Dr Kit Candlin

Dr Kit Candlin

Lecturer

School of Humanities and Social Science

Fabled and true: Tales of slavery, savagery and survival in the lost worlds

An authority on all things American, Dr Kit Candlin is seeking to unearth – and solve – some of its history's most devilish mysteries.

Kit CandlinDr Kit Candlin's job is not for the fainthearted. A self-described "historian of violence," the passionate pioneer is used to detailing some of "the worst, unimaginable punishments" and social arrangements in the Age of Exploration to the early 21stcentury, reconstructing the rise of Europe, Africa and the Americas through chillingly illustrative racial and spatial lenses.

"Basically, we're talking about the empires that looked out on the Atlantic Ocean from 1400-1840," he explains about the latter.

"These include the Mayans, Aztecs, Incas and a small number of other interesting inhabitants."

I like this frame of understanding because there is room to investigate issues on micro and macro levels, such as individual colonies and the differences between cultures and the people who lived between them.

"You can't be as specific with global history or as contextual with national history."

Equally grim, though no less intriguing, Kit also specialises in the Old World slave trade. A walking talking chronology of its origins, abolition and emancipation, the University of Newcastle lecturer concedes his niche is analogous, in many ways, to Holocaust studies.

"Both are very grim," he acknowledges.

"We have to try and stay cheerful and objective."

Against the grain

Kit began his research career with a first class Honours degree at the University of Sydney in 2005. Chiefly focusing on late 18th century India during the one-year probe, he looked to provide a "revisionist history" of the biography of one of its Colonial administrators.

"I then undertook a PhD in 2006," the energetic scholar states.

"Eventually I settled on the conflict and contestation inherent in the southern Caribbean during what we call the Age of Revolutions (1760-1820), particularly in the colonies of Trinidad, Grenada and Demerara."

"I thought it was a great, really interesting region to study for my candidature," he shares.

"During the Age of Revolution (1760-1820), Trinidad for example was originally a Spanish colony filled with French immigrants and their slaves, lots of Republicans, and a few Germans and Portuguese – a real melting pot!"

"Then in 1797 the British seized it from the Iberians"

Painting Trinidad as a "very frontier colony," like Grenada and Demerara in South America, Kit argues the island was also the last part of the Caribbean to be settled.

"I went through documents in London's National Archives as well as archives in the Caribbean to uncover this information," he confirms.

"My findings led to the publication of a few articles and my first book."

Freedom and a farm

Kit stayed on at the University of Sydney after receiving his award in 2009, employed as a Research Associate to work on the celebrated 'Black Loyalist Project.' A story about people wanting to join the Empire, the creative collaboration saw the dedicated historian trace the life journeys of more than 3,000 ex-slaves.

"A lot escaped from their plantations in America's south to join the British frontline in the War of Independence," he advises.

"Then they were granted their freedom, which meant repostings to Nova Scotia, London and eventually Africa."

"Some of those sent to London were even on the First Fleet to Australia as well."

"So the settlement of Australia was a little more multicultural than most would imagine."

Locating a handful of "fantastic resources" throughout the long-term online endeavour, Kit and the team were able to rebuild and articulate the intricacies of slave family life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

"We looked at the 'Book of Negroes,' which lists all of the vital statistics, such as owners, origins and first and last names," he reveals.

"We used Virginia's taxation records too."

Reuniting with research partners Professor Iain McCalman and Professor Cassandra Pybus a couple of years later in 2011, Kit decided to pursue another hidden history – this time in rural England. The trio produced a documentary on the famed 'Wuthering Heights' novel during their stint abroad, seeking to learn the root of inspiration for its tortured romantic hero and protagonist, Heathcliff.

"It was pretty clear to us from the get-go that he was an Afro-Caribbean man of mixed race," the dedicated academic clarifies.

"We think the author was influenced by her minister father, who was an anti-slave advocate, and by the Sills family in Dentdale, Yorkshire, who were wealthy Jamaican plantation owners with servants."

"The Bronte sisters passed their farm on route to the Clergy Daughters' School in Cowan Bridge."

From slavery to wealth

In early 2015, the British native penned another book with Cassandra Pybus on the "free people of colour" between slaves and white plantation owners. Called 'Enterprising Women: Gender, Race and Power in the Revolutionary Atlantic', the popular hardback was funded by Kit's Australian Research Council (ARC) Postdoctoral Fellowship and examines self-emancipation, violence and volatility in regional slave societies during the Age of Revolution.

