Australian Journal of Biography and History: No. 6, 2022

Australian Journal of Biography and History: No. 6, 2022

 

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Description

This special issue of Australian Journal of Biography and History, ‘Writing Slavery into Biography: Australian Legacies of British Slavery’, uses biographical approaches to explore how British slavery shaped the Australian colonies. It is the first stand-alone journal issue to feature an emerging body of historical work tracing the movement of people, investment and ideas from the Caribbean to Australia. Seven refereed articles and a roundtable discussion show how investment, imperial aspiration and migration turned towards Britain's ‘Second Empire’ in the aftermath of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

A substantive introduction reviews this emerging field of research and outlines preliminary findings. In her article, Jane Lydon examines the movement of two interconnected families (the Ridleys and Walcotts) from Demerara to Britain to the Swan River, where they acquired large land grants, participated in exploration and resource exploitation, and led the search for labour sources. Georgina Arnott investigates Western Australia’s first governor James Stirling’s biographical links to American and Caribbean slavery in light of ideas about race and labour that he promoted in Western Australia. And together Zoë Laidlaw and Georgina Arnott show how dictionaries of biography can be used alongside the Legacies of British Slavery database (hosted by University College London) to identify Australasian settlers with connections to slavery. They note the ways in which collective approaches to biography can reveal otherwise invisible patterns in global transfers of wealth, people and ideas.

With an eye to regionally specific processes of subjugation and enslavement in the northern Western Australian pearling and pastoralist industries, Malcolm Allbrook considers biography’s potential to illustrate the shadowy world of ‘blackbirding’ in relation to the perpetrators, the officials and the Aboriginal enslaved. Emma Christopher brings to life the colonial legacies of slavery in her account of Albert Messiah, Ishmael Williamson and John Henderson, sailors of African origin who worked on Pacific labour ships during the late nineteenth century, and whose lives illuminate the complex racial hierarchies of the Queensland frontier. Beth Robertson tells the layered story of her own great-great-grandfather, Edward Stirling, the illegitimate son of a British slave-owner and a woman of Ghanaian descent, whose material benefit from slavery helped him become a successful pastoralist and miner in South Australia, despite remaining the subject of racial prejudice.

Paul Arthur and Isabel Smith note the ‘biographical turn’ in museum exhibitions featuring stories of enslavement over the last two decades. They argue that this has enabled exhibitors to show stories of resistance, contingency and agency, albeit while navigating the ethical complexities of telling other people’s traumatic life stories. The feature section of this issue concludes with a roundtable discussion between Catherine Hall, Keith McClelland, Zoë Laidlaw, Jeremy Martens and Georgina Arnott on the topic of linking the legacies of British slave ownership to Australian colonisation. Here, Hall observes that biography, when used in combination with prosopography, reveals how the lives and family trajectories of slave owners were distinguished amongst imperial capitalists at large. This issue builds understanding of the precise ways that slavery shaped the Australian colonies.

Details

ISSN (print):
2209-9522
ISSN (online):
2209-9573
Publication date:
May 2022
Imprint:
ANU Press
DOI:
http://doi.org/10.22459/AJBH.06.2022
Journal:
Australian Journal of Biography and History
Disciplines:
Arts & Humanities: Biography & Autobiography, History
Countries:
Australia

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Special Issue: Writing Slavery into Biography: Australian Legacies of British Slavery

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