Your library staff recommend…Scotland, Africa and Slavery in the Caribbean: books on a North East story

The University of Aberdeen’s Museums and Special Collections Team have a number of online exhibitions, on a variety of topics. This blog post focuses on the Scotland, Africa and Slavery in the Caribbean exhibition currently available online.

After the Union of Scotland and England in 1707, North East Scots eagerly claimed a share of the riches generated by slavery, especially in the Caribbean. The exhibition which was originally created to mark the 200th anniversary of Britain’s abolition of the African slave trade in 1807, presents research into violence against enslaved people in labour camps and the financial profits from slavery.

Library staff have selected a range of books in our collections that showcase the many different aspects of both the slave trade and the anti-slavery movement.

Recommended by Lucy Drysdale: A Monograph being a Contribution towards the History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade & Slavery by James Eames: Addressed to the Earl of Shaftsbury and published in 1854, this book is a blistering condemnation of slavery; and invites the Earl to follow the abolitionist’s example in the form of a detailed examination of Clarkson’s work as a “wise, zealous and untiring advocate for the rights and privileges of mankind…” Exploring his adult life from the point of winning prizes for his anti-slavery dissertation at Cambridge to working with luminaries such as William Wilberforce and Granville Sharp, and their final successes in Parliament, the narrative combines moral and philosophical arguments against the slave trade with historical biography and insight into the writings and thoughts of Clarkson and his fellow abolitionists.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Recommended by Louise Faustino: The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery by Vincent Brown: This book is multidisciplinary, part social history and part anthropology. It is themed around the “extravagant death rate” in Jamaica during the era of slavery, amongst all sectors of the population whether enslaved or free, white, or black. It outlines the horrifying violence that was a continual method of creating and maintaining slavery throughout the world. Further it examines how “mortuary politics”, that is, practices around death, were central in creating culture and giving communities opportunity for change, particularly in the abolitionist movement. Jamaica and its story are used to explain the racial culture of the making of the United States and the world of Britain too.

Recommended by Sarah Todd: The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano: A contemporary autobiography, Equiano tells his tale of life in southern Nigeria, enduring the brutality of plantation slavery, winning his freedom, and his subsequent life as a pre-eminent abolitionist, businessman, public speaker and author. With deliberation, piercing insight and deep humanity, he outlines the physical, mental and spiritual journeys his life contained, and how he developed his strong faith and speaking and writing abilities. Finally, the book lays the seeds of his legacy as a pioneering abolitionist.

Photo of Olaudah Equiano. Source: Wikimedia Commons (Project Gutenberg)

Other books held in the Library’s collections give evidence on historical debates around abolition, highlight the differences in international law and attitudes, and explore the consequences of abolitionism in contemporary Scottish politics and society. Joseph Knight by James Robertson is a novel based on the landmark court case between Knight, an enslaved African brought back to Scotland from Jamaica, and his master John Wedderburn, a wealthy sugar-plantation owner. Taking place in 1778, this momentous legal trial ended with the ruling that the slave laws of Jamaica did not apply in Scotland, making Joseph a free man. Robertson’s “gift for witty re-imagining” and his “canny understanding of the novelistic and its conduits to the world we live in now” is evident as the story moves to Knight’s life following his emancipation; exploring the concepts of slavery and freedom with “cunning and great assurance.”

Zachary Macaulay via Wikimedia Commons

The Joseph Knight case came during a period of history where individuals all over the world were strongly challenging slavery and the political and commercial organisations that kept this brutal practice alive. Many of them, such as Clarkson and Equiano, are justly famous, but figures such as Zachary Macaulay are less well known. Born in Inverary and beginning his adult life as a plantation overseer, Macaulay soon discovered that slavery was a “foul stain upon this nation”, and embarked on a 40 year career of research, campaigning and writing for the cause in the UK and Sierra Leone. Iain Whyte’s Zachary Macaulay 1768-1838: The Steadfast Scot in the British Anti-Slavery Movement follows his subject’s efforts to balance his passion for this work with his personal shyness and desire for anonymity. Catherine Hall is another author who examines Macaulay closely; this time through looking at his legacy and the impact he made on his son Thomas: her work Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain examines the deep contrasts between them: the “evangelical humanitarianism” of the abolitionist and reformer against the “liberal imperialism” of the Victorian historian.

