Consuming passions
Collecting and connoisseurship
in The bonds of family
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Slave-based wealth was reinvested widely during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as the planter-merchant elites entered enthusiastically into the culture of conspicuous consumption. Collecting promised to ennoble new forms of wealth, elevate the character, provide an inheritance and create alternative forms of identification. For the collector turned dealer it also represented the opportunity to enter new commodity markets. All of the Hibbert family were involved in the fashionable practices of cultural participation but it was George Hibbert who made the transition from gentlemanly consumer to serious connoisseur. This chapter focuses on the cultural world that George inhabited, giving details of his activities as a collector of art, books and botanical specimens as well as his membership of exclusive clubs and societies. It argues that George’s entry into London’s cultural elite was an important extension of his networks, giving him access to powerful allies whose support he could call upon to further his interests. The chapter explores the relationship between slavery, commerce and culture. It considers the practical ways in which merchants involved in colonial trade used their cultural connections to further scientific projects out in the empire. It also argues that culture became a centrally important discourse through which ideas about hierarchical racial difference were articulated and disseminated.

The bonds of family

Slavery, commerce and culture in the British Atlantic world

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