Thursday, 23 October 2014

In Our Time - did I miss something?

This is a bit of an odd post. In a haze of post chemo, with anti-sickness steroids depriving me of sleep apart from a measly one and a half hours last night, I lay abed from 9 – 10 am listening to Melvyn Bragg’s BBC Radio 4 In Our Time. It was a discussion of the 1791 Haitian Revolution, a slave uprising in what was then called Saint Domingue.
It struck a chord with me as I read Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart – an excellent book and as I said in my brief review on Goodreads in January this year, a book everyone should read. It covers the slave trade in shockingly graphic detail, specifically in Barbados and if my memory serves me correctly, it also covers the eventual  uprising, mostly by rebellious slaves burning the sugar plantations, as discussed on the programme.

The cruel oppression of black African slaves, based on terror and fear of amputations, beatings and slow, torturous death for minor breaches of the rules, thus resulting in an allegedly docile and cowed slave population, enabled the French to enjoy power and a rich sugar-derived economy.
What really bothers me about this otherwise fascinating discussion is that there seemed to be no mention of the equally deplorable part played by the British in the Caribbean. Okay, the theme was French and extended into the French Revolution, but I would have thought that reference should have been made to this to put one of the darkest, most shameful periods of history into context. So William Wilberforce, with other abolitionists, came along as the great hero and this cannot be denied as utterly commendable but what of the cruelty that had been perpetrated and allowed beforehand – by the great British?

Did I miss something? I am not sure if, because of my slightly weird mental state this morning, a heady mix of a buzzing brain and extreme fatigue, I may have dozed off or misheard. I could listen again, I suppose, but meanwhile did anyone else get the feeling that it was all a bit skewed? If I am entirely wrong, I will make amends.
Would love to hear anyone's thoughts.

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