Spotlight highlights 2016-2017
An unpublished manuscript by a founder of King's
Sir Andrew Halliday. History and statistics of British Guiana [manuscript]. Demerara, British Guiana, 1834
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection FOL. F1639 HAL
In this article, Lavinia Griffiths, Special Collections Cataloguing Officer, writes about a 19th century account of British Guiana - and reveals the author's connection to King's.
Most people in my situation are content to confine their attention to the discharge of their more immediate duties, and to pass their Idle hours in that soft slumbering Indolence, to which this Country and the Climate are so very inviting. .. With me it has been otherwise ordered, for while I trust that I have always most faithfully and zealously discharged every duty of my particular Station I have still found abundance of leisure to investigate other matters, and I have delighted in doing so.
So concludes this short (38 leaves) hand-written account, now held in the Foyle Special Collections Library's FCO Historical Collection, of what is today the republic of Guyana on the north-east coast of South America.
The dry title conceals an engaging report from the year (1834), in which slavery within Great Britain's colonial empire was abolished. It offers 'sound counsel and good advice to the interested planter' contemplating a territory that 'with a little care might be made ... the most valuable jewel in the imperial diadem'.
Deputy Inspector-General of hospitals in the West Indies
The writer, Sir Andrew Halliday (1782-1839) was a Scotsman who, following a distinguished career as an army surgeon (including service at Waterloo) and a society physician, had been appointed to the post of Deputy Inspector-General of hospitals in the West Indies, serving there between 1833 and 1837.
Afflicted with gout, Halliday had sought the position in the hope that the warm climate would provide some relief from his chronic pain. Having arrived in Barbados in December 1833, he set sail for British Guiana on Monday 17 March the following year, landing in the capital Georgetown four days later. He was to remain for nearly a year, leaving for the nearby island of Tobago in February 1835.
The territories of British Guiana and the Slavery Abolition Act
The colonies of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice had been established by the Dutch during the 17th century. Having temporarily passed to Great Britain during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, they were formally ceded to the British Crown under the Convention of London (1814). It was only in 1831, three years before Halliday's arrival, that the three territories were united as British Guiana and placed under a single governor, although Essequibo and Demerara had in practice already been administered jointly.
The colony’s chief sources of wealth were sugar-cane, coffee, and cotton, the cultivation of which had hitherto depended upon enslaved labour.
The months that Halliday spent in British Guiana were momentous. The Slavery Abolition Act came into effect on 1 August. It was marked by a public holiday and services of thanksgiving in churches throughout the colony. There followed a period of adjustment, but by November Halliday employs a medical metaphor to record that 'the emancipation fever has passed off and left the constitution of the whole labouring community sound and vigorous.'
He forcefully defends the efforts of the Governor, Sir James Carmichael-Smyth, a fellow Waterloo veteran, to prevent plantation owners and managers from maltreating emancipated slaves; looks forward with optimism to their being ‘raised a degree in the scale of society’ through serving in local militias; and argues for the establishment of more churches and schools.
Reforms and questions pertaining to the report
Halliday also ventures proposals for other reforms, for example:
- How should it be possible to obtain a licence to practise medicine without showing evidence of having followed a course of medical study?
- How to satisfy the urgent requirement for ready money, in order that the ‘apprenticed labourers’ could be paid in silver coin rather than IOUs
- What changes might be made both to the Court of Policy, the colony's governing body, and to the electoral system, not only to rid them of their ‘old Dutch customs’, but also to reflect the transformation of the social order?
In his closing remarks, aware that the abolition of slavery will lead to a labour shortage on the plantations, a problem that was to obtain in British Guiana until the early 20th century, he conjures the attractions of the country with an enthusiasm present in many emigration prospectuses of the day:
Above all things encouragement must be given to the introduction of labourers, no matter from what Country, and it is a most mistaken notion that the climate or the cultivation of this soil are prejudicial to Europeans. There is no English labourer that will not improve in heath and vigour under the small modicum of toil that is now required of the Black population (seven hours and a half of very easy work, is all that is imposed upon the apprenticed African) and I speak confidently when I say, that these hours of daily hard outdoor work upon the farm and in the changeable climate of Great Britain, are far more injurious to the human constitution than fifteen hours of the labour of this country .. the steady and constant breeze, and the shade afforded by the luxuriant foliage of the trees are complete antidotes to the supposed evil influences of the solar rays.
