Hakluyt Society Symposium 2019: Registration now open!

Registration for the upcoming Hakluyt Society Symposium: ‘Rethinking Power in Maritime Encounters, 1400-1900’ is now open!

Date: 5-6 September 2019

LocationP.J. Veth, Nonnensteeg 1-3, 2311 VJ Leiden. Room 1.01.

Please register via this link before 1 September 2019. The full registration fee is €50. The fee for Hakluyt Society Members and Linschoten-Vereeniging members is €25. Lunch and tea/coffee will be provided on both days. Hakluyt Society Student Members attend the symposium for free, and should register by emailing hakluytleiden2019@gmail.com (please include your membership number in your email). To become a Hakluyt Society (student) member, follow the instructions here.

Practical information

If you need accommodation in Leiden during the symposium, we can offer a special conference rate of 85 euros per night, including WIFI and breakfast, at the IBIS hotel. This hotel is located close to the railway station and is a 10-15 minute walk from the symposium venue. For those who want to go local, the hotel also rents out bikes for the duration of your stay! We advise contacting the hotel early with your travel plans. Please book by email (h8087@accor.com) with “Universiteit Leiden” in the subject line, stating that you are booking for the symposium.

The conference will be held in the University’s recently restored P.J. Veth building overlooking the Botanical Gardens. The botanical gardens are the oldest in The Netherlands (1590) and we do encourage attendees to take a quick tour over one of the lunch breaks. All breaks will be on site; the drinks receptions and the conference dinner will be within easy walking distance from the venue. If you have any mobility or dietary concerns, or any other questions, please  do get in touch via hakluytleiden@gmail.com.

Programme

Find the full programme here.

We look forward to welcoming you in Leiden!

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Programme: Hakluyt Society Symposium 2019 – Rethinking Maritime Encounters

Hakluyt Society Symposium 2019: “Rethinking Power in Maritime Encounters”, Leiden, 5-6 September 2019

Organised by the Hakluyt Society in collaboration with Leiden University’s Institute of History, the Linschoten-Vereeniging, and Itinerario

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Thursday 5 September

08:00 – 8:30 registration / welcome

08:30 – 10:20 panel 1 [Labour Relations]

  1. Pepijn Brandon – ‘Varieties of Force: Experiments in Coerced Labour on Naval Shipyards During the Industrial Revolution’
  2. Maria Vann – ‘“The Bloomer Controlled the Whole of Us:” The Dichotomy of Female Slave Ship Owners and Maritime Women as Agents of Power’
  3. Richard Blakemore – ‘The Meanings of Mutiny in Early Modern Seafaring’
  4. Leonardo Moreno Alvarez – ‘Fraudsters, Grifters, and Divers: The Logistics of Labor and Silver Transportation in the Spanish Caribbean, late 1650s’

10:20 – 10:50 coffee/tea break

10:50 – 12:40 panel 2 [Emancipation and Mobility]

  1. Kevin Dawson – ‘Free and Enslaved Ship Pilots in the Age of Revolutions’
  2. Gina G. Bennett – ‘“Service for Me and Mine in Another Land”: Scotland’s Women and Maritime Strategies of the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World’
  3. Rafaël Thiébaut – ‘The Role of Pirates, Women and the Slave Trade in the Creation of the Betsimisaraka Kingdom (1685-1809)’
  4. Timothy D. Walker – ‘Sailing to Freedom in the Antebellum USA: Enslaved Seaport/ Coastal Laborers, the Whaling Industry, and Rethinking the Maritime Dimensions of the Underground Railroad’

12:40 – 13:40 lunch

13:40 – 15:30 panel 3 [Indigenous Knowledge and Agency]

  1. Mariana Françozo – ‘Negotiating Power and Knowledge: Natural History Practices in Dutch Brazil’
  2. Nathaniel Holly – ‘The Power of “Patrick Cherryman”: Cherokees on the Waves of the Atlantic’
  3. Esther Baakman – ‘Formidable Allies, Dangerous Foes: Native Americans in the European Press’
  4. Sebastian Hepburn-Roper – ‘Taonga Trading Posts: Coastal Settlements and Firearms Trade in early Nineteenth-Century New Zealand’

15:30 – 15:50 coffee/tea break

15:50-16:00 Hakluyt Society Essay Prize presentation – James Taylor

16:00 – 17:00 keynote: Josh Reid – ‘Indigenous Explorers & the Making of Pacific Worlds, 1786-1890’

