds. While publications such as The Anzac Book were written and assembled by members of the Australian and New Zealand fighting corps (in this case, in Gallipoli itself) Fighting Australasia is very official in tone and was produced and printed in London’s Piccadilly. Inside the publication is fascinating for a number of reasons, not least the wealth of advertising material the flanks the main text, which includes a Bovril advert using the text of letters from Gallipoli before proclaiming, “Bovril Gives Strength to Win!” (p. 89). The account is heavily photographically illustrated and contains a number of artist’s illustrations, including one of the sinking of R.M.A.T. Ballarat.

  NZ Cyclists (9084.BB.21_0024)

Photographs from, Regimental History of the New Zealand Cyclist Corps.

Both Fighting Australasia and The Anzac Book have been digitised as part of the library’s contribution to ‘Europeana Collections, 1914 – 1918’ where they form part of a large selection of material detailing how people from the then British Empire contributed to the First World War. Within this there is a wide range of Australasian materials from, Australia in the Great War: the story told in pictures; to, The Maoris in the Great War: a history of the New Zealand Native Contigent and Pioneer Battalion and; Regimental history of New Zealand Cyclist Corps in the Great War, 1914-1918 (seen above). Some of this material can be found with further details in the British Library World War One learning resource and the rest can be found on the Library’s Image Viewer.

[PJH]

13 January 2014

US Civil War Maps

The latest set of maps on the BL Georeference project has been completed; these include a fascinating collection of maps from the US Civil War (many of which include some fine portraits of bewhiskered generals).

These have now been given their appropriate latitude and longitude and overlaid on Google Maps (below - scroll to the right and you will find a selection of First World War maps: perhaps we need a chronology project, too).  I particularly like the map of Fort Monroe.  Amazingly, even Prang's Bird's-eye view of the Seat of War has been rectified.  Many thanks to all involved, particularly the volunteers who have worked on the project.

All the maps are listed here; there is also an online exhibition that accompanies the Civil War project.

You can read more about the Georeference project on the Maps blog.


[Matthew Shaw]

16 December 2013

A million first steps: some early Team Americas favourites

Image taken from page 464 of 'The eventful voyage of H.M. Discovery Ship “Resolute” to the Arctic Regions in search of Sir J. Franklin. ... To which is added an account of her being fallen in with by an American Whaler after her abandonment ... and of her

Above: one of the many images that caught our eye (hover over the image for details)

Last week our colleagues from Digital Scholarship announced the uploading of 1 million British Library images onto Flickr Commons and into the public domain. In amongst all these images are a significant proportion of material from the Americas and Australasia, so naturally we lost a chunk of Friday sifting through them. Above and below are some of our current favourites from across the Americas and Australasia; we'll share even more as and when things catch our eye.

Keep an eye out for more announcements about public domain images in the new year, Team Americas should have some interesting things to share with you soon too...

[PJH]

 

Image taken from page 68 of 'Nimrod in the North, or hunting and fishing adventures in the Arctic regions'

 

Image taken from page 203 of 'Our North Land: being a full account of the Canadian North-West and Hudson's Bay Route, together with a narrative of the experiences of the Hudson's Bay Expedition of 1884 ... Illustrated, etc'

 

Image taken from page 8 of 'History of the Virginia Company of London; with letters to and from the first Colony, never before printed'

 

Image taken from page 230 of '[The Countries of the World: being a popular description of the various continents, islands, rivers, seas, and peoples of the globe. [With plates.]]'

 

Image taken from page 137 of 'Le Mexique ... Avec une préface de I. Altamirano ... et une carte, etc'

Image taken from page 625 of 'Historia de las Indias de Nueva-España y islas de Tierra Firme ... La publica con un atlas, notas, y ilustraciones J. F. Ramirez, etc'

15 November 2013

Team Americas celebrates Movember

D Legault, Chef de Police de la Cite de Montreal Photo B (HS85-10-12818)

 Above: Montreal's Chief of Police, 1902

Public Domain Mark
These works are free of known copyright restrictions.

We've brought you cats, we've brought you dogs, now Team Americas bring you some fine examples of early twentieth century Canadian facial hair! The evidence from the photographs digitised as part of Picturing Canada would seem to suggest that late nineteenth and early twentieth century Canada was a place of fantastic facial ornamentation, as you can see from this small selection. As always, you can find more on Wikimedia Commons and, believe me, you'll find a lot more.

The members of the Legislature of British Columbia Photo A (HS85-10-11597)

 Above: The Members of the Legislature of British Columbia, 1900

Lord Grey Photo A (HS85-10-15715)

Above: Lord Grey, 1905

[PJH]

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