This is a collection of resources and weblinks that relate to Scotland and Fife’s involvement in slavery, empire and colonialism. Scotland has been described as having ‘collective amnesia’ about our relationship with transatlantic slavery. Until recently there was widespread lack of awareness of how our country and our ancestors participated. There’s much to read here and much more to discover – remember to check the origins and reliability of any source you find. We will add to this when we find new material and if you have any suggestions to add, please get in touch with LocalStudies.Kirkcaldy@onfife.com
Fife and slavery
Pictured: Greenmount, Burntisland was built by Robert Kirke, one of the last slave owners in Scotland. The house was damaged by fire and no longer stands.
Petronella Hendrick, a formerly enslaved person born in Suriname on the Kirke family’s plantation has been written about by Burntisland Heritage Trust. She was brought to Burntisland to serve the Kirke family at Greenmount – Burntisland, Fife – Petronella Hendrick (1829-1917)
Legacies of British Slavery (ucl.ac.uk) – UCL’s Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership traces the impact of slave-ownership on the formation of modern Britain. Search the database to find out about individuals’ and families’ involvement in the Transatlantic slave trade. Browse the Estates to explore the ownership of plantations and estates in the British Caribbean. Browse the Legacies to discover the commercial, cultural, historical, imperial, physical and political gains made from slave-ownership.
Runaway Slaves in Britain :: Database (gla.ac.uk) – Glasgow University’s The Runaway Slaves in Eighteenth-Century Britain project has created a searchable database of well over eight hundred newspaper advertisements placed by masters and owners seeking the capture and return of enslaved and bound people who had escaped.
Henry Box Brown, abolitionist lecturer and performer who escaped from slavery in Virginia in 1849 by arranging to have himself mailed in a wooden crate, brought his one man show to Kirkcaldy in August 1852, his only known appearance in Scotland. You can read a report about it here
Fife and the economic legacies of empire, colonialism and slavery
During the 18th century, Fife’s linen producers in the east and north specialised in weaving osnaburg which was sold for export to British colonies. In the Atlantic plantation complex, prior to the abolition of slavery, osnaburg was the fabric most often used for slave garments.
So much was produced by weavers in the village of Dairsiemuir near Cupar that it was nicknamed Osnaburg – dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/osnaburg. The nickname is recorded on Ordinance Survey maps – maps.nls.uk – and in the Statistical Account of Scotland.