The purpose of this blog is to document my journey on researching the existence of slavery in Topsfield.
I”ll begin with the caveats. I’m not a trained academic historian nor a public historian. I’m also not a genealogist, librarian or a member of any of the other professions that usually do historical research. All I can lay claim to is having taken a few graduate courses and read a large set of academic histories and journal articles (yeah JStor!)
Eleven months from now I’m committed to giving a presentation to the Topsfield Historical Society on how slavery existed in Topsfield and in Massachusetts and how it ended. I plan to dig into the archives (our own and wherever else there might be something useful) to find whatever documentary record has been left.
Frankly, I don’t expect to find much. Others have successfully done this in Concord and Burlington but both those towns were larger and richer than Topsfield has ever been. I hope to find at least the names of some enslaved people in Topsfield and the names of their owners.
I’ll have to extrapolate from the work of other historians on slavery in New England. I took a course this fall at Salem State University on this topic so I have some works with which to begin.
My biggest problem is really going to be containing my reading of secondary sources within doable boundaries. Besides the work done on slavery in the New England colonies, I’m thinking about connections to Barbados and the other English slave colonies in the Caribbean, the intercolonial slave trade, the New England economy, the English and Scottish and Irish economies until I’m in danger of starting with the dawn of time (which seems to be when slavery started as well.)
My hope is the discipline of blogging about my activities will constrain my searches.