Elsewhere in our collection, we see strong friendships forming, and an international dimension to the anti-slavery movement. An example of this can be seen in “Geographies of Early Anti-Racist Protests in Britain: Ida B Wells 1893 Anti-Lynching Tour in Scotland” (Chapter 6 in the “Activists, Visionaries and Artists” section of Africa in Scotland, Scotland in Africa: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Hybridities.) The chapter details Wells’ life in America and her pioneering struggles as a teacher, journalist and activist in the USA; and her work on both sides of the Atlantic, working with like-minded British women such as Aberdeen-based Isabella Fyvie Mayo, in whose home Wells stayed while in Scotland in 1893; and Catherine Impey, founder of “Anti-Caste”, possibly the first British journal against racism. It explores how these three women met and worked together with other like-minded souls throughout the 1890s to consistently “keep plugging away at the evils they were fighting.” From the first speech Wells gave in the Music Hall in Aberdeen, the chapter provides a deep insight into the tour, the formation of ‘The Society of the Recognition of the Brotherhood of Man (SRBM)’ alongside it, and the strong public response to Wells and her speeches and writings across Scotland and England.

A broader perspective on this period in history; and how culture and society across the country was influenced by the changing political and social landscape can be found in Scotland and the Caribbean c.1740-1833: Atlantic Archipelagos. Written by former Aberdeen academic Michael Morris, this work fully examines the literature and poetry of the time, and explores and discusses how the imperial vision of the Scottish and British colonists in the Caribbean gave way to the realities of abolition and emancipation across the country, paying particular attention to figures such as Robert Burns, Joseph Knight and the Wedderburn family. Similarly, ‘Send Back the Money!’: the Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery by Iain Whyte is “an exciting investigation” of the growing opposition to slavery, and the various roles the Church played in galvanising support, spreading information and driving the national campaign. Finally, detailed information on local activities can be found in records of the Aberdeen Anti-Slavery Society, which can be accessed via our Special Collections Centre.

These selected items examine the themes, questions and some of the individuals featured in the exhibition from a variety of perspectives. We hope that you will gain a better understanding of this period from these resources, and welcome your comments and suggestions as we continue to develop our collections.


Lucy Drysdale, Louise Faustino & Sarah Todd. Many thanks to the Museums and Special Collections Team.

Did you Know…? – help with referencing

Once you have researched and started writing your dissertation or project you must remember to correctly acknowledge the sources of any information which you refer to. This allows readers to trace the original material while also ensuring that you avoid potentially committing plagiarism. 

To help you with your referencing, Library staff have prepared several online guides with useful examples. We have a generic guide on Referencing and Citing as well as others focused on specific referencing systems or subject areas: 

Please be sure, though, to also refer to any specific referencing guidance which you may have been provided by your department. You can also see advice on avoiding plagiarism on the Student Learning Service’s website and PGT students can also check in MyAberdeen for materials on academic writing and avoiding plagiarism.

We also have access to a really useful book by Colin Neville called Complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism which goes over topics from why you need to reference, where, the different referencing styles, plagiarism and how to express your own ideas in an assignment.

If you need any help with referencing your dissertation or project please feel free to contact Library staff with any questions you may have.

Elsevier negotiations: update

Previously we told you about the University’s role in the negotiations with Elsevier.

Visit our new page to find out about the most recent developments and get answers on the following questions:

  • What will happen as December approaches?
  • What costs are incurred for authors at UoA?
  • Can we find an alternative, sustainable method of open access publishing?
  • What is Aberdeen University’s contribution in the negotiations process?

