Mary Chamberlain
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Legacy and lineage
Family histories in the Caribbean
in Emancipation and the remaking of the British imperial world
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Mary Chamberlain, oral historian of both Britain and Barbados and creative writer, here turns her attention to the work of family history and asks, what is the edge, if any, that a family history gives that other forms of historical inquiry lack? Family history is about the narratives we construct for ourselves which position us in liveable ways, which guarantee us a place in a national history in which we played no named part. But how is the family defined, who constitutes family? In a modern world defined by migration for so many, moving made roots hard, and both the English labouring poor and displaced Africans were potentially stripped of history. Family stories can work as engines of inclusion not exclusion, emphasising global connections and shared communities, diasporic memories can celebrate family and affirm survival – these are tools of remembrance for a post-Emancipation world.

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