The Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery project, in collaboration with the National Centre for Biography, presents a series of online seminars around the broader theme of Writing Slavery into Australian History.
Britain’s involvement in the slave trade and slavery affected the lives and fortunes of many nineteenth-century immigrants to the Australian colonies. Some transferred capital directly from plantation economies to newly burgeoning settler colonial societies; for others, the connections were more diffuse. As historians have shown, the Australian colonies provided individual immigrants with an opportunity to refashion their existing reputations or even create them afresh. At the same time, collective colonial and settler identities were asserted in cultural, social, economic and political fora. This seminar explores dictionaries of biography as sites for the mutual constitution of individual and national (or colonial) identities. Alongside a consideration of how slavery and the slavery business feature in the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Biographical Dictionary of Western Australians, it explores how Britain and its other settler colonies remembered, forgot, or suppressed, the legacies of British slavery in their national biographical dictionaries.