Finding Irish women in the Caribbean
Hello and welcome to the Irish Caribbean Lives Newsletter.
Since 2015 I’ve been researching a host of Irishmen who lived in the British Caribbean between about 1770 and 1840. I visited archives in Belfast and Dublin, wrote a 75,000 word dissertation and received my doctorate in 2018. I’ve since carried out further research with funding from the Huntington Library and the Australian Academy of the Humanities, all from my desk in Sydney. Sadly, I’ve never been to the Caribbean! I’m now writing up my findings for publication in a book I’m calling Irish Lives in the British Caribbean: engaging with empires in the Revolutionary Era.
This Newsletter is designed to share my research finds, stories, musings and probably stumbling blocks as I work through my manuscript. I’ll share my writing and publishing process and recommend books, media or events that I hope will interest readers. I thrive on community, accountability and deadlines. I’ve benefited from the connections I’ve made with descendants of some of the Irish people I’m researching, as well as genealogists and historians around the world. With this Newsletter I aim to give something back to that community and obtain some much-needed motivation to complete the manuscript:)
Finding women in the archives
This past week I’ve been researching Adelaide (‘Adele’) Shine nee Black. I want to showcase her Caribbean life alongside her father, John Black. As historians and genealogists know, researching the lives of women in the past is challenging. Adele was born in Trinidad in 1794 but spent much of her childhood with relatives in Belfast. I’m fortunate to have a handful of letters she wrote to her Irish relatives after her return to Trinidad and official documents detail her ownership of enslaved people and the compensation she received after Emancipation. To uncover Adele’s life beyond her letters and these official documents, I draw on the men in her life. I wrote about this method in 2019 as I researched Sarah Bell, an Irish immigrant to colonial New South Wales. My book will also delve into the extraordinary life of Irish Presbyterian Eliza Watson nee McKinstry, who worked for many years in Jamaica. I published a blogpost a few months ago in frustration as I hit a research brick wall with Eliza. I was thrilled when a friend with superior genealogical skills helped me solve the mystery – by locating her husband’s gravestone!
Secret Cures of Slaves: People, Plants, and Medicine in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World by Londa Schiebinger. I came across this book in my search for Grenadian context. Schiebinger writes about one of John Black’s connections at Bacolet plantation, but her scholarship will also inform my write-up of Dr John Crawford, an Ulsterman who practiced medicine in Barbardos and Demerara. I recommend the book for its easy-to-read exploration of how people, disease, plants and knowledge circulated between Europe, Africa and the Americas. Stanford University Press is selling the book 30% off until January 31 2022.
Emerita Professor Catherine Hall is giving the 2022 Eric Hobsbawm Memorial Lecture: Racial Capitalism. What’s in a name? It will be live-streamed on 10 February 2022. Click here for more information. It’s bound to be fascinating.
Until next time,