Return to Scotland and another book
The benign climate of the West Indies failed to alleviate the symptoms of Halliday‘s gout. Having returned to Scotland he occupied himself with writing: The West Indies: the natural and physical history of the Windward and Leeward colonies : with some account of the moral, social, and political condition of their inhabitants, immediately before and after the abolition of Negro slavery which was published in 1837, and contains nine chapters on British Guiana, including passages drawn from the FCO manuscript featured here. The map shown below is reproduced from this work.
Halliday was a prolific author; there are 11 titles by him listed on the King's Library catalogue. His work include articles and books on topics relating to medicine and public health. He is remembered, in particular, for introducing the use of iodine as an antiseptic to the British medical profession, and for his concern about the conditions in lunatic asylums.
He was also the author of two books on military history. His Observations on the present state of the Portuguese army, published in 1811, had drawn on his experience in the Peninsular War. An admirer of the work was Sir Walter Scott, and the two went on to become friends. His account of the Battle of Waterloo, published in 1816, was written at the behest of the Duke of Clarence, the future King William IV, whom he had served as personal physician. A projected life of another friend, the Duke of Wellington, was incomplete at the time of the author's death in 1839.
Halliday and the King's connection
King’s, too, has a part in the story. Halliday is recorded as being a founding shareholder.
There are two letters in the King's College London Archives, written in 1828 and 1829, relating to the ownership of his shares in the College.
The letter shown to the right is from 1829 and an explanation of its content can be found through the link above.
A comparison of the signature on this letter with that on the final page of The history and statistics of British Guiana (reproduced above) leaves little doubt that the FCO manuscript is written in Halliday's own hand.
GC Cook ‘Andrew Halliday, Kt FRCPE (1781-1839): service in the Napoleonic Wars and West Indies, and first physician to the Seamen's Hospital Society’. Journal of medical biography, 2004, pages 136-40.
Norman Moore, ‘Halliday, Sir Andrew (1782–1839)’, rev. Patrick Wallis, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12013, accessed 27 July 2017]
RH Vetch, ‘Smyth, Sir James Carmichael-, first baronet (1779–1838)’, rev. Roger T Stearn, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/25951, accessed 8 Sept 2017]
Sir Andrew Halliday [https://cambridgelibrarycollection.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/sir-andrew-halliday/, accessed 5 October 2017]
Saint Helena as a tourist destination
Benjamin Grant. A few notes on St Helena. St. Helena: printed and published by B Grant, Jamestown, [1881?]
Foyle Special Collections Library, Miscellaneous Collection PAMPH. BOX DT671.S2 GRA
by Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections
August being the traditional month for holidays, many of us will be braving the motorways or the airport departure lounge for an annual trip in search of summer sunshine.
Nowadays there are few parts of the world beyond the reach of mass tourism, but the long-haul trip is a phenomenon by no means confined to the 21st century, as this recently acquired rare pamphlet reveals. As long ago as 1881 the island of St Helena, even today one of the remotest places in the world, was earnestly promoted as a potential tourist destination, primarily for the health benefits bestowed by its climate.
Lying in the southern Atlantic Ocean, some 1,950 kilometres west of the African mainland, the small island of St Helena has been in effect a British possession since 1659, when the East India Company first established a fortified colony there, and today it is a British Overseas Territory.
Its value to Britain has largely been due to its geographical position; it was an important staging post on the Atlantic crossing, a strategic naval base and, most famously, a place of exile and imprisonment for notable political prisoners, such as Napoleon Bonaparte and the Zulu king Dinuzulu.
In 1881, when Benjamin Grant published his Few notes on St Helena, the island had a population of 5,056 (some 500 more inhabitants than are recorded in the 2016 census), of mixed British, African and Asian descent.
