Early Colonial Narratives of the West Indies

Lady Nugent, Eliza Fenwick, Matthew Lewis and Frieda Cassin

Authored by: Evelyn O’Callaghan

The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature

Print publication date:  June  2011
Online publication date:  June  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415485777
eBook ISBN: 9780203830352
Adobe ISBN: 9781136821745


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There has long been an uneasy relationship between anglophone Caribbean literature and nineteenth-century colonialist accounts of the region. Anthony Boxill, for example, admits the value of these early texts in terms of local background details and ‘historical interest’ (1995: 31). Their archival value is significant, constituting a record of a vanished physical and social geography, and preserving valuable linguistic and ethnographic data. Yet, the condescending point of view that dominates colonialist discourse is galling, and Boxill argues that while the early accounts may tell us ‘what life was like for the white West Indian during the period of slavery’ they rarely attempt to see black West Indians as persons (31), or render the local ‘with West Indian eyes’ (29).

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