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New online exhibition opens up 300 years of Caribbean history

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New online exhibition opens up 300 years of Caribbean history

07 March 2007

Caribbean Histories Revealed, a new online exhibition from The National Archives, launches on Tuesday 6 March. The exhibition traces the history of the British Caribbean through Colonial Office records from the 17th century to 1926. From maps and photographs, to letters and petitions, it brings to life over 300 years of life in the Caribbean.

Go to the Caribbean History exhibition

The launch of this new resource marks the culmination of 'Your Caribbean Heritage', a three-year cataloguing project at The National Archives, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project has created 125,000 new online record descriptions relating to the Caribbean, making the documents more easily accessible to a wider audience through The National Archives' Catalogue.

The online exhibition gives a historical overview of the Caribbean through a series of topics including:

the transatlantic slave trade

struggles against slavery and colonialism

everyday life

political conflicts

the role of West Indian soldiers in the First World War.

These topics are discussed under six themes, each illustrated by documents carefully selected among the vast amount of newly catalogued records.

The award-winning novelist Andrea Levy, best known for Small Island, says:

"It is fascinating, and very gratifying, to see the historical records of the Caribbean becoming more accessible to ordinary people. The on-line exhibition makes a great starting point for anyone interested in researching this part of Britain's heritage. I hope the archive will grow into a rich and much-used resource."

One of the documents featured in Caribbean Histories Revealed is a letter from G. Jenner, British Minister at Bogata, expressing concern for the treatment of Caribbean workers on the Panama Canal in 1895 (National Archives File reference CO 284/16):

"They number upwards of 6,000 and without their assistance the Panama Canal cannot be proceeded with. Nevertheless, although I have spoken frequently on the subject, I do not see that any steps have been taken by the Central Government to secure them better treatment at the hands of the local Authorities."

Dr Gemma Romain, researcher at The National Archives, who took part in the project said:

"Your Caribbean Heritage' has been an important opportunity for us to investigate a wealth of information held at The National Archives. Throughout this huge project, we have come across thousands of fascinating documents offering significant insights into the history of the Caribbean. The website, Caribbean Histories Revealed, highlights some of the most interesting documents, and is a great online resource for finding out more about this part of world history."

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