Benjamin Grant, printer, publisher and fervent advocate of his homeland’s merits, wrote his Few notes on St Helena against a background of economic depression, isolation and depopulation. Naval traffic to the island was dwindling, following the withdrawal of the Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron in 1864 and the subsequent closure in 1874 of the Liberated African Depot (St Helena had been an important centre for the trial of those involved in the slave trade and the liberation of their captives, who were provided at the Depot with food, clothing and other assistance).
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 exacerbated the island’s decline in maritime importance, and unemployment rose. In 1874 the island’s governor, Hudson Ralph Janisch, attempted to establish the cultivation of New Zealand flax as an export crop but, as Grant reports in his Few notes on St Helena, by 1881 the Foreign Fibre Company had ceased trading, throwing many men and boys out of work. Unsurprisingly, the island’s population had begun to decline, as many emigrated to South Africa in search of employment.
Benjamin Grant’s Few notes on St Helena sets out to tackle the economic woes afflicting the island by promoting its potential as a destination for investment and for tourism. Grant extols the tropical fertility of St Helena (the photographic plate reproduced above which forms the pamphlet’s frontispiece supports his words, conveying a tropical lushness); he enumerates the fruit, vegetables and other crops that grow there in abundance and argues that the moribund flax industry only requires a confident investor in order to succeed: ‘I fail to see the slightest reason why the speculation could not be made a paying one.’
In this Grant wrote presciently, for in fact the cultivation of New Zealand flax, notably for use by the Royal Mail for mail sacks, was to become one of St Helena’s leading sources of revenue during the 20th century.
Grant lays most emphasis on St Helena’s potential value as a tourist destination, particularly for those in search of health:
Ye who are seeking foreign climes to regain health and strength to your shattered frames, St. Helena offers you a home: come then and give it a trial; you will never regret living in it.
The attractions of St Helena for the seeker after health and rest are enumerated by Grant; he points to the island’s mild climate, its peace and quiet, its fertility and the friendliness and charm of the local people. In an age when tuberculosis was rife and travel to warmer climes was often the recommended treatment for those patients able to afford it.
Grant expresses the hope that a ‘capitalist’ may be induced to invest in the establishment of sanatoria, but acknowledges that patients and other visitors might initially find the island somewhat short of social amenities (‘of amusements in Town the Club is the sole representative’).
Conscious that some readers may be wary of venturing to a place so distant and different from home, he seeks to reassure them by drawing attention to points of similarity to Britain, such as the St Helenians’ love of cricket, and concludes:
I have lived on it [the island] 38 years and therefore I may be relied on when I state that St. Helenians are as much civilized as Englishmen, and that the Island is a fertile healthy place, where one may lie down in safety, fearing no evil.
The remainder of A few notes on St Helena largely comprises background information about the island’s history and topography, drawn from two sources: an essay on the island’s geology by Captain JR Oliver and the introduction to the 1876 issue of the St Helena almanac (also held in the Foyle Special Collections Library). This is supplemented by a summary of the results of the 1881 census and the pamphlet concludes with a poem (presumably by Grant), celebrating the beauties of this ‘bright jewel of the Sea’.
An ardent enthusiast for the merits of his island home, Grant makes a well-argued case for investment in St Helena, but the island’s small size and remoteness were against the realisation of his hopes and it never became the tourist magnet that he envisaged.
Even today St Helena suffers from depopulation and poor transport links with the wider world. Ineffective as it may have been in its day in securing prosperity for the island, Grant’s Few notes on St Helena are, however, now a valuable source for the historian on one of Britain’s oldest and most remote overseas territories.
Tony Cross. St Helena: including Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1980
Philip Gosse. St Helena 1502-1938. London: Cassell, 1938
David L Smallman. Quincentenary: a story of St Helena, 1502-2002. Penzance: Patten, 2003
Thomas Paine's Common sense
Thomas Paine. Common sense. Philadelphia, printed; London: re-printed, for J Almon, opposite Burlington-House in Piccadilly, 1776. Foyle Special Collections Library, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection E211 PAI
By Heather Anderson, Special Collections Assistant
The item featured here was on display in the 2017 Revolution! exhibition in the Weston Room at the Maughan Library.
