Robert Wedderburn’s London-based periodical, Axe Laid to the Root (1817), disseminates his vision for a transatlantic alliance between the radicals of England’s lower classes and the enslaved people in the West Indies. Throughout the Axe’s six issues, he challenges the abolitionist narrative that liberal, individualist freedoms should be spread from England to the West Indies. Wedderburn instead instructs his white, lower-class readers in London about already existing African Jamaican practices of insurrectionary land and food reclamation. First, he champions the provision grounds as a land commons that produce food sovereignty and communal identity. Then he represents the Jamaican Maroons’ local ecological knowledge as a source of resistance to plantation economies. Using Sylvia Wynter’s environmental theories of resistance, this essay argues that Wedderburn’s political theories champion African Jamaican land and food commons as a model for abolitionist futures.
Provision Grounds Against the Plantation: Robert Wedderburn’s Axe Laid to the Root
Katey Castellano is a professor of English and coordinator of environmental humanities at James Madison University. She is the author of The Ecology of British Romantic Conservatism (2013) and was awarded an Eccles Centre Fellowship at the British Library to continue researching Robert Wedderburn and the migration of black Caribbean thought to Romantic-era London. Her essay in this issue is part of her book project, “Romantic Commons: Resisting Enclosure in Great Britain and the Caribbean, 1750–1850.”
Katey Castellano; Provision Grounds Against the Plantation: Robert Wedderburn’s Axe Laid to the Root. Small Axe 1 March 2021; 25 (1 (64)): 15–27. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-8912758
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