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Contributed Scholarly Introduction: Edwards, Bryan, History Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies (1798)

Edwards, Bryan, History Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies (1798)

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Abstract

Bryan Edwards (1743-1800) born in England, Edwards moved to Jamaica in 1759, where he inherited and owned seven Jamaican plantations. He entered politics and served in the Jamaican Parliament for many years and in the UK Parliament he returned in 1796. Virulently pro-slavery, Edwards was a prolific writer, amateur historian and naturalist, and fellow of the Royal Society. Divided into two volumes and six books, with each book consisting of four to five chapters with appendices. The first book describes indigenous people of the Caribbean, as well as the ancient geography, climate and ecology of the islands. The second and third books focus on the early colonial history of the Caribbean, detailing in particular Anglo-Spanish relations. The fourth book consists largely of ethnography and Edwards's discussion of slavery: Edwards provides a history of the transatlantic slave trade, describes the state of modern slavery in the Caribbean and advances his argument against abolition. The fifth book is an examination of agriculture in the Caribbean, with a focus on the sugar industry. In the sixth and final book, Edwards describes the British system of colonial government in the West Indies and describes the recent history of political and economic relations with Britain and the newly independent United States.

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