Jisc has produced the following video to highlight the key issues:

EBSCO Quick Guide

The EBSCO platform contains databases across many subject areas. Each database contains information on research published in selected journals and conferences. Some of the databases contain information related to books. Here are the databases currently available from EBSCO:  

Anthropology Plus, Art & Architecture Complete, ATLA Religion Database, British Education Index, Child Development & Adolescent Studies, CINAHL, Education Abstracts, Educational Administration Abstracts,  ERIC, European Views of the Americas: 1493 to 1750, GreenFILE, LISTA, MLA International Bibliography with Full Text, RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, SPORTDiscus, Teacher Reference Center.  

Sign in to Primo and search for a title. If the book is available from EBSCO, the following steps will apply:

 Click on the title of the book to be taken to the book details page and navigate to the full text using your University username and password.

Once you are in EBSCO, the book will be displayed like so:

You have the options of Reading the book online (PDF Full Text) or Download the item. If you choose reading online, it will display like this:  

If you choose to download, the following messages will be displayed on your screen. Please note that different books may have different downloading options, depending on the Digital Rights Management (DRM) agreements. For a non-DRM book, the steps to download are as follows:  

The image is showing the prompt that will appear to 'Download Ebook.' There are options to do this as a PDF, or as an 'E-PUB' for mobile devices.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is down-arrow-2.png

For a book requiring a DRM licence, please note that you will need to set up an EBSCO Personal Account. Advice on how to do so can be found at https://bit.ly/3xl84j0.

To download, select your preferred ‘Download Format’ like so:  

Once the item is downloaded, the site recommends you open it with Adobe Reader. More information can be found at:  

https://bit.ly/3vx8phj 
https://adobe.ly/3vDtDKc

User Features in EBSCO  

Once you have found the book(s) you need in EBSCO, there are a range of options as to how you can use them. This Tools section can be found on the right hand side of the item’s display page as shown:  

If you are reading online, similar icons are displayed across the top of the screen:  

Adding/Saving Items to Folder: EBSCO offers this feature to act as a virtual bookshelf, where you also have options to save, print or email the details, and export them to RefWorks or similar programmes.  

Saving/Emailing References: EBSCO allows both singular and multiple references to be taken from searched material. Detailed instructions and advice on how to do so can be found in the Help section under ‘Emailing’: https://bit.ly/3cPJUFB

Exporting Bibliographic Details to Ref Works-Option to Export on right hand side of screen. Opens links to Ref Works and other providers, and can directly export. For further help, please see our detailed Library Guides.   

Accessibility-The Help section includes an Accessibility Guide covering navigation of the site, the readers (PDF and EPUB), read aloud software and EBSCO’s commitments. It can be found here: https://bit.ly/3vD86RV   

Help and Support-Extensive Help section on website (top right-hand side of screen). Includes user guides, accessibility pages and tutorials.  

Licences-There are three categories here: ‘Unlimited User Access’; ‘Limited Access (3 Users)’, and ‘Limited Access (1 User)’. If the book is unavailable, the site will give various messages along the lines of ‘Item unable to download. Please Read Online’ or ‘Item unavailable for download, please try again later.’  

If you wish to search a specific database on the EBSCO platform, please follow these steps:  

  1. Go to Primo and sign in at the top right of the screen 
  1.  Select the Find Databases tab 
  1. In the new window that appears enter EBSCO in the box called Database Search and click on search 
  1. A list will be created containing the different databases which we currently have access to through the EBSCO platform  
  1. Click on any one of the databases to link out to the EBSCO platform. Primo will open the database’s details page. In the View Online section click on the name of the database e.g. ERIC (EBSCO). Once on EBSCO you can change the particular database you are actually searching in. If off-campus, you may be asked to sign in via your institution. Select University of Aberdeen and sign in with your username and password. 

For more information see our EBSCO worksheet

Lucy Drysdale and Louise Faustino

Did you know…? – Working on your thesis? Help is available

Here’s an outline of what help is available from the Library and IT Services for those of you working on your thesis.

