Embedded case study: Identity, meaning and memorialisation in the British Diaspora

Despite the well-documented impact the British diaspora had overseas – economically, politically, culturally and socially – during the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to date no study has sought to appraise the physical legacy such movement had in different parts of the British World. This study seeks to remedy this situation by examining the process of memorialisation of the British diaspora, both at home and abroad, in seven key places of Britain’s former Empire.

Dr Nicholas Evans (University of Hull) will lead a team of diaspora scholars including Professor Angela McCarthy (University of Otago) and Professor Suzanne Schwarz (University of Worcester),  to survey memorial sites in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, South Africa, New Zealand and Barbados.

Collectively the Churches, graveyards and burial spaces identified for analysis cover the nadir of British influence in each respective country during four hundred years of the British Empire. They include the Christian colonisation project at Christchurch (New Zealand), the Scottish tea plantations of Colombo (Sri Lanka), Jewish and non-Jewish burials on the British sugar island of Barbados, Dutch and British settlers at vineyards of the Cape Colony (South Africa), the multicultural post-slave society at Freetown (the world’s first post-slave society in Sierra Leone), and the domestic response to such projects in the hinterlands of the East Riding of Yorkshire (England), Newport (Wales), Dublin (Ireland), and Aberdeenshire (Scotland).

Alongside investigations of the methods of burial and memorialisation, the business of exporting European memorials to the frontiers of the British Empire will also be chartered. Questions this research hopes to explore include the inclusivity or exclusivity of burial places for voluntary and coercively motivated migrations, separation based on class, faith or race, the emergence of Diasporic memorialisation during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the public utility such memorials played in bolstering British identity abroad.

Should you have any questions regarding this project please do not hesitate to contact Dr Evans on n.j.evans@hull.ac.uk.