"This particular population usually had white fathers or grandfathers and slave mothers who were possibly freed as well," he divulges.

"A lot of them inherited and a lot of them were quite entrepreneurial, which meant they contributed to the economy by becoming slave owners."

"They also tended to be very mobile, moving around colonies and having their children educated in schools overseas."

A prolific publisher, Kit is also in the process of submitting an ARC grant application for a third book on the New World. Animated and ambitious in equal measure, the multiple award-winner is hoping to explore the transference of brutal regimes from the wider Atlantic to modern American colonies in the lead up to the War of Independence (1740-1765). 

"I'm going to tell the story of George Washington too," he discloses.

"My project will put the United States in context – there were definite, outside influences that impacted upon its invention."

Digging deep

A master at multitasking, Kit is simultaneously writing an article about Fédon's Rebellion in Grenada. Bravely launched against the British in 1795, the uprising has since largely been lost in the French Revolutionary wars.

"People just haven't heard of it, let alone talked about it in the context of other slave revolts," he affirms.

"But it's exceptionally significant."

"Around 8,000 slaves died, which is, by some margin, the largest slave rebellion in terms of casualties in the Caribbean."

Firmly believing in the scholastic value of the Atlantic World, Kit is also set to write an article for 'Agora,' the Journal of the Victorian Teachers' Association.

"Educators are looking for ways to approach global history," he suggests.

"If you can learn regional history first, you get the best of both worlds."

Kit Candlin

Fabled and true: Tales of slavery, savagery and survival in the lost worlds

An authority on all things American, Dr Kit Candlin is seeking to unearth – and solve – some of its history's most devilish mysteries.

Read more

Career Summary

Biography


 Kit completed both a first class honours degree and a PhD at the University of Sydney. Prior to his appointment in 2015 as a lecturer in American History at Newcastle he held a four year ARC funded postdoctoral position at the University of Sydney to research the lives of a number of enterprising and entrepreneurial women in the revolutionary Atlantic 1760-1840. This research resulted in several publications including a monograph written in conjunction with Cassandra Pybus entitled ‘Enterprising Women: Gender Race and Power in the Revolutionary Atlantic 1760-1840’ which was published in January 2015 by the University of Georgia Press.

Kit’s doctoral dissertation completed in 2009 focused on marginal actors within the Atlantic World and the transference of people and ideas across violent colonial and cultural boundaries. His first book “The Last Caribbean Frontier 1795- 1815” (2012) published by Palgrave and shortlisted for the Trevor Reece Memorial Prize in history, expanded on this research, while his second book, “Enterprising Women: Race, Gender and Power in the Revolutionary Atlantic 1770-1830” explored highly successful, self-emancipated slave women and how they negotiated the violent and volatile slave societies of the Atlantic region. Among several articles published by Kit, one in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, looked at the violence of the Venezuelan civil war and its effects on the rest of the Atlantic world. In conjunction with Cassandra Pybus, Kit also has a forthcoming chapter in War, Demobilisation and Memory: The Legacy of War in the Era of Atlantic Revolutions to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2016.

In the context of North America Kit has researched the attraction of loyalism to enslaved workers in both the American War of Independence and the War of 1812. Kit undertook detailed research on the experience of defecting slaves for an ARC funded project [http://www.blackloyalist.org] In the course of that research he was a Mellon Visiting Fellow at the Virginia Historical Society, Richmond. His research on runaway slaves in 1812 has resulted in an internationally recognized article in Slavery and Abolition: ‘The Origins of the Term Refugee in the Early Nineteenth century Atlantic World‘(2009).

Kit’s interests in History range broadly from all aspects of American History, especially colonial America, to European empires and the history of violence and war. In addition he has in-depth knowledge of the Atlantic World from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth. Currently Kit is working on a project to to explore the transference of regimes of violence from the wider Atlantic to the American colonies in the lead up to the American War of Independence.

