In Richard Cumberland’s popular play of 1771, The West Indian, the title character, Belcour, newly arrived in London, is described as having “rum and sugar enough belonging to him, to make all the water in the Thames into punch.” Cumberland uses this image to emphasise the immense wealth of the absentee sugar planters who relocated to London in the later Georgian era and who reshaped London, from the new residential district of Marylebone in the west to the vast docklands to the east.
The playwright implies that these new inhabitants are remaking London into a site of Creole pleasure, yet it also echoes their transformation of its international commerce.
In this talk, Natalie will explore the dual impact of this group on the city. She will also argue that English ridicule of the lifestyles of this new class of rich Londoners masked deeper concerns about the physical, economic, and cultural transformation of the city at the heart of the British Empire.
Natalie Zacek is senior lecturer in American Studies at the University of Manchester. Her first book, Settler Society in the English Leeward Islands, 1670-1776 (Cambridge University Press, 2010), won the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize, and she has published many journal articles and book chapters on the social, cultural, and gender history of the Caribbean.
This event is a Zoom webinar on:
Tuesday 11 May 2021 at 6.00 p.m. London time (12.00 p.m. Jamaica time)