Wednesday, 07 December 2016
A University of Worcester historian is looking at royal attitudes to slavery and abolition as part of her research at the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle.
Professor of History, Suzanne Schwarz, has been awarded a prestigious international fellowship by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia, to undertake research on the responses of George III, his ministers and prominent family members of his family to abolitionist ideas in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Professor Schwarz has been given access to the Royal Archives and the Royal Library for the Omohundro Institute-Georgian Papers Programme Fellowship, and is consulting a range of sources including diaries, pamphlets, books and the letters of George III and the second Duke of Gloucester.
Her research also looks at royal responses to early British involvement in West Africa. A new settlement developed on the Sierra Leone peninsula in 1787 was used as a means by which abolitionists tried to intervene in the operation of the slave trade in Africa. Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, began as a settlement for freed slaves, and in 1808 was transferred to British crown control. After Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, the African Institution was formed by British abolitionists to ensure the law was enforced and to press other countries to follow suit. From 1808, the African Institution maintained a close interest in Sierra Leone as the colony was used as a base from which Royal Navy patrols intercepted illegal slave ships and then released tens of thousands of former slaves in Freetown.
The research draws on the private correspondence of William Frederick, second Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, to assess his influence in debates on abolition, the eradication of the Atlantic slave trade and the development of Sierra Leone through his role as President of the African Institution. One focus for Professor Schwarz’s research during the Fellowship is the extent to which the Duke took a direct interest in the colony at Sierra Leone in this period.
This Fellowship has been awarded as part of the Georgian Papers Programme, which is a partnership between the Royal Library & Royal Archives and King’s College London and for which the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the College of William & Mary are the primary United States partners. The Georgian Papers Programme aims to make the wealth of Georgian records in the Royal Archives more widely available through an extensive programme of digitisation.
Professor Schwarz said: “It is an enormous privilege to have the opportunity to read original correspondence by George III and members of his family held at Windsor Castle.
“This is an exciting programme and I hope my research will contribute to a greater understanding of British attitudes to Africa and the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. I also hope my research will make a contribution to wider public understanding of the enormous scope and significance of the Georgian records held in the Royal Archives.”
Professor Suzanne Schwartz working at the Royal Archives - credit Royal Collection Trust© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II