It will be available to view online, like others curated by Archives and Special Collections, later in 2017.
This exhibition, which marked the centenary of the Russian Revolution, also explored other significant revolutions of modern times, including the American Revolution to which this famous work by Paine relates.
When the American Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, the majority of colonists who took up arms against British soldiers did not desire independence. Colonial leaders hoped eventually to resolve the issues that had led to growing tensions between Americans and the British authorities, such as taxation without representation and the presence of the British army in the colonies.
However, over the course of 1775-76 the independence movement grew substantially. This was partly due to the immense popularity of Thomas Paine’s pro-independence pamphlet Common sense.
Common sense was the most widely circulated pamphlet published during the American Revolutionary War.
Within three months of its publication in 1776 it was claimed that 120,000 copies had been sold and second editions of the work were published within weeks. In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on Paine's life, it is recorded that Benjamin Rush, an associate of Paine and one of the United States’ Founding Fathers, recalled in July 1776:
Its effects were sudden and extensive upon the American mind. It was read by public men, repeated in clubs, spouted in schools, and in one instance, delivered from the pulpit instead of a sermon by a clergyman in Connecticut.
The pamphlet made the case for independence for the American colonies, arguing in favour of a democratic republican government. Paine argued that ‘government by kings runs contrary to the natural equality of man’ and that Americans should regard England as a ‘tyrannical oppressor’.
The text and seditious libel
The text’s accessible prose style and impassioned arguments garnered enthusiasm for the cause of independence, and even those opposed to Paine’s arguments were inspired by his devotion to the cause.
The edition of Common sense held in the Foyle Special Collections Library is a first English edition of the pamphlet, reprinted from the original American edition in 1776. This copy has hiatuses (omitted words and phrases) throughout the text.
It is believed that the printer omitted the most controversial parts of the text, which included personal attacks on George III, to avoid accusations of seditious libel.
The hiatuses in this copy have been filled in with pen and ink, possibly by clerks employed by the printer to do so. This technique would have given readers access to the text’s seditious ideas, whilst protecting the printer from prosecution.
This edition is published with James Chalmers' critical essay Plain truth, which was written in opposition to Paine’s arguments.
There is a half-title page at the beginning of the work introducing both Common sense and Plain truth, but each work has a separate title page, albeit with the same imprint statement.
The advertisement in this edition states how Common sense has been ‘held up as proof positive that the Americans desire to become independent’ and that the publisher is ‘happy in this opportunity of publishing Plain truth; which we take to be as good a proof that the Americans do not desire to become independent’.
Mark Philp, ‘Paine, Thomas (1737–1809)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/21133, accessed 28 March 2017]
The British Guiana monthly messenger
The British Guiana monthly messenger: a magazine for the people, under the auspices of the British Guiana Missionary Union. Georgetown, Guyana: printed at the ‘Creole’ office, 1864-65. Bound with four theological pamphlets printed in British Guiana, 1859-64. Foyle Special Collections Library, Rare Books Collection F2361 BRI
By Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections
Through the generosity of the Friends of the National Libraries the Foyle Special Collections Library at King’s College London has acquired 20 issues of an extremely rare 19th century periodical, the British Guiana monthly messenger. The issues are bound with four theological pamphlets from the same period, which together shed new light on the life of the colony of British Guiana at an important phase in its history.
Formally awarded to Britain as a colonial possession in 1814, British Guiana was in the first two decades of British rule predominantly a slave colony, the majority of its population being slaves of African origin working on the sugar plantations.
Slavery was abolished in 1833, however, and by the 1860s a different kind of society was emerging. A small but growing Afro-Guyanese middle class existed and Guyana was also far more racially diverse, as successive waves of Portuguese, Chinese and Indian immigrants had arrived in the country to fill the labour vacuum on the sugar plantations and also, increasingly, to join the mercantile and educated classes.
These demographic and social changes are reflected in the pages of the British Guiana monthly messenger, which includes articles on Chinese immigration and on immigrant shopkeepers, and which embodies in features such as its regular ‘Things worth knowing’ column a spirit of self-improvement and self-help, underpinned by strong Christian faith.
