White women, slavery and racism : images of the British Caribbean in women's published writing 1770-1845.
This thesis examines the published writing about the British Caribbean, by white
women, in the years 1770-1845. The study includes travel accounts, published
histories, natural histories, diaries, letters and novels, which represent a range of views
on slavery from anti-slavery to pro-slavery. White women's writing from the
Caribbean remains a neglected topic, despite pioneering work about North America,
and some of the texts I examine have not previously been used in a study of slavery in
the British West Indies.
As well as using these `new' sources, the thesis also makes a theoretical
contribution to the study of slavery in the Caribbean. Texts are deconstructed in order
to analyse the powerful images of `race' and racism present in women's writing. It is
argued that white women travellers and novelists played an important role in
imperialism in contributing to contemporary discourses on racism and white
superiority. I suggest that even `anti'-slavery texts contained powerful negative images
of slaves and of the free black and mixed-origins populations. The thesis also suggests
that white women accepted white male patriarchy in slave society, and even
contributed to their own gender oppression by their glorification of stereotypical
female gender characteristics.