British Guiana Monthly Messenger

Item date: 1864-5
Grant Value: £2,200 from FNL's B. H. Breslauer Fund
Item cost: £4,500
Item date acquired: 2016
Item institution: King's College London
Town/City: London
London borough: City of Westminster

This volume contains the first 20 issues of a rare 19th century periodical, the British Guiana Monthly Messenger, and four equally rare 19th century British Guiana pamphlets.

The periodical was published in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana), with the declared aim of fostering 'the moral and intellectual improvement of the people of British Guiana, not losing sight either of their material interests.' It contains news, both domestic and foreign (the American Civil War features strongly and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is lamented in the June 1865 issue), plus feature articles on religion, economics, travel and education. Interspersed with these are stories, poems, hymns and puzzles, as well as practical tips on health, cookery and household economy. The editors declare in the first issue their hope that the magazine may prove 'a stimulus to the minds of some of the natives ... who may be induced to express their thoughts through its pages' and the later issues display the fulfilment of this aim, containing letters and other contributions from readers.

The volume also contains four theological pamphlets printed in British Guiana between 1859 and 1864 and largely concerned with discussion of the doctrine of 'Noah's curse', the use by some advocates of slavery of the wording of Noah's curse of his son Ham recorded in the ninth chapter of Genesis as a justification of the enslavement of Africans. For many inhabitants of British Guiana slavery, abolished in all British colonies in 1833, was well within living memory, and the progress of the American Civil War, fought primarily over the Confederate states' right to retain slavery, made the subject once more acutely topical, a fact also reflected in the British Guiana monthly messenger 's serialisation of escaped American slave and leading abolitionist Frederick Douglass's memoir, My Bondage and my Freedom.

This is an important acquisition for the library of King's College London, complementing and enhancing our already extensive and internationally significant holdings in the field of British imperial and colonial history. By virtue of the extreme rarity of its contents, as well as their intrinsic interest, this volume has the potential to cast new light on the then colony of British Guiana at an important period in its history.

In 2007 the historical library collection of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was transferred to King's College London. Comprising over 80,000 printed and manuscript items, this matchless collections spans 500 years of world history; a major area of strength is the political, economic and social history of the British Empire, represented in tens of thousands of books, pamphlets, periodicals, manuscripts and typescripts created or collected by the Colonial Office and its staff. The FCO Historical Collection is Kings' most heavily used special collection, consulted by researchers from all over the world, including a significant number of visitors from the Caribbean. 

This grant was awarded from FNL's B. H. Breslauer Fund, thanks to the generosity of the President and Officers of the B. H. Breslauer Foundation.