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Slavery, sugar and the sublime

Perry, V.J.; (2010) Slavery, sugar and the sublime. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

The study examines the relationship between eighteenth and early nineteenth century British visual culture and the wealth created from slave-trading, Caribbean sugar plantations and the colonial transatlantic trade. Influenced by Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism - and drawing on the evidence of buildings, landscapes and archives - I demonstrate that imperial links were manifest not only, as Said argues, in British literature, but also explicit in the architecture, interiors and landscapes commissioned by Britain’s eighteenth century elite. But the visual connections between Britain and its maritime colonial empire were not just manifest in the design of individual buildings or landscape gardens. The growing prosperity of provincial ‘Atlantic’ ports such as Bristol, Liverpool, Lancaster, Whitehaven and Glasgow had a profound effect on Britain’s ‘cultural geography’ - a shift towards the Atlantic west that was manifest in new aesthetic attitude towards wild and untamed landscapes. The profits from colonial plantations helped transform the perception of remote, often agriculturally unproductive uplands of western Britain into places of aesthetic value. I show, for instance, how financial investments made by ‘Atlantic’ colonial planters and merchants in north Wales, Cumberland and Scotland were instrumental to the creation of ‘Snowdonia’, ‘The Lakes’ and ‘The Highlands’ as ‘scenic’ tourist destinations. The fashion for landscape tourism was not just confined to Britain. The celebration of uncultivated ‘Nature’ also became a means to dignify colonial exploration and travel. I investigate the significance of landscape theorists Edmund Burke’s and William Gilpin’s connections with the colonial Atlantic trade, the critical influence of absentee planters on the popularity of picturesque landscape tourism and discuss how landscape art was used to represent the Caribbean colonies at a time of growing anti-slavery sentiment in Britain.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Slavery, sugar and the sublime
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School > Bartlett School of Architecture

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