17:00 drinks (sponsored by Itinerario)

19:00 dinner (speakers; registered participants at own expense)


Friday 6 September

08:30 – 10:20 panel 4 [Global Empires and Trans-Oceanic Connections]

  1. Sujit Sivasundaram – ‘Explorers, Monarchs and Empire in the Pacific’s Age of Revolutions’
  2. Kevin P. McDonald – ‘Babbo and the Breadfruit: Pacific Islanders and the Anglo-Imperial Imaginary, ca. 1789’
  3. Marília Arantes Silva Moreira – ‘Antoine Larcher’s ‘Project of Expedition to Salvador (Brazil) 1797’ and the Global Competition for the South Atlantic during the Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802)’
  4. Amarendra Kumar – ‘Negotiating ‘Territoriality of the Sea’: The Maratha Navy in the Era of Global Maritime Empires’

10:20 – 10:40 coffee/tea break

10:40 – 12:30 panel 5 [Piracy in the Atlantic World]

  1. Claire Jowitt – ‘Pirate Marts: Economic Warfare, Price Cuts, and Popular Politics’
  2. Tim Soriano – ‘Buccaneers into Baymen: British Rule in British Honduras 1570–1765’
  3. Elizabeth Montañez Sanabria – ‘Privateers, Pirates, and Local Alliances in the Opening of the South Sea (1570-1700)’
  4. David Wilson – ‘A War Against Piracy? Local Agency and the Limits of Imperial Authority in Oceanic Spaces throughout the British Atlantic, 1716-1726’

12:40 – 13:30 lunch

13:30 – 15:20 panel 6 [Material Culture and Epistemology]

  1. Elsje van Kessel – ‘Power and Privateering: On the Illicit Movement of Asian Material Culture to Europe, circa 1600’
  2. Djoeke van Netten – ‘Borderlines: Straddling Land and Sea in Early Modern Atlases’
  3. Subah Dayal – ‘Elegies to the Port: Surat and Vengurla in the Persianate Imaginary’ (Skype)

15:20 – 15:40 coffee/tea break

15:40 – 17:00 panel 7 [Maritime Actors and Environments]

  1. John McAleer – ‘Crossing the Line? Ceremonies, Rituals, and Rites of Passage on Atlantic Voyages in the Age of Sail’
  2. Nathalia Brichet – ‘In the Wake – Liveability and Colonial Ecologies around the Harbour of St Thomas’
  3. Simon Mølholm Olesen – ‘They tricked the Dutch: Inuit Management of the Colonial Encounter in West Greenland, ca. 1720-50’
  4. Eva Johanna Holmberg – ‘Youth at Sea: a Mobile and Fragile Seafaring Youth in Richard Norwood’s Journal (1639-40)’

17:00 closing drinks


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CFP: Hakluyt Society Symposium 2019: Rethinking Power in Maritime Encounters

Call for Papers

The Hakluyt Society Symposium 2019

Rethinking Power in Maritime Encounters (1400-1900)

5-6 September 2019

Leiden University, the Netherlands

Organised in collaboration with the Linschoten-Vereeniging, Itinerario, and Leiden University’s Institute for History

Deadline: 1 March 2019

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Keynote: Joshua Reid (UW Seattle).

Speakers confirmed: Pepijn Brandon (VU), Nathalia Brichet (Aarhus), Kevin Dawson (UC Merced), Mariana de Campos Françozo (Leiden), John McAleer (Southampton), Elsje van Kessel (St. Andrews), Sujit Sivasundaram (Cambridge).


Maritime histories have always told stories about power. Whether in the form of narratives about mastery of the seas, conquest of lands, or enslavement of peoples, traditional accounts of enterprising explorers and hardy mariners have located power and agency with a limited groups of actors: almost always male, and predominantly European. In doing so, histories of maritime encounters have mostly reproduced the perspectives contained in their sources, foregrounding the actions of European men and casting other actors as largely passive, peripheral, or powerless. These histories are in need of revision.

This conference seeks to explore new narratives of maritime power, to investigate the ways in which power was constituted and contested, how it was gendered and racialised, and through what strategies it was subverted or resisted. It aims to bring together historians working on (the limits of) state and non-state power, multiple actors and traditions of seafaring and exploration, and the agency of women, enslaved people, and other historically marginalised groups. Moreover, by expanding the focus to include environmental histories, this conference seeks to reconsider interrelations between humans and their marine surroundings.

