The caribbean

Abolishing slavery was no cause for smugness

When the 13 colonies of the United States declared independence in 1776, the first country to recognise the new nation was France. Other leading European powers, such as Britain and Spain, acknowledged its arrival at the Treaty of Paris, two years after a decisive victory by American forces. Yet when Haiti asserted independence in 1804, it was ostracised by Britain, France, Spain and the US. During its first fragile years as a fledgling state, that self-declared guru of liberty Thomas Jefferson even imposed a rigid blockade while president. Washington then took more than half a century to recognise its Caribbean neighbour. The reason for such contrasting attitudes towards the first

Should we blame our ancestors for slavery when we’re equally culpable?

The premise of White Debt is that the author’s ancestors ran a business selling a product grown by slaves. Therefore he wants to investigate Britain’s role in slavery — which is a rather odd framing, since his family’s tobacco firm wasn’t started until decades after slavery in British colonies was abolished. But Thomas Harding apparently only recently learned that slavery happened in the British Empire. He goes as far as to ask: ‘How could I not have known this?’ Well, truly, I don’t know. I don’t recall the time when I wasn’t aware that slavery was the reason that people of African descent live in the Caribbean today. Some of