The bonds of family

Slavery, commerce and culture in the British Atlantic world

Author: Katie Donington

Moving between Britain and Jamaica this book examines the world of commerce, consumption and cultivation created and sustained through an engagement with the business of slavery. Tracing the activities of a single extended family – the Hibberts – it explores how the system of slavery impacted on the social, cultural, economic and political landscape of Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Integrating an analysis of the family as political and economic actors with an examination of their activities within the domestic and cultural sphere, the book provides an overview of the different ways in which slavery reshaped society both at home and out in the empire. From relatively humble beginnings in the cotton trade in Manchester, the Hibberts ascended through the ranks of Jamaica’s planter-merchant elite. During the abolition campaigns they were leading proslavery advocates and played a vital role in securing compensation for the slave owners. With a fortune built on slavery, the family invested in country houses, collecting, botany and philanthropy. Slavery profoundly altered the family both in terms of its social position and its intimate structure. The Hibberts’ trans-generational story imbricates the personal and the political, the private and the public, the local and the global. It is both the personal narrative of a family and an analytical frame through which to explore Britain’s participation in, and legacies of, transatlantic slavery. It is a history of trade, colonisation, exploitation, enrichment and the tangled web of relations that gave meaning to the transatlantic world.

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