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Trevor Burnard

The Atlantic slave trade was a violent institution. What is more important than cataloguing the everyday and extraordinary violence in the Atlantic slave system – which began in the mid fifteenth century, before Columbus’s voyages to the New World, and which lasted until 1888, when Brazil became the last society to abolish slavery – is to analyse the meanings for planters, traders, and enslaved people of the constant violence that enveloped this system. This chapter uses violence as an analytic category in order to demonstrate how brutality, violence, and death were not mere by-products of the extremely lucrative early modern plantation system, but were the sine qua non of that plantation world.

in A global history of early modern violence
The Pennants’ Jamaican plantations and industrialisation in North Wales, 1771–1812
Trevor Burnard

Richard Pennant, the first Pennant to own the vast Penrhyn estates of North Wales, fits Watkin Williams Wynn's idea of a slave-owner turned industrialist. This chapter examines the contribution that Jamaican wealth made to the realisation of the Pennant dreams. It shows how wealth could be made in the colonies through a combination of hard work, luck and demographic fortune. The chapter illustrates the contributions that colonial money made to British economic development, especially in the peripheries. The Pennants made money in one periphery of empire, eighteenth-century Jamaica and spent it in another periphery, North Wales. Nevertheless, the Pennants were content to maintain the sustainability and profitability of the Jamaican plantations rather than to increase their investment and involvement in the Jamaican economy. Crucial to Eric Williams's thesis in Capitalism and Slavery is that profits from plantation agriculture were invested into the early stages of British industrialisation.

in Wales and the British overseas empire
Abstract only
A Short History of Guinea and its impact on early British abolitionism
Trevor Burnard

How did the institution of Atlantic slavery and the African slave trade come under attack in the 1780s? One major contributor to anti-slavery discourse in the early stages of abolitionism was the French-born American Quaker, Anthony Benezet. In 1762, he wrote a pathbreaking book on the history of West Africa, in which he used the writings of proslavery advocates and slave traders to construct a very different, and much more positive, portrait of Africa and African slavery than previously available. In Benezet’s rendering, Africans exemplified a whole range of Quaker virtues, none of which had been previously associated with Africans. This chapter assesses the importance of Benezet on Africa in the development of early humanitarian discourse.

in Humanitarianism, empire and transnationalism, 1760–1995
Trevor Burnard
Agnès Delahaye

This chapter explores settler colonialism as an explanatory and interpretative framework of the history of early America. Settler colonialism has taken the world of early Americanists by storm, creating debates about its relevance, revived in the last two decades by studies of British expansion in Australia insisting on the genocidal intent behind this form of colonisation. Burnard and Delahaye argue that the concept offers solid perspectives through which to differentiate between modes and processes of empire-building and colonisation, and to highlight the strategies deployed by colonial agents to negotiate and manage the authority conferred to them through their various colonial projects. However, they take a long view of the concept that challenges both the unifying and reductive definition of Australian scholarship and the neutral and normalised definition of American historiography. Instead, they argue in favour of the call for a contextual study of settler locales within the scope of the entirety of British expansionism, to point to commonalities and differences in the relationships British settlers entertained and retained with the native country from which they issued. They demonstrate that settlers understood and promoted their different contributions to British expansion in their own terms but within a common frame of reference regarding sovereignty, political culture and the meaning of empire in the long history of the nation. The dynamic processes through which colonisers could belong to the imagined community of their nations of origin while pursuing their own particular interests in the colonial spaces they wrote about and defended is revealed.

in Agents of European overseas empires
Selective humanity in the Anglophone world

This book examines the shifting relationship between humanitarianism and the expansion, consolidation and postcolonial transformation of the Anglophone world across three centuries.

Rather than exploring this relationship within a generalised narrative, an introductory essay sets out its key features throughout the imperial and post-imperial period, before carefully selected chapters explore trade-offs between humane concern and the altered context of colonial and postcolonial realpolitik with case studies distributed between the late eighteenth and late twentieth centuries.

Together, the collection enables us to tease out the relationship between British humanitarian concerns and the uneven imagination and application of emancipation; the shifting tensions between ameliorative humanitarianism and assertive human rights; the specificities of humanitarian governance; the shifting locales of humanitarian donors, practitioners and recipients as decolonisation reconfigured imperial relationships; and the overarching question of who Anglo humanitarianism is for.

Three centuries of Anglophone humanitarianism, empire and transnationalism
Trevor Burnard
Joy Damousi
, and
Alan Lester

Written in equal parts by specialists in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Burnard, Lester and Damousi respectively), this foundational chapter tracks the relationship between humanitarian discourse and practice on the one hand, and the rise, expansion and decline of the British Empire on the other, across three centuries. Not only does it set the scene for the case study chapters that follow, establishing the geopolitical context of Anglophone ameliorative governance and intervention across this longue durée; it is the first such targeted examination of this relationship in its own right. It seeks to take up the challenge posed by Skinner and Lester in 2012, to explore ‘the history of humanitarianism … as a fundamental component of imperial relations, a way of bridging trans-imperial, international and transnational approaches’.

in Humanitarianism, empire and transnationalism, 1760–1995