Monday, 14 November 2011

British Library Scholarship PhD Project: Narratives and depictions of slaves and former slaves in Canada: 1800 - 1900

British Library Scholarship PhD Project

Narratives and depictions of slaves and former slaves in Canada: 1800 - 1900

Supervisors: Dr Jane Hodson (School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics) and Dr Philip Hatfield (British Library)

The British Library Scholarships arise from the special relationship the University has with the British Library. They support projects that draw significantly on both the holdings and expertise of the British Library.

Project description

The aim of this research project is to explore narratives which describe experiences of slavery which took place in Canada. Canada has a positive popular reputation regarding slavery, being seen as one of the safest end points of a journey via the ‘underground railroad’. However, it also has a darker history, having witnessed both the enslavement of many Native Americans and the use of African origin slaves prior to abolition. A significant body of nineteenth-century literature by and about slaves and former slaves in Canada exists but it has been poorly researched, not least because it has often been overshadowed by American slave narratives (Clarke, 2005).

This project will work from the British Library collections to develop a database of Canadian slave narratives. The database will record information about the authoring, editing and publication of the narratives, plus a brief description and classification of the contents. Particular attention will be paid to the way in which the slave's voice, experience and perspective are handled.

The database will then be used to explore both what might be specifically Canadian about these narratives, and how these narratives relate to wider social, literary and political networks. This is of particular significance as it seems that some Caribbean narratives, such as that of Mary Prince, were sponsored and edited by prominent Canadian literary figures, in Prince’s case Susanna Moodie.

The project aims to address some of the following questions:

• To what extent do Canadian slave narratives constitute a specifically Canadian experience/depiction of slavery?
• How do these Canadian narratives connect to other nineteenth century discourses about slavery?
• In particular, how do these Canadian narratives align with key American and Caribbean narratives such as The History of Mary Prince (1831)?

Relevant Library Holdings

The British Library provides a uniquely centralised resource for considering the representation of slaves, former slaves and their narratives in Canada. The British Library collections hold the vast majority of texts published in North America which bear reference to African slave experiences. Materials published in Canada are extensively present in either original form (some of which are very rare) or reproductions. Further, and very significantly, the Library holds an extensive collection of newspapers from eastern Canada running from the mid 18th century. It has been noted that the majority of slave narratives (especially early ones) published in Canada would have been in these papers, as opposed to in monographs, and that this area requires more critical attention (Clarke, 2005).

Award details

The scholarship will cover the cost of UK/EU tuition fees and provides an annual, tax-free maintenance stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£13,590 in 2011-12). The recipient will also receive a Research Training Support Grant of £500 per year. International applicants will need to pay the difference between the UK/EU and Overseas tuition fees.


• Academic requirements – applicants should have, or expect to achieve, a first or upper second class UK honours degree or equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK in an appropriate area of study.
• Allowed study options – applicants should be registering on their first year of study with the University for 2012-13.
• Residency restrictions – awards are open to UK, EU and international applicants.

How to apply

• Applicants are advised to contact both supervisors (Jane Hodson; Philip Hatfield to discuss their application in the first instance.
• Complete an application for admission as a postgraduate student -
• On the application form please state you are applying for this project and briefly outline (in less than 500 words) your reasons for doing so.

Applicants may be asked to attend an interview.
Closing date 3 February 2012.

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