Department of History

Merchants and Managers, Sojourners and Slaves

Project summary

In October 1756 the ship Europa left Jamaica for Dublin. Being a time of war, the Europa was briefly taken by the French, before being retaken by the British. As a war ‘prize’ it was taken under the control of the High Court of Admiralty, and its post bag of letters to ports in Britain (London, Liverpool, Bristol and Dublin) kept as evidence. They remain, as a set, at The National Archives, London. Written during September and October 1756 by merchants, plantation managers, and sojourners, these letters discuss plantation business, gossip about social life in Jamaica, and list the sales of enslaved men, women and children. These letters will be used to shine a micro-history lens on Jamaican life at an important juncture in its history, reflected against the macro view of the historiography of Atlantic slavery.

Painting of Harbour Street, Kingston



The overall aim of this project is to use this rare set of letters to provide a personal, or micro-perspective of Jamaican life in the mid eighteenth century set against the backdrop of the macro of Atlantic enslavement at this important period in Jamaica’s history. Through the final outcome of a monograph these letters will finally be ‘delivered’ and in so doing, bring the histories to life of those writing the letters (mostly white) and those being written about (black and white).

Research questions

In order to provide a focus for this research several research questions are pertinent:

  • What do the letters tell us about everyday life in Jamaica 1756, for those there permanently, and those sojourning?
  • How do they describe the life, work and plights of the enslaved and free people of colour?
  • What do these letters tell us about the gendered experience of life in Jamaica?
  • To what extent did the outbreak of war dominate these letters?
  • What can these letters tell us about the commercial networks between Jamaica and Britain?

Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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