This two-day conference will host senior experts and early career researchers in a cross-disciplinary conversation aimed at critically rethinking the role of power in maritime history. Topics for discussion include, but are not limited to:

  • Asymmetrical power relations
  • Global actors and agency
  • Writing and discursive power
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Maritime power and the environment
  • Materiality and maritime encounters
  • Maritime encounters and spatiality
  • Resistance, mutinies, rebellions
  • Slavery and maritime labour

Held in the historic city of Leiden, Rethinking Power in Maritime Encounters is organised by the Hakluyt Society in collaboration with the Linschoten-Vereeniging. Prospective speakers are invited to submit proposals of no more than 300 words for 20-minute papers along with a brief bio statement to hakluytleiden2019@gmail.com by 1 March 2019. Contributions from postgraduate researchers are particularly encouraged.

The Hakluyt Society will make available five travel bursaries (up to £200 each) to postgraduate and early career applicants with limited access to funding – if you would like to apply for a bursary, please indicate this when sending your abstract and explain your reasons for applying. Reduced registration fees apply for members of the Hakluyt Society and Linschoten-Vereeniging.

Organising committee: Michiel van Groesen, Carolien Stolte, Suze Zijlstra (Universiteit Leiden), and Guido van Meersbergen (University of Warwick)

Download CFP and poster.


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Hakluyt Society Research Funding 2019

For the fourth year running, the Hakluyt Society in pleased to announce its annual round of Research Funding. In furtherance of the principal objects of the Hakluyt Society, to promote the study of historical exploration, travel, and worldwide cultural encounter, the Society operates two schemes of research funding. These are:

  • The Hakluyt Society Research Grant, up to six of which will be available per calendar year, with a maximum allocation of £1500 each.
  • The Hakluyt Society Short-Term Fellowship, two of which will be available per calendar year. The Fellowship may be held for a maximum of four months, with a maximum allowance of £1650 per month. 

These funding opportunities are open to anyone whose research interests meet with and promote the objects of the Hakluyt Society. All applicants must be members of the Hakluyt Society, and applications must be received by 31 January 2019.

Please ensure that you have read the guidelines below before completing the Application Form.


 

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Guidelines

1. Hakluyt Society funding is given to support and extend the stated aims of the Society. The primary aim of the Society is ‘to advance knowledge and education by the publication of scholarly editions of primary records of voyages, travels and other geographical material’. In addition, the Society also undertakes and supports activities supplementary to its primary role as a publisher of scholarly texts: ‘by organizing and participating in meetings, symposia and conferences which contribute to an increased awareness of geographical exploration and cultural encounter’. Applicants should state clearly in their application how the proposed project meets the aims of the Society

2. The applicant must be a member of the Hakluyt Society at the time of application. (For further information about membership and the activities of the Hakluyt Society, please visit www.hakluyt.com).

3. In completing the form, applicants should make clear which one of the two funding sources is being applied for. It is not possible to apply for both of the funding sources in the same year. In the event of successful application, further financial support from the Society will not normally be considered within two years.

4. The Abstract should be written in language suitable for a non-academic audience and outline the importance and timeliness of the work proposed and its fit to the work of the Society. The section Description of the Research, should place the nature of the research proposed in relation to the relevant scholarly literature and identify the originality and significance of the work proposed.

5. Where relevant, the library/archive or other repository to be visited should be identified, as should the expected time frame in which the research will be undertaken. The application should detail the number of working days that will be spent at the library/archive/repository in question.

6. The Budget must give projected costs in as much detail as possible, and should justify the levels of expenditure proposed.

7. Plans for communication of the research should be fully explained. These should also be realistic and precisely stated.

8. Applicants should note that the funding is intended to cover the costs associated with the conduct of research (including reasonable travel and subsistence expenses), and is not for an applicant’s ongoing maintenance expenses during the period of research. Maintenance can be paid, however, for periods when the research requires the applicant to live away from home. Please note that Hakluyt Society research funding is for research with identifiable publication plans only and may not be used simply for dissertation research or write-up. Funding will not be given for computer hardware or software costs. If applicants are in any doubt over allowable costs, they are advised to contact the Society.

