The culture of refinement
Country house and philanthropy
in The bonds of family
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The country house is considered to be a quintessential symbol of Englishness, but increasingly research has uncovered linkages to both slavery and the wider empire. The purchase of a landed estate offered the planter-merchant elites the security and respectability that investment in Caribbean slavery could not. As slave-produced wealth from the colonies seeped into Britain’s countryside the history of slavery became embedded in these seemingly disconnected rural areas. The extended Hibbert family invested widely in buying, renovating and landscaping country estates. This chapter provides a detailed account of the properties they invested in and how these properties were transferred through the generations. The chapter also considers the practices of philanthropy that were expected of the landed gentleman. It gives details of the donations made to schools, churches, almshouses and other worthy causes. It examines the activities of those Hibberts resident in city spaces, suggesting a distinctive form of urban mercantile philanthropic practice. The chapter argues that these benevolent bequests functioned as markers of social position as well as a rebuttal of abolitionist representations of the slave owner as a cruel tyrant. It concludes with a consideration of the current controversies over the benevolent afterlife of slave owners.

The bonds of family

Slavery, commerce and culture in the British Atlantic world


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