The Jamaican Diaries of Robert Hibbert 1772–1780 is a deeply personal work that has evolved over the last 15 years. It is intended to foster a greater understanding of a very difficult time in history, in which the enslaved and the enslavers inhabit different, disturbing interlocking narratives, now distorted by time and politics. At its core is the dark stain of an empire and many fortunes built upon the enslavement of the unfortunate.
It contains much thorough research into people, places, events and sources that developed as the author followed the twists and turns of a family history often frustratingly opaque and sometimes sensationally public.
The book is part genealogy and part social history: a previously unpublished diary of a major figure in the West Indian slave trade, with contemporary sources and biographical notes on those that strutted the Atlantic world of the late eighteenth century. It lays down a chronology to allow a picture of the day-to-day happenings in Jamaica to emerge.
This work exposes the deep, raw wounds that have resonated through the centuries, creating a need for a deeper study into many facets of British Atlantic history from a different perspective – one in which the narrative of the enslaved and the enslavers can be read together in both the geopolitical context of the times and the legal, ethical, humanitarian and religious belief systems of those times on both sides of the Atlantic.
In order to consider how the slave trade was run, financed, organised and evolved, the author provides a detailed examination of the Jamaican economy of the time, and offers a better and more balanced understanding of the slave trade’s establishment, adoption, adaption, abolition and, lastly, its legacy, in all its hydra-like forms.
The second volume of this work will cover the years when the Diaries resume, 1787 to 1802. The Robert Hibbert diaries and the family involvement with Jamaica extend past the abolition (1834) and emancipation (1838) of slaves to the middle of the nineteenth century.
About the Author:
Nick Hibbert Steele, born in London but for the last 35 years resident in Australia, has been very active in researching a family history that many would have avoided. When asked about the remarkable likeness of two people united by name manifested in an image 200 years old, he said, ‘When I saw the portrait...I just had to follow the history. Beware of your ancestors. When you start rummaging through your ancestry you must be prepared to confront the unthinkable. Do you rebury the past or do you examine the history through a new lens of previously unseen documents?’ For a number of years Nick has been a contributor to the Slave Voyages Database at www.slavevoyages.org.
He has employed his long experience in business to interpret the commercial practices of the past in this analysis of the slave trade.