The stories and legacies of the black residents of the Yorkshire Dales and Lancashire Coast in the long eighteenth century

  • Robert Bullock

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The novel Dark Tide forms the creative element for the thesis. It offers a fictional exploration of the origins, lives and legacies of the black residents of the Yorkshire Dales and Lancashire coast in the long eighteenth century through the character Jack Moss, former slave and machete man at the Bay View Plantation on Plantashion Island (Barbados).

The narrative of Dark Tide is roughly apportioned into four parts. The first examines the geographic origins of African slavery, the second, colonial exploitation and racial polarisation in pursuit of economic gain, the third, returning to England, represents the movement of social consciences and the isolation of colonial slave colonies in a world where abolition was gaining momentum. Finally, part four is intended to provide an examination of how black people could have arrived in the Yorkshire Dales and Lancashire coast in the long eighteenth century and integrated into rural working-class communities.

The narrative begins on Jack’s last night before trial for murder when he is visited by the unique Bajan demon, the Heartman. After brief introductions the pair travel back to the origins of slavery on the west coast of Africa where they experience the dehumanisation of sorting slaves (men, and women and children) in the ‘dark room’ and sail in the horrendous slave hold of the ship ‘Hope’ on the middle passage to the Caribbean. The racially polarised lives of those who lived on a British colonial sugar cane plantation is witnessed first-hand before Jack’s owners take him with them as they sail back to England. En-route, Jack fights and kills plantation overlooker, Charles Inman, but because on board ‘Hope’ British laws are in force as opposed to the colonial slave code, he must stand trial at Red Rose City (Lancaster). In England, the socio economics, class and race of pre-industrial revolution Britain are examined as Jack escapes transportation to integrate via an interracial marriage into the working-class communities of the northern uplands.

The unreliable narration of the Heartman and magical realism allow the narrative to explore the lives of those who were merely numbers in ships ledgers, assets on plantation records and names on moss covered tombstones in quiet corners of northern graveyards, in unique, insightful and challenging ways.

The critical exegesis is an accompaniment for the fictional narrative, and it contextualises the historical research that underpins the fiction. It offers a discussion of the anticolonial counter narratives the creative element offers, examines where this narrative sits alongside other literature and suggest ways it makes a unique contribution to literature and history.
Date of Award22 May 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJessica Malay (Main Supervisor) & Michael Stewart (Co-Supervisor)

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