Richard Ligon (1585?–1662), a British author, lost his fortune as a royalist during the English Civil War (1642-1651), and during this turbulent time in England he found himself, as he notes in his narrative, a "stranger in my own country". On 14 June 1647, he left for Barbados to gain his fortune in the New World, like many of his fellow countrymen. Ligon purchased half of a sugar plantation in Barbados. After two years residence on the island he was attacked by a fever, and returned to England in 1650. He was soon afterward put into prison by his creditors. There are conflicting reports as to whether his narrative was conceived of in prison as a way to pay off his creditors and gain his freedom, or before his imprisonment at the urging of Brian Duppa, Bishop of Salisbury. His work, a folio with maps and illustrations, is entitled A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes and was published in London in 1657 and again in 1673.
Importance in literary analysis
Ligon's portrait of life in Barbados has made it into a number of literary journals and historical texts in an attempt by many scholars to derive exactly what life in the islands was like and exactly how Europeans, particularly the English, perceived slaves and their role in the sugar trade. One review in the journal Early American Literature (see citation below) offers a more linguistic approach to Ligon's texts. Author Thomas Krise reviews Keith A. Sandiford's analysis of words like "sweet" and "negotiation" in Ligon and says that such an analysis calls attention to various systems of contradiction present in our current understanding of Old World Caribbean culture.
- The Literatures of Colonial America: An Anthology Eds. Susan Castillo and Ivy Schweitzer. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001. p. 205.
- Jehlen, Myra. "History Beside the Fact: What we learn from a True and Exact History of Barbadoes," The Politics of Research, eds. Ann E. Kaplan and George Levine (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1997).
- Krise, Thomas. Early American Literature. Fall 2002, v37 i3 p554(5). North Carolina Press. 2002.
- Sandiford, Keith. The Cultural Politics of Sugar: Caribbean Slavery and Narratives of Colonialism. Cambridge University Press, 2000. pp. 24–40.