William Beckford of Somerley
The illegitimate son of Richard Beckford, who was the brother of Alderman Beckford, and cousin of famed author and collector William Thomas Beckford, he was part of an influential slave-holding family. He inherited four sugarcane plantations, for which he traveled to Jamaica to personally supervise. He eventually lost his holdings and returned to England in 1777 as a debtor with an intention of remaking his fortune and reputation. In 1790, whilst imprisoned in the Fleet Prison for debt, he published A Descriptive Account of the Island of Jamaica, a two-volume description of contemporary life in Jamaica from a planter's point of view.
Beckford brought to Jamaica the artist George Robertson, who produced what have been described as "the most aesthetically ambitious views of Jamaica published in the eighteenth century."
- Casid, Jill H. (2005). Sowing Empire: Landscape and Colonization. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0-816-64095-9.
- Hochschild, Adam (2005). Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-90491-6.
- Korte, Barbara; Pirker, Eva Ulrike (2011). Black History – White History: Britain's Historical Programme between Windrush and Wilberforce. Bielefeld: Transcript. ISBN 978-3-837-61935-5.
- Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1885). "Beckford, William (d.1799)". Dictionary of National Biography. 4. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Extracts from A Descriptive Account of the Island of Jamaica
- "The Slavery Business, Part 1: Sugar Dynasty", BBC (2005).
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