Dr James Dawkins, Lancaster University

Owning My Ancestors: The Slave-owning History of the Dawkins Family, 1664-1833

Thursday February 17th, 6pm-7.30pm. Online.

Book here

Co-hosted by the Centre for memory, Narrative and Histories and the Politics, Philosophy and Aesthetics Seminar Series.

Details about how to join the online seminar withe be emailed to those registered in advance

During this seminar Dr James Dawkins will discuss his doctoral research, which focusses on the colonial history of the white English Dawkins family who migrated to Jamaica during the mid-1660s. They purchased, owned, and extracted labour from multiple generations of James’ African ancestors right up until the legal termination of slavery in 1833, subsequently receiving one of the biggest compensatory payments for the loss of their human ‘property’. The Dawkins’ were one of the wealthiest, largest land holding, and biggest slave-owning dynasties in the history of British transatlantic slavery. Their fortunes derived from a sprawling plantation complex which, at its height, covered more than 25,000 acres of land and held a captive population of 2,250 people of African descent.

James will discuss how multiple generations of the Dawkins slave-owners used the fortune produced by his ancestors to finance their migration to Britain, effectively becoming absentees, and to transform themselves into an elite county family. In doing so, he will illuminate the numerous areas of British society that African generated wealth permeated and developed – economic, political, educational, cultural and physical.

His work draws on a large cache of unexamined manuscripts located on the ancestral country estate of the Dawkins family, which was purchased by the second generation of slave-owners almost 300 years ago (in 1726) and is currently owned by their great-great-great grandchild, Professor Richard Dawkins. James will speak about his interactions with Richard and the other family members who have inherited and continue to live off of the West Indian legacy financed by the labour of his enslaved ancestors.

Biography: Dr James Dawkins is a socio-economic historian and Research Fellow on the Legacies of the British Slave Tradeproject run by Lancaster University and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. James recently completed a two-year post-doctoral term at the University of Nottingham where he studied and composed a comprehensive report on the connections between Nottingham’s two universities and the transatlantic slave economy. This is scheduled for publication in the coming months. Dr Dawkins is an associate member of the prestigious Legacies of British Slave-ownership project based at University College London, and sits on the academic advisory board for the Colonial Countryside project coordinated by the University of Leicester and supported by the National Trust. James holds a Bachelor’s degree in History and Politics, a Master’s degree in Social Science Research Methods, and a PhD in 18th and early-19th century British and Jamaican Colonial History, which he obtained from De Montfort University, Cardiff University, and University College London, respectively.

For any queries in the meantime, please email Anita Rupprecht (A.Rupprecht@brighton.ac.uk)

All Welcome.