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Picturing the Caribbean in the Global British Landscape JOHN E. CROWLEY Topographic representations of British realms increased markedly in the period from the Seven Years' War to the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. The topographic impulse in eighteenth-century British landscape art —to produce recognizable illustrations of scenes that had been viewed firsthand —sought to make a rapidly enlarging British world understandable to the political nation as a global landscape.1 In the diplomatic outcome of the Seven Years' War, Great Britain had gained a global empire over non-British peoples. An empire of conquest now ruled Canada, Bengal, and the TransAppalachian West of North America. This empire's administration depended on professional standing armies stationed in the interiors of North America and the Indian subcontinent, as well as on increased numbers of troops in Ireland and in the Caribbean slave colonies, not to mention those sent to put down the rebellion in the thirteen colonies that became the United States. Yet after 1763 ideals of trusteeship increasingly shaped metropolitan responsibilities toward newly colonized peoples, as jurists and policymakers determined their entitlement to the rights, privileges, and obligations of subjects, even though they had become subjects by force.2 Topographic landscape art made it possible for people throughout British realms to reassure themselves that they understood distant and/or previously unfamiliar lands of the British Empire. This British visual identification for 323 324 / CROWLEY previously alien places helped legitimize questionable imperial projects— in Canada the assimilation of a predominantly French and Catholic population, in the Trans-Appalachian West the maintenance of peace between First Nations and European settlers, in India the regulation of an empirewithin -an-empire-within-an-empire as the East India Company expanded territorially into Mughal realms, and, in an ironic response to the American Revolution, the forcible settling of free-born Britons in unimaginably distant New South Wales.3 Nowhere was such imperial legitimatization more needed than in the Caribbean. Caribbean colonies were synonymous with slavery, and in the second half of the eighteenth century slavery ceased to be the "problem" it had been in Western culture for over two millennia—unjust, but ineluctable. Enlightenment moral philosophers had reached a virtual consensus that the wrongs of slavery should be conected. Anti-slavery impulses sparked the glimmerings of anti-imperialism, as economic, moral, and historical writers —most notably Adam Smith, Josiah Tucker, Edmund Burke, and the Abbé Guillaume-Thomas Raynal—scrutinized the legitimacy and benefits of colonization. Beginning in the 1760s, evangelical Britons radically dissociated themselves from their fellow subjects' involvement with slavery; anti-slavery reformers challenged the institution's legal underpinnings; and imperial reformers skeptically questioned the mercantilist advantages of the slave trade. As Christopher Brown has shown, an "empire without slaves"— virtually a political oxymoron before then—began to be bruited by British pamphleteers in the early 1770s.4 Landscape art of the British Caribbean developed as colonies there became controversial objects of national moral and economic concern. Yet historical studies of the Caribbean's early visual landscapes are few in comparison with those of Australia, Canada, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States. To be sure, there are excellent studies of individual artists' work in the Caribbean: Beth Tobin's forceful interpretation of Agostino Brunias's genre representations of African-Caribbean people in St. Vincent and Dominica, David Morris's rich account of Thomas Hearne's early career in Antigua, and Dian Kriz's brilliant interpretation of the imperial implications of illustrations in Hans Sloane's History of Jamaica. But even Marcus Wood's profound book on Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America deliberately ignores "the vast body of imagery which might be described as 'documentary', and which represented day-to-day conditions and life on plantations."5 Caribbeanists have no strong tradition of studying eighteenth-century representations of their region, in contrast to the many studies of elsewhere Picturing the Caribbean in the Global British Landscape / 325 in the eighteenth-century British Empire: Mildred Archer on India, Bernard Smith on the Pacific, Elizabeth John's comparison of early landscape representations of Australia and the United States, and Amy Meyers's, Edward Nygren's, and Bruce Robertson's essays on the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1938-6133
Print ISSN
0360-2370
Pages
pp. 323-346
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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