Discovering the Meaning of the African Dance in the Antigua Slave Conspiracy of 1736

A genuine narrative of the intended conspiracy of the negroes at Antigua. Extracted from an authentic copy of a report, made to the Chief Governor of the Carabee Islands, by the commissioners, or judges appointed to try the conspirators (Dublin: Printed by and for R. Reilly, 1737).
Willem Bosman, A new and accurate description of the Coast of Guinea, divided into the Gold, the Slave, and the Ivory Coasts (London: printed for J. Knapton, A. Bell, R. Smith, D. Midwinter, W. Haws, W. Davis, G. Strahan, B. Lintott, J. Round, and J. Wale, 1705). 71-367-006

The Antigua slave conspiracy trials of 1736 began with an enslaved man performing a mysterious dance in an open field. Two printed books held in the John Carter Brown Library help us to interpret the meaning of this dance and in the process, to better understand the ways in which enslaved people of African ancestry sought to reinvent themselves in the British Atlantic during the first half of the eighteenth century. Continue reading Discovering the Meaning of the African Dance in the Antigua Slave Conspiracy of 1736

The Fat Man of Maldon

As an example of how an image can say so much more than appears at first glance, consider the British cartoon in the collection of the John Carter Brown Library. Called “The Waistcoat,” it shows John Stuart, Lord Bute, exerting his influence and tyranny over the government by pulling a cart over the prostrate body of Britannia. Representing the members of the Grafton Administration, seven men stand on the cart enveloped in a giant waistcoat. Lord Bute holds a switch to manage the rather cowed, and/or impassive, members of the government. An image request and subsequent article by Lynne Raymond, a researcher of Edward Bright and inhabitant of his town of Maldon, brought the interesting information to our attention. Continue reading The Fat Man of Maldon

The JCB Loses a Sterling Bookman: David Parsons (1939-2014)

Staff at the John Carter Brown Library were surprised and saddened by the sudden passing of Board member David Parsons, who had been in touch with us not long previously, and had seemed to us the picture of health.

David was a singularly committed and supportive friend of the JCB, always thinking of ways to contribute his expertise and other resources. When his great Pacific exploration collection came on the market in a fine two-volume catalogue by Hordern House, he told me he would be happy to pull a book from the sale to present to the JCB, if I could identify one most desirable for the Library. This was a very fine collection, and so not an altogether easy decision. Continue reading The JCB Loses a Sterling Bookman: David Parsons (1939-2014)

Plants, Prescriptions, and Placebos: 1535 – present

Salvia divinorum

The circulation of people, things, and ideas between the New and Old Worlds from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries is a unifying theme of the John Carter Brown Library’s collections, and some of these circuits of exchange live on in strikingly similar ways. Online exhibitions at the JCB highlighting how indigenous American plants changed early modern European medical practices resound in many ways with Brown anthropologist Paja Faudree’s research on the contemporary global trade in Salvia divinorum, known colloquially simply as salvia. History does not simply repeat itself, however—changing contexts of production, use, and exchange illuminate how indigenous and European ideas about nature and medicine have changed each other over the centuries. Continue reading Plants, Prescriptions, and Placebos: 1535 – present

Jeremiads Are More Fun Than You Might Expect

cotton1Cotton Mathercotton2





If you tap ‘Author: Cotton Mather’ into the JCB catalog, the effect is rather like opening the door of an over-stuffed cupboard and having the contents drop on your head — out falls a total of 235 works. Surely no other JCB author can compete with this — indeed, it’s been claimed that Cotton Mather published more titles than any other writer in history, though most of them are just single sermons or lectures. Continue reading Jeremiads Are More Fun Than You Might Expect