Library help

Searching for theses in your subject area

You can access three large databases of theses through Primo:

  1. Sign in to Primo
  2. Click on the Find Databases tab
  3. From the left-hand menu, click on the arrow next to All General Resources
  4. Select Theses from the options below
  5. Then click on each database for more information and to link out and search for relevant theses.

For further information and more theses databases, please see this guidance document created by Library staff.

University of Aberdeen theses are also available in the Digital Collections section of Primo. There are both Research and Taught Course theses.

Information Skills

Our Find it Fast! Wiki is packed with material to help with your information skills, from planning your search to referencing. There are specific sections for Taught Postgraduates and Postgraduate Researchers

Live Q&A sessions for PGR students

Library staff will be running live Q&A sessions for PGR students next week on 21 & 24 June. Please do come along and our team will be happy to provide guidance and short demonstrations based on your needs. Sign up on the Course Booking site.

Remember we are here to support you throughout your studies, so please do get in touch (library@abdn.ac.uk) if you would like some help. 

IT help

The IT Services Team have created the Working with Long Documents section on Toolkit, which has plenty of handy videos and guides to help you with creating and manipulating long documents in MS Word.

The IT Services Training and Documentation team are also running sessions on 16 June:

  • Part 1: Adding Style to Your Thesis, 11am-12pm
  • Part 2: The Power of Section Breaks, 2pm-3pm

You can sign up on the Course Booking pages. Even if the session is full, it is worth getting on the waiting list as you may still be able to attend.

Best of luck to all those of you working on your thesis!

Did you Know…? – help with referencing

It’s not too early to start thinking about your referencing. Once you have researched and begun writing your dissertation or project you must remember to correctly acknowledge the sources of any information which you refer to. This allows readers to trace the original material while also ensuring that you avoid potentially committing plagiarism.  

To help you with your referencing, Library staff have prepared several online guides with useful examples. We have a generic guide on Referencing and Citing as well as others focused on specific referencing systems or subject areas:  

Please be sure, though, to also refer to any specific referencing guidance which you may have been provided by your department. You can also see advice on avoiding plagiarism on the Student Learning Service’s website and PGT students can also check in MyAberdeen for materials on academic writing and avoiding plagiarism. 

We also have access to a really useful book by Colin Neville called Complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism which goes over topics from why you need to reference, where, the different referencing styles, plagiarism and how to express your own ideas in an assignment. 

If you need any help with referencing your dissertation or project please feel free to contact Library staff with any questions you may have.

Live Q&A sessions for PGR students: Library resources and services

Unsure how to start looking for library materials? No idea what a Shibboleth login is? Want to find out about the Click and Collect service if you are in Aberdeen? How to access and find electronic content?

If the answer to any of those is “Yes” then join us for some short demonstrations of library resources. You will be able to ask us any questions you may have and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Our Q&A sessions are scheduled for 15, 21 & 24 June and will be delivered via Collaborate. To find out more and to book a place, visit: 
abdn.ac.uk/coursebooking and change the category to ‘Library Information Skills’.

Please get in touch if you have any questions – e.grant@abdn.ac.uk

Live Q&A sessions for PGT students

The hand-in date for your dissertation is likely to be looming. If you need a refresher on how to find papers on your dissertation topic or on accessing e-resources, or have any queries on referencing then come along to one of our Question & Answer sessions next week. In the meantime, you may find materials in our Refresher series of interest. The recordings in our Refresher series present techniques, tips and resources to help you find scholarly information and reliable support materials. The issues of plagiarism, referencing, planning a dissertation and writing a Literature Review are also covered.

Photo by Joe Johnston

The sessions will take place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week
(7, 8 & 9 June)
 and are open to all PGT students regardless of whether or not you have listened to the recordings or have received previous instruction.

The sessions will be delivered via Collaborate. To find out more and to book a place, please visit abdn.ac.uk/coursebooking – just change the category to ‘Library Information Skills’.

Please get in touch with us if you have any questions.
s.mmcourt@abdn.ac.uk