9. Successful applicants are required to acknowledge the support of the Hakluyt Society in any resultant Hakluyt Society publication, other research publication or in events of outreach and dissemination.

10. The maximum sum available for a Hakluyt Society Research Grant (HSRG) is £1500. Normally, there will be up to six Hakluyt Society Research Grants available in any one research funding year (April to March). Normally, there will be two Hakluyt Society Short-Term Fellowships available in any funding year. The Hakluyt Society Short-Term Fellowship (HSSTF) may be held for a maximum of four calendar months. The maximum sum available for the Hakluyt Society Short-Term Fellowship will be £1650 per calendar month (i.e., the maximum sum that may be sought is £6600). Normally, there will be two Hakluyt Society Short-Term Fellowship available in any one funding year.

Normally, in the event of successful application, the sum awarded will be paid directly to the named applicant. It is the applicant’s responsibility to provide the Society with full details of the bank account into which the award should be paid. Upon completion of the project for which an award has been made, the applicant is expected to provide the Society with a summary of the expenditure, with itemized receipts for the same, a brief report of the work undertaken and a blog post on the work or some aspect of it, suitable for publication on the Hakluyt Society Blog. The Society (at office@hakluyt.com) would like to receive the summary of expenditure, report and blog post as soon as possible after the research is completed, but requires them no later than one month after the research funding year, i.e. by 30 April 2019.

11. Successful candidates will receive notification of the outcome of their application. Due to the volume of applications, please note that the Society is unable to enter into correspondence on individual unsuccessful applications. The Society reserves the right to invite selected unsuccessful candidates to develop their proposals further to reapply in subsequent rounds, and may provide additional feedback in such cases.


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The voyage of Captain John Narbrough to the Strait of Magellan and the South Sea in his Majesty’s Ship Sweepstakes 1669-1671

The Hakluyt Society is pleased to present its newest publication: The Voyage of Captain John Narbrough to the Strait of Magellan and the South Sea in his Majesty’s Ship Sweepstakes, 1669-1671, edited by Richard J. Campbell, Peter T. Bradley, and Joyce Lorimer. Purchased in 2009 by the British Library, John Narbrough’s fair copy of the journal of his voyage through the Strait of Magellan and north to Valdivia in the Sweepstakes (1669-1671) is now published for the first time, together with an incomplete and somewhat different copy of the journal, held in the Bodleian Library. The Hakluyt Society publication furthermore contains previously unpublished records made by members of Narbrough’s company, as well as reproductions of the charts on which he relied and those he produced. In this blog post, Captain Richard Campbell explains the circumstances of Narbrough’s voyage and the scholarly significance of the new edition.


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In May 1669 Captain John Narbrough was appointed to command HMS Sweepstakes for a voyage to the West Indies, Shortly thereafter an adventurer who has gone down in history as Don Carlos (he gave different versions of his name, nationality and accounts of his life to virtually everyone with whom he came in contact) submitted a proposal to King Charles II for a voyage to South America with an apparent view to establishing trading relation with the native inhabitants and stirring up a rebellion against the Spanish authorities. The King, having had this proposal investigated, agreed to sending a frigate with a pink in company on a voyage of discovery with a view to investigating the prospects of trade.

Cover Narbrough

Narbrough, whose ship was by this time anchored in the Downs, was recalled to London where he was personally instructed by the King and the Lord High Admiral, James, Duke of York to embark Don Carlos and sail for South America, south of the Río de la Plata and discover the coast round through the Strait of Magellan as far north as Valdivia, making contact with the native inhabitants and ascertaining what the prospects were for trade, with the evident unwritten aim of trying to encroach on the Spanish access to the gold in the area. It is quite clear in Narbrough’s instructions that the King did not trust Don Carlos, but Narbrough was ordered to take his advice if he found him to have any knowledge of the area they were to visit.

An account of this voyage was published in 1669 with a second edition in 1711. This is an abbreviated version of a manuscript in the Bodleian Museum, augmented by the journal kept by Lieutenant Peckett, one of Narbrough’s officers.

The voyage resulted in a series of charts of the harbours visited and of the Strait of Magellan, which became the basic standard of all subsequent charts of the Strait for the next hundred years, together with the knowledge that trade in that area would be impracticable. While in Valdivia, a Lieutenant and three members of Narbrough’s company were detained by the Spanish Governor who refused all requests for their release. Narbrough, whose company by this time was reduced to about 70 people, with a garrison of over 600 Spaniards ashore, and having been expressly forbidden by the King from taking any military action against the Spanish, was forced to leave them there (together with Don Carlos who had been secretly landed at his own request and subsequently surrendered to the Spanish).

