Edward Long

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For other people named Edward Long, see Edward Long (disambiguation).

Edward Long (23 August 1734 – 13 March 1813) was a British colonial administrator and historian, and author of an influential work, The History of Jamaica (1774).


Long's family had been long associated with Jamaica - descended from the Long family of Wiltshire, his great-grandfather, Samuel Long, had arrived on the island in 1655 as a lieutenant in the English army of conquest, and Secretary to the Council of Commissioners leading the expedition - and the family established itself as part of the island's governing planter elite.[1] His sister, Catherine Maria Long, had married Sir Henry Moore, 1st Baronet (Governor of Jamaica), and it has been said that Edward went to Jamaica to become private secretary to Sir Henry. However R M Howard, author of The Longs of Jamaica and Hampton Lodge (1925) notes that according to Long's own account this was not the case.

Long was born 23 August 1734 at St. Blazey, in Cornwall. He became a law student in 1752 at Gray's Inn, and from 1757 until 1769 he was resident in Jamaica, during which period he explored inside the Riverhead Cave, the Runaway Bay Caves and the Green Grotto.[2] He became Lieutenant-governor, (he was never Lieutenant-Governor, though it is likely that he was identical to the Edward Long who was briefly Speaker of the Assembly., so elected 13 September 1768) and later Chief Judge in the local vice admiralty court (Ref: The Longs of Jamaica and Hampton Lodge, p. 12).. He was an influential and wealthy member of British society, as well as an established Jamaican planter and slaver. In 1758, he married Mary, the daughter of Thomas Beckford, widow of John Palmer of ‘Springvale’ in Jamaica. After the birth of their fourth child in 1769, the family returned to England due to Long's poor health.[3] Twin sons (the elder of whom was Robert Ballard Long) were born in 1771 at Chichester. Edward Long died in 1813 at Arundel Park, Sussex, the seat of his son-in-law, Henry Molyneux-Howard, Esq., M.P., who had married his daughter Elizabeth.

Long was a polygenist who claimed that the White race was a different species to the Black race.[4]

History of Jamaica[edit]

History of Jamaica book cover

Long's History of Jamaica, first published in 1774 in three volumes but again in the 1970s,[5] was his greatest work. This book gives a political, social, and economic history with a survey of the island, parish by parish from 1665 to 1774.[6] It is a classic in its field and, even today it contains what is still one of the best and most complete accounts of colonial government in existence. The work is also important, because it presents a clear picture of conditions in the island on the eve of the American revolution which was destined to bring ruin to so many planters and slavers.[7]

The book also contains a racist yet influential description of American Negro slaves during the Age of Enlightenment. Long's description of race discussed it as a more natural state compared to the Romantic period.[8] Long argues that American Negroes are characterised by the same "bestial manners, stupidity and vices which debase their brethren" in Africa. This race of people is distinguishable from the rest of mankind in that they embody "every species of inherent turpitude" and imperfection that can be found dispersed among all other races of men. Unlike the most "abandoned villain" to be found in civilisation, these peoples have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He echoes Hume and Kant and finds it astonishing that despite being subject to colonisation and integration into European society for hundreds of years, the Negroes have failed to demonstrate any appreciation for the arts or any inventive ability. He observes that throughout the entirety of Africa, there are few natives who "comprehend anything of mechanic arts or manufacture", and those who do, perform their work in the manner of some under-evolved ape. This is due to them being "void of genius".[9] The book also contains descriptions of interracial marriage.[10] In the book he included a poem by Francis Williams.[11]


  1. ^ leMercier duQuesnay, Frederick. The Longs of "Longville". 1964. 25 August 2006. <http://jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Samples/fred02.htm>.
  2. ^ Jamaican Caves. The Underground World of Jamaican Caves - Part II (Guidance Part VI) 2003. 25 August 2006. <http://www.jamaicancaves.org/article_2.htm>.
  3. ^ McGill Queen's University Press. The History of Jamaica. 2006. 25 August 2006. <http://www.mqup.mcgill.ca/book.php?bookid=1578>.
  4. ^ Eviatar Zerubavel, Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past, 2003 p. 70
  5. ^ Open2.net. History. 2006. 25 August 2006. <http://www.open2.net/historyandthearts/history/books_weblinks.html>.
  6. ^ McGill Queen's University Press. The History of Jamaica. 2006. 25 August 2006. <http://www.mqup.mcgill.ca/book.php?bookid=1578>.
  7. ^ The Fall of the Planter Class in the British Caribbean, 1763-1833 by Lowell Joseph Ragatz.
  8. ^ Kitson, P.J. and Lee, D. Institute of Historical Research. Slavery, Abolition and Emancipation: Writings in the British Romantic period (Eight vols.). 1999. 25 August 2006. <http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/paper/johnmar.html>.
  9. ^ Edward Long, The History of Jamaica (London: T. Lownudes, 1774), 2 vols., 2. 476;
  10. ^ The History Cooperative. The William and Mary Quarterly. 2003. 25 August 2006. <http://www.historycooperative.org/cgi-bin/justtop.cgi?act=justtop&url=http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/wm/59.3/br_9.html>.
  11. ^ Parker, John. Society for the History of Discoveries. 2004. 25 August 2006. sochistdisc.org.

Further reading[edit]