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Journal of a West Indian Proprietor: Kept During a Residence in the Island of Jamaica Hardcover – 10 Jan 1970

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 10 Jan 1970
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwood Press; New ed of 1834 ed edition (10 Jan. 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 083711845X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0837118451
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,261,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

Although best known as a playwright and novelist, Matthew 'Monk' Lewis (1775–1818) was also a Member of Parliament and had inherited estates in Jamaica. This posthumously published Journal is the record of his visits there, and of his attempts to improve the welfare of slaves. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Judith Terry is Senior Instructor in the English Department at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Format: Paperback
Matthew Lewis is a good writer. This account of his travels to the West Indies and his management of his plantations there is therefore worth reading for its own sake as a fascinating piece of literature. For anyone interested in writings about slavery it is also an invaluable document. Lewis was keen to behave well to his slaves, but his attitude towards them is too clearly constrained and conditioned by the prejudices of his time. I would encourage anyone intending to read this journal to read something like Olaudah Equiano's or Mary Prince's accounts of the life of a slave. Such writings put into perspective Lewis's attempts to justify the owning of slaves, as well as pointing out the absences in his text which elide and obscure the reality of the harsh and exhausting conditions which even the best-treated slaves were too often forced to endure.
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Matthew Lewis inherited slave plantations in Jamaica and visited them quite extensively in the early nineteenth century. He supported the abolition of the slave trade but his racism and self-interest made it impossible for him to imagine how his slaves could survive without benevolent proprietors like him, so he opposed their emancipation. Large parts of the journal are really quite contemptible, being devoted to explanations of how noble and paternal he is, and how amusing or tiresome are the ways that his slaves behave. It is however an interesting and salutory read, and I think you should read it, lest you forget how limited were the aims of much of the middle and upper classes with regard to slavery: they simply deplored the brutality, but equality and freedom were issues they could no more contemplate for blacks in the West Indies than they could for the labourers on their farms and in their mills in Britain. There are lessons here that have an echo today- PETER SANDERS
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