On his return to England, Narbrough was well received by the King and immediately re-employed. He went on to have a very distinguished career, being knighted and serving as Commander in Chief in the Mediterranean and a Commissioner of the Navy.

Narbrough map
‘A Draught of Porte San Julyan’ (British Library, BL, Add MSS 88980C)

In the nineteenth century, largely as a result of Admiral Burney’s very unfavourable account of the voyage, it came to be considered a complete disaster – he wrote “It might ironically have been said, that the business of Narbrough’s voyage was to set four men ashore at Baldivia. The persons landed were left to their fate without interference being made on their behalf by the British Government.”[1] This view of the voyage has largely persisted until the present day.

In 2009, the British Library launched a successful appeal to purchase Narbrough’s own manuscript of this voyage, which in the current Hakluyt Society edition is now published in full for the first time, together with the complete Bodleian manuscript; the journal of Lieutenant Peckett; the “short accompt” of Richard Williams, and the journal of William Chambers, who was mate of the pink which accompanied the Sweepstakes for the first part of the voyage. There are also extracts from John Woods’ account and sailing directions, which were abbreviated, combined and published by William Hack in 1699 (of which there are modern reproductions available).  It has also been possible to locate Don Carlos’ original proposals in The National Archives and make use of various other Spanish archives to fill out the picture of his activities.

The new Hakluyt Society edition presents a much fuller account of the voyage than that published in 1694, together with detail of its advent, and seeks to demonstrate that Narbrough carried out his instructions to the letter, and that despite the loss of his men in Valdivia the voyage fulfilled the Kings orders. It also aims to reinstate Narbrough as the exceedingly competent and courageous naval officer he undoubtedly was, and give the voyage its proper place in the hydrographic history of the Strait of Magellan.


Captain Richard J. Campbell, OBE., Royal Navy, joined BRNC Dartmouth as a Cadet in 1946. After service in submarines he specialised in Hydrograhic Surveying. He worked in various regions round the world including Antarctica and the Falkland Islands when he visited the Strait of Magellan. His last command was HMS Hydra serving as a Hospital Ship in the Falkland War in 1982, after which he served in the UK Hydrographic Office until his retirement in 1994. His previous publications for the Hakluyt Society include: The Discovery of the South Shetland Islands / The Voyage of the Brig Williams, 1819-1820 and The Journal of Midshipman C.W. Poynter (3rd series, no. 4); and ‘The Journal of HMS Beagle in the Strait of Magellan, by Pringle Stokes, Commander RN 1827′, in: Four Travel Journals / The Americas, Antarctica and Africa / 1775-1874 (3rd series, no. 18).

[1] Burney, James, A Chronological History of the Voyages and Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean (5 vols, London 1803-17), Vol III, p. 375.


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Hakluyt Society Essay Prize 2019 (deadline: 30 November 2018)

For the fifth year running, submissions are invited for the annual Hakluyt Society Essay Prize. The award (or more than one, if the judges so decide) has this year seen an increase in value to a maximum total of £1,000. The prize or prizes for 2019 will be presented, if possible, at the Hakluyt Society’s Annual General Meeting in London in June 2019. Winners will also receive a one-year membership of the Hakluyt Society. The Society hopes that the winning essay will be published, either in the Society’s online journal or in a recognised academic journal.

Joint winners of the 2018 Essay Prize were Darren Smith (University of Sydney) and Whitney Robles (Harvard University). Previous winners include Owain Lawson (2015), Nailya Shamgunova (2016), and Annemarie Mclaren (2017). You can read about their winning essays herehere and here.


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Eligibility criteria

The competition is open to any registered graduate student at a higher education institution (a university or equivalent) or to anyone who has been awarded a graduate degree in the past three years. Proof of student status or of the date of a degree must accompany any submission. Allowance can be made for maternity leave.

Scope and subject matter

Before considering the submission of an essay, entrants should visit the Hakluyt Society’s web-site (www.hakluyt.com) to make themselves aware of the object of the Society and the scope and nature of its publications. Essays should be based on original research in any discipline in the humanities or social sciences, and on an aspect of the history of travel, exploration and cultural encounter or their effects, in the tradition of the work of the Society.

