‘A New System of Slavery’: A tale of three homes

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

I often wonder how books find their way into the Centre. Sometimes it’s simple, but sometimes it’s not so straightforward. I’m always intrigued when individual items bear marks which give a little glimpse of their story. Here’s an example.

A New System of Slavery. The Export of Indian Labour Overseas 1830-1920, by Hugh Tinker, was published by Oxford University Press for the Institute of Race Relations, in 1974. It was the first comprehensive survey of how and why populations from the Indian subcontinent were resettled around the British Empire, providing the indentured labour that produced plantation crops after slavery was abolished in the nineteenth century.

There are two copies of the original 1974 publication in the Centre, and what different lives they appear to have led…

Image of system of slavery books on shelf

The first seems pristine and unopened in all its dust-jacketless glory, sporting the stamp of the Home Office Library on its flyleaf. So far, so uneventful.

However, the second, though still neat (with dust jacket a little torn), is certainly more well-travelled, possessing within its covers not one but three stamps, including one from the Centre. Since leaving the publisher, it seems to have dwelt in Manchester, hosted at one time or another by the Caribbean Project on Anson Road, and the Education Development Service at Royal Oak Infant School in Wythenshawe. It may well have seen other homes of which we know nothing.

Image of inside book cover showing stamps

The second copy’s two previous known homes were quite different. What did their readers think of such a scholarly tome, and who were those readers? If anyone out there has any insight into the Caribbean Project, the Education Development Service, or the people who used them, it would be great to learn more.

That’s what’s so fascinating about the Centre. Even the books tell their own story…

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