I am a PhD candidate in the History Department at Harvard University broadly interested in the social and cultural history of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British Empire, with a particular focus on slavery and antislavery as well as Britain’s relationship with Europe. My dissertation project, "Beyond the Black Legend: Spanish Laws and Slavery in the British Empire, 1783-1840" explores the influence of Spanish laws and practices on British antislavery. In significant part, my project calls for a reexamination of the traditional "black legend" narrative concerning Anglo perceptions of the Spanish. My research shows that, although eighteenth century British opinion of the Spanish was generally negative, by the end of the century the Spanish were gaining a reputation for "benevolent" slavery. The exalted status of Spanish slavery in the eyes of many British abolitionists gained political spotlight when the British captured the Spanish island of Trinidad in 1797. The Spanish laws on slavery subsequently came to serve as the basis for the amelioration program of the 1820s in Trinidad and elsewhere in the British colonies. The unique history of Trinidad provides an unusual lens into Anglo-Spanish relations in the early nineteenth century as well as the evolution of British colonial administration and imperial laws. My project will conclude by exploring some of the ways that the Spanish influence on British imperial policy outlived the era of slavery.
I can be reached at cqspence at fas dot harvard dot edu.