Essays should be in English (except for such citations in languages other than English as may appear in footnotes or endnotes) and between 6,000 and 8,000 words in length (including notes, excluding bibliography). Illustrations, diagrams and tables essential to the text fall outside the word count. Submissions should be unpublished, and not currently in press, in production or under review elsewhere.

Submission procedures and deadline

Essays should be submitted as email attachments in Word.doc format to The Administrator at office@hakluyt.com by 30 November 2018. The entrant’s name, address (including preferred email address), institutional affiliation (if any, with date of admission), and degrees (if any, with dates of conferment) should appear within the body of the email, together with a note of the title of the submitted essay. The subject line of the email should include the words ‘HAKLUYT SOCIETY ESSAY PRIZE’ and the author’s name. By submitting an essay, an entrant certifies that it is the entrant’s own original work.

Selection procedure

The Judging Panel encourages innovative submissions that make an important contribution to knowledge, or a critical or methodological contribution to scholarship. The panel and selected reviewers will pay attention to the analytical rigour, originality, wider significance, depth and scope of the work, as well as to style and presentation. The panel comprises selected academic faculty from among past and present members of the Hakluyt Society’s Council, including the editorial board of The Journal of the Hakluyt Society.

The Prize Committee reserves the right not to award a prize, if no submission is judged to be of sufficient merit. The Committee’s decision will be announced in April 2019.

NOTE: Prize winners agree to acknowledge the receipt of their award in any future publication of the prize essay. In addition, they will be expected to contribute to the Society’s public dissemination as appropriate. This may include, but is not limited to, presenting a paper at a Hakluyt Society symposium (in which case travel expenses within the UK will be reimbursed) and contributing to the Hakluyt Society blog.

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Messy Lives on the Upper Guinea Coast: The Church Missionary Society and its Representatives

As the first recipients of Hakluyt Society Research Grants are finishing up their projects, we are delighted to share several of their findings on this blog. In this post, Dr. Katrina Keefer (Trent University) explains how her research on body marking and identity in West Africa led her to the archives of the Church Missionary Society and delve into the ‘messy lives’ of German-speaking Lutheran missionaries in early nineteenth-century Sierra Leone.


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When I first began to explore the correspondence of the various Church Missionary Society’s agents in Sierra Leone during the summer of 2011, I confess that I knew very little about them. I was primarily conducting research about how body marks and identity were connected, and was hoping to find evidence of drawn or described body marks such as tattoos and scarification. Missionary accounts seemed like a good place to begin, but as it happened, I never did find descriptions of scarification or tattoo.

What I found were lives. And as I read further, researching the authors and working to reconstruct the trajectories of their pupils, I realized how fascinating, complex and unplanned those lives were. It has become a sort of running joke to me that I ought to pitch these lives to ‘HBO’ as a series, because they remain so endlessly engrossing and chaotic. They are, to paraphrase Joseph Miller, “messy.”

I moved through various phases as I worked with these documents and the snippets of lives contained within them. There were three main threads and narratives, and following each of them was fascinating and intriguing.

There were the sometimes heart-breaking stories of the seven main authors – each was a German-speaking man originating from central and northern Europe. This was itself startling to realise, as the nested assumptions concerning the early CMS in Sierra Leone tended to be that they were English, or with greater knowledge, that the missionaries were simply ‘Germans.’ The problem of course with this was that there was no ‘Germany’ at the time, and learning the origins of each man was itself compelling, because it began to explain their distribution within the colony and hinterlands.

That sociocultural division also began to illuminate the many tensions and divisions which were present between missionaries, and which were otherwise baffling. The first two men – Peter Hartwig and Melchior Renner – evidently loathed one another to such a degree that one document penned by Governor Thomas Ludlom explained that they could not be permitted in the same place without a chaperone.

A resolution by the Corresponding Committee dated from 30 September 1806 reads that Renner and Hartwig were no longer allowed to go out together, “on account of the frequent disagreements which have already occurred between Messrs Renner and Hartwig and from their avowed repugnance to act in concert, or even to live together.”

