Enfilade

New Book | The Natural, Moral, and Political History of Jamaica

Posted in anniversaries, books by Editor on August 1, 2021

Today is Emancipation Day, a holiday celebrated in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. On 1 August 1834, slavery was legally abolished in British colonies, resulting in freedom for some 311,00 enslaved people in Jamaica. From the University of Virginia Press:

James Knight, The Natural, Moral, and Political History of Jamaica, and the Territories thereon Depending: From the First Discovery of the Island by Christopher Columbus to the Year 1746, edited by Jack Greene (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2021), 832 pages, ISBN 978-0813945576 (ebook), $49 / ISBN: 978-0813945569 (cloth), $65.

Between 1737 and 1746, James Knight—a merchant, planter, and sometime Crown official and legislator in Jamaica—wrote a massive two-volume history of the island. The first volume provided a narrative of the colony’s development up to the mid-1740s, while the second offered a broad survey of most aspects of Jamaican life as it had developed by the third and fourth decades of the eighteenth century. Completed not long before his death in the winter of 1746–47 and held in the British Library, this work is now published for the first time. Well researched and intelligently critical, Knight’s work is not only the most comprehensive account of Jamaica’s ninety years as an English colony ever written; it is also one of the best representations of the provincial mentality as it had emerged in colonial British America between the founding of Virginia and 1750. Expertly edited and introduced by Jack Greene, this volume represents a colonial Caribbean history unique in its contemporary perspective, detail, and scope.

Jack P. Greene is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities Emeritus at Johns Hopkins University and author of Settler Jamaica in the 1750s: A Social Portrait (Virginia).

 

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