Black histories

We are working on an ongoing project to identify key collections and items in our collections relating to Black histories. This will be a significant piece of work, designed to make it easier to find items and to reveal previously hidden histories.

The project is wide ranging, but we started by considering what our collections reveal about Cornish connections to the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Our parish records contain a number of baptisms of Black people, including some connected to the Transatlantic Slave Trade. For example, “Rachel…the Property of Mrs Chapman of Fowey” was baptised in 1746 and there are numerous other instances recorded. Our family, estate and solicitors’ collections also contain wills, leases and maps related to the ownership of enslaved people, managing plantations, and more. Take a look at the Kresen Kernow collections guide – the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Caribbean, or view our Discovering Black histories in Cornwall exhibition to find out more.

We are also looking at other areas of global history, including what our collections reveal about the involvement of Cornish people in Britain’s colonies, and the impact of mass Cornish migration on indigenous populations in countries such as South Africa and Australia. We are improving our cataloguing to make items easier to find, and examining individual documents to see what they reveal and to understand their relevance. This is an ongoing project, so please do check back for updates and further information. The following guides might be of interest:

Kresen Kernow collections guide – the Americas

Kresen Kernow collections guide – Africa

Kresen Kernow collections guide – Australia, New Zealand & the Pacific Islands

Cornish overseas webpage

We recognise that our catalogue contains some terms which are offensive, and some whose meaning has changed over time.  Such terms exist within some original records and have been retained to inform users of the nature and content of the sources concerned.  They do not reflect the views of the Archives and Cornish Studies Service.  We apologise for any offence that our inclusion of these words may cause.

Key search terms:  Black history, Africa, colonial, colonialism, Enslavement, Transatlantic Slave Trade (see individual collections guides for more terms)

Key collections: see individual collections guides

Recommended reads: The Cornish in the Caribbean by Sue Appleby; Music and Musicians in early 19th century Cornwall, The world of Joseph Emidy – slave, violinist and composer by Richard McGrady; see individual collections guides for more specific examples

Explore: Our Discovering Black Histories in Cornwall exhibition might give you an idea of what we hold, and what we don’t.