The Indentured Atlantic: Bound Servitude and the Literature of American Colonization (Part Three)

The tricky challenge that the Indentured Atlantic presents to scholars is to recover, as far as is possible, the reality of bound servitude while navigating and comprehending the multiple ways in which this reality was articulated, ignored, appropriated, and imagined as part of a diverse range of social, political, economic and racial agendas. The eight dialectical categories and concepts I have broadly sketched out in these posts – singing, ventriloquizing, captivities, slaveries, falling, rising, life-writing, and forgetting – offer one chart for my ongoing research, and perhaps for that of others. But they can surely be joined by others. The Indentured Atlantic, hopefully, will flow on. Continue reading

The Indentured Atlantic: Bound Servitude and the Literature of American Colonization (Part Two)

In concluding the first post in this three-part series I asked how scholars can begin to address the challenge of recovering the transient and elusive oral culture of colonial-era indentured servants. One answer, perhaps, lies in dedicating greater attention to the conceptual rubric of singing, as a mode of communal vocalization that can be connected to the distinctively cohesive and mobile culture of circum-Atlantic performance delineated by theatre scholars such as Joseph Roach, Peter Reed and Elizabeth Maddock Dillon. Continue reading

The Indentured Atlantic: Bound Servitude and the Literature of American Colonization (Part One)

“There was some sleeping, some spewing, some pishing [sic], some shitting, some farting, … some darning, some Blasting their legs and thighs, some their Liver, lungs, lights and eyes. And for to make the shene [sic] the odder, some curs’d Father Mother, Sister, and Brother.”1 As accounts of transatlantic shipboard crossings during the eighteenth century go, this one stands out for its vivid corporeality. But what is truly unusual about it is that it was written by an indentured servant. Continue reading

Sea Birds, Castaways, and Phantom Islands off Newfoundland

On the twentieth of April 1534, Jacques Cartier sailed from St. Malo, France, with two ships and sixty-one men aboard each. On the tenth of May they came to Newfoundland at Cape Bonavista. On the twenty-first of May they sailed Northeast until they came upon an island encompassed by a jumble of broken ice which Cartier named l’Isle des Ouaisseaulx (Isle of Birds), as it’s surface was covered with nesting sea birds and the cries of thousands more filled the air overhead. Continue reading

Exploring the French Caribbean and Joseph Zobel

Researching the life and works of the French Caribbean author Joseph Zobel has taken me all over the world and – as a direct result of my collaboration with the Eccles Centre at the British Library – led to what the Guardian called my “Indiana Jones Moment” but more on that later… Continue reading

Over the Ice: Polar Exploration from the Air

For Americans, the spring of 1926 was an exciting time in long-distance aviation. The newspapers were full of thrilling tales of pioneering flights, including three aerial expeditions aiming for the North Pole. The excitement came to a head on 9 May 1926, when Richard E. Byrd, a young American naval aviator, returned to his expedition’s base at King’s Bay, Spitsbergen (Svalbard), after a flight of just over 15 hours, proclaiming that he and his co-pilot Floyd Bennett had become the first people to reach the North Pole by air. Byrd’s announcement triggered a patriotic outpouring in the American press, with headlines trumpeting the United States’ polar conquest. Byrd returned home a national hero, where he was met by cheering crowds and public accolades, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. Continue reading

Loyalist Lawyers: Exiles from the American Revolution

For my book project, I’m investigating lawyers who lived in 18th century Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston. Towards the end of the century, these individuals took a leading role in conducting the American Revolution, and also in the creation of the legal structures that became new state governments and the national government of the United States. As lawyers, they were also a bit of a closed community, speaking an arcane language filled with terms that others could not understand unless they shared the same training: words like fee tail male, executrix, intestacy, writs of attachment, or tripartite bonds were their stock in trade, plus Latin tags for every occasion. Being part of this community of men trained in the same field held them apart from all others, as well as holding them together in a sort of invisible association. Continue reading