Bashia
“Plan of Bashia Settlement” This 1817 illustration’s creator is unknown, but represents the proposed plan for the rebuilding of Bashia after it was damaged by fire. The building was originally called “Gray’s Factory” and was a slave trading factory which was given to the missionaries by Benjamin Curtis in 1805/1806 in return for the agreed-upon education of the local slave traders’ children. CMS/CA1/E6/5

Reading more carefully, I learned that Hartwig, a Prussian draft-dodger, was torn desperately between the instructions of the colonial authorities, the dictates of the missionary society, and his increasing distaste for the relatively lax lifestyle within Freetown at the time. This emerged in strident sermons whenever he was in the colony, and he was faced with steadily worsening responses from Ludlom and other officials, who challenged him again and again to justify his excursions up-country (he was instructed by the CMS itself to go inland in order to establish a mission settlement, it must be noted).

Within the correspondence of this period, the incredible tension is clear between colony and missionary, while for the Swabian Renner, similar frustration emerges throughout. He felt trapped within Freetown, made to serve as Chaplain to the Colony when like Hartwig, he had been instructed to journey into the interior, but was not permitted to do so. His resentment of Hartwig and his intense frustration all are clear additional emphatic indications of these currents of anger and miscommunication, which were hallmarks of this point in the colony.

After the arrival of other missionaries, and the 1807 dismissal of Hartwig and his subsequent castigation and branding as a slave trader, matters eased somewhat, and the narratives of the missionaries change to excitement in their correspondence. Finally, they were able to largely travel as a group up country, establishing the first and arguably most important of their early schools: Bashia on the Pongo river. Now the first two threads, which were centred on the tension between missionaries and colonial authorities, are joined by the third.

Freed to preach and teach, the correspondence becomes insightful and illuminating especially with respect to the local people. From the amateur ethnography of Gustavus Reinhold Nylander on the Bullom Shore at Yongroo Pomoh writing lengthy descriptions of funeral customs, of Poro ritual, or of red water trials, to Renner at Bashia taking down the opinion of the local headmen concerning slavery, these documents become invaluable as scholarly sources.

Kolloh devil
“Kolloh Devil” is a drawing appended to G.R. Nylander’s 1815 letter to CMS Secretary Josiah Pratt, in which he describes a masquerade he saw among the Bullom with whom he worked. His letter and this drawing are one of the earliest representations of a Poro ritual, and of maskers. CMS/CA1/E5/13.

I find that in transcribing this material, I am continually shocked by how rich it is. Accounts of smallpox epidemics, or conflicts between Royal Africa Squadron ships and local villagers, of personal tragedies as when Nylander’s son died, and of large traumas, as when Charles Christian Frederick Wenzel writes about the hardships facing Liberated African children in Kissy Town. The pictures painted within the documents are vibrant and evocative.

It is also the raw narratives about working alongside and around slave traders while acting on behalf of an abolitionist society that make this other aspect of the material so engrossing. The missionaries had opened schools for the most part, almost by accident, and their student reports offer unvarnished snapshots of children along the upper Guinea coast in the early nineteenth century. These children were the sons and daughters of local elites, or of local slave traders, or were themselves former slaves. Missionaries like John Godfrey Wilhelm produced a welter of blunt commentaries on his students. These range from high praise and warmth to clear frustration with certain students.

Throughout my reading of these extraordinarily rich and compelling materials, I am struck by how utterly human the people within them are. Flawed, chaotic, and at times ludicrous, both the authors and their subjects give their readers a perspective on this period which permits important conclusions regionally.

The missionaries were ultimately unsuccessful in their efforts to convert. It’s almost laughable how thoroughly Nylander was rebuffed by the villagers on the Bullom Shore. And yet through their schools, these men and their largely unheard wives educated a remarkably diverse group of pupils who went on to open their own schools in turn.

That more than anything else is the lasting legacy of their work – the “Athens of West Africa” which Sierra Leone became was due to a nucleus of westernized children who passed through the CMS schools and the hands of those flawed but fascinating missionaries.


Katrina Keefer is an Adjunct Professor at Trent University, Ontario, Canada. She is a cultural historian who specializes in identity, body marking, slavery, and initiatory societies in West Africa. She is a contributor to the Liberated Africans Project and the Studies in the History of the African Diaspora – Documents (SHADD) projects, both of which engage with biography in the Atlantic world. Keefer is working on a large-scale digital humanities project on using permanent body marks to better discern origins and birthplace. She has previously published on CMS missionary biographies, scarification, Poro, and identity in Sierra Leone.


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