The British Guiana monthly messenger was launched in May 1864, with the declared aim of fostering ‘the moral and intellectual improvement of the people of British Guiana, not losing sight either of their material interests.’ It contains news, both domestic and foreign (the American Civil War features strongly and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is lamented in the June 1865 issue), plus articles on religion, economics, travel and education. Interspersed with these are stories, poems, hymns and puzzles, as well as practical tips on health and household economy.
The volume also contains four theological pamphlets printed in British Guiana between 1859 and 1864. Two of these discuss the doctrine of ‘Noah’s curse’, the use by some advocates of slavery of the wording of Noah’s curse of his son Ham recorded in the ninth chapter of Genesis as a justification of the enslavement of Africans.
For many inhabitants of British Guiana slavery was well within living memory, and the progress of the American Civil War, fought primarily over the Confederate states’ right to retain slavery, made the subject once more acutely topical, a fact also reflected in the magazine’s serialisation of escaped American slave and leading abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s memoir, My bondage and my freedom.
This volume represents an important acquisition for the library of King’s College London, complementing our extensive holdings in British imperial and colonial history. In 2007 the historical library collection of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was transferred to King’s. Comprising over 80,000 items, this collection is rich in rare colonial imprints, many of them unrecorded elsewhere, and there are several hundred items relating to British Guiana and to the independent state of Guyana (the FCO continued the comprehensive collecting policy of its predecessor departments) in the collection.
We would like to thank Professor Richard Drayton for his assistance in the preparation of the funding application to the Friends of the National Libraries.
The Arab bulletin
The Arab bulletin was a secret document produced in 1916 by the Arab Bureau (part of the military intelligence department of Britain’s Egyptian expeditionary force) to report on ‘any political events in Turkey or elsewhere that affect the Arab movement’.
The Library holds a complete and occassionally annotated set of The Arab bulletin (1916-19) and the British Foreign Office valued it greatly as a source of information.
The Arab Bureau and The Arab bulletin
By Brandon High, Special Collections Officer
The Arab Bureau, founded in 1916, was not intended merely to be an ‘analytical clearinghouse’, in the words of the historian Bruce Westrate, which would ascertain and disseminate selective military intelligence about the Middle East, but a ‘pressure group’ inside diplomatic and military circles which would actively promote a different view on British interests in the region.
The revolt of Sharif Husain in the Hejaz excited the interest of the members of the Arab Bureau, such as the gifted archaeologist and diplomat Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), dubbed the ‘maker of Iraq’, and the writer and adventurer TE Lawrence (1888-1935), who both contributed to the Bulletin. Not only was Husain the antithesis of the ‘westernised’ Arab whom they disliked, but his revolt offered the prospect of defeat for Ottoman armies at a time of reverses for the British Empire (in the form of the Indian Army) at Kut (Mesopotamia) and Gallipoli.
The subject matter of The Arab bulletin, whose circulation was restricted to 26 copies, but whose existence was known to the French, reflected this concern with the Arab Revolt. However, its coverage also embraced the entire Islamic world, although not in such depth, and reflected wider British concerns with the allegiance of Muslims.
The Bulletin did not seek to ‘push’ a particular perspective on Middle Eastern affairs, and although the Arab Bureau comprises only a part of the ‘official mind’, and its prescriptions were not followed in the aftermath of the War, the publication affords a unique insight into the quality of the intelligence which was available to the British authorities.
Copies of The Arab bulletin are now extremely rare and the annotations present in this copy indicate its use by Foreign Office personnel. The image above shows handwritten statistics which appear to refer to the geographical locations of Ottoman military forces.
Max Beloff. Imperial sunset, vol. 1: Britain’s liberal empire, 1897-1921. London: Methuen and Co., 1969
David Fromkin. A peace to end all peace: the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the modern Middle East. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2009 
Elizabeth Monroe. Britain’s moment in the Middle East, 1914-1956. London: Chatto and Windus, 1963
Jan Morris. Farewell the trumpets: an imperial retreat. London: Faber and Faber, 1978
Keith Robbins. The First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993 
Bruce Westrate. The Arab Bureau: British policy in the Middle East, 1916-1920. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992