Kit has been the recipient of numerous awards including:                                         

  • ARC Post Doctoral Fellowship (2010-2014)
  • Andrew Mellon Visiting Fellow to the Virginia Historical Society (2010)        
  • University Fellowship Award  (2008)
  • University Postgraduate Award Scholarship (2004 – 2007)
  • John Fraser Traveling Scholarship (2007)
  • James Kentley Memorial Scholarship for History (2006)
  • University of Sydney Postgraduate Research Award (2006)


Qualifications

  • PhD, University of Sydney
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours), University of Sydney

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia

Invitations

Distinguished Visitor

Year Title / Rationale
2016 UON Rethink series "Is America in decline'
Edit

Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Book (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Candlin K, Pybus C, Enterprising Women: Gender, Race and Power in the Revolutionary Atlantic, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA, 199 (2015) [A1]
Citations Scopus - 1
2012 Candlin K, The Last Caribbean Frontier, 1795-1815, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 280 (2012) [A1]

Chapter (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2016 Candlin K, Pybus C, 'Enterprising Women and War Profiteers: Race, Gender and Power in the Revolutionary Caribbean', War, Demobilization and Memory: The Legacy of War in the Era of Atlantic Revolutions, Palgrave Macmillan, London, UK 254-268 (2016) [B1]
DOI 10.1007/978-1-137-40649-1_15

Journal article (7 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Candlin K, 'Atlantic History : A Rubric for Teaching', Agora: The Journal of the Victorian Teachers Association, 1 12-21 (2015)
2015 Candlin K, 'The counter-revolution of 1776: Slave resistance and the origins of the United States of America', American Historical Review, 120 235-236 (2015) [C3]
2012 Candlin K, 'Atlantic Creoles in the Age of Revolutions', AMERICAS, 68 446-447 (2012)
2012 Candlin K, 'Freedom bound: law, labor, and civic identity in colonizing English America, 1580-1865', LABOR HISTORY, 53 305-306 (2012)
DOI 10.1080/0023656X.2012.679408
2010 Candlin K, 'Transient women of the southern Caribbean 1790-1820', Callaloo, 33 476-497 (2010)
DOI 10.1353/cal.0.0656
2010 Candlin K, 'The empire of women: Transient entrepreneurs in the southern Caribbean, 1790-1820', Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 38 351-372 (2010)

This article uses the details of those who fled to Trinidad from the violence of the Venezuelan war of independence in 1814, 1815 and 1816 as a prism through which to view female ... [more]

This article uses the details of those who fled to Trinidad from the violence of the Venezuelan war of independence in 1814, 1815 and 1816 as a prism through which to view female agency in the southern Caribbean during first two decades of the nineteenth century. In particular it focuses on free coloured women as being able to exploit the poorly controlled edges of empire for their own advantage. Characterised by a self-reliant independence these women were at once highly mobile, independent and influential. These women have been marginalised in the histories of the region and yet this research suggests that they had a far more prevalent and powerful role in shaping its character and history than has been recognised to date. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.

DOI 10.1080/03086534.2010.503393
Citations Scopus - 1Web of Science - 3
2009 Candlin K, 'The expansion of the idea of the refugee in the early-nineteenth-century Atlantic world', Slavery and Abolition, 30 521-544 (2009)

This article highlights the differences in labour status given to various groups in the Atlantic region and argues that the word 'refugee' was repeatedly used to make these descri... [more]

This article highlights the differences in labour status given to various groups in the Atlantic region and argues that the word 'refugee' was repeatedly used to make these descriptive distinctions. The article looks at the way an African-American bid for freedom affected the development of empire. The research emphasises the confusions inherent in the ending of the slave trade. By examining migration, we can see the increasingly exclusionary nature of the British Empire and its territorial space as well as the changes brought about by decades of instability. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.

DOI 10.1080/01440390903245091
Citations Scopus - 2Web of Science - 1
Show 4 more journal articles
Edit

Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 5
Total funding $430,000

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20151 grants / $5,000

New Staff Grant$5,000

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20111 grants / $415,000

Enterprising Women : Gender race and Power in the Revolutionary Atlantic$415,000

This project explored the lives of free women of mixed race from  the southern Caribbean  in the Atlantic world and Britain during the age of revolutions (roughly 1760-1840). It concluded that these women were highly mobile and enterprising owning slaves, plantations and other businesses. These women sought advantages for their children in a highly capricious world and that they were remarkably entrepreneurial, enterprising and successful in their endeavours.   

Funding body: ARC (Australian Research Council)

Funding body ARC (Australian Research Council)
Project Team

cassandra Pybus, Kit Candlin

Scheme Discovery Project
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2011
Funding Finish 2015
GNo
Type Of Funding Aust Competitive - Commonwealth
Category 1CS
UON N

20101 grants / $5,000

Andrew Mellon Visiting Fellow to the Virginia Historical Society $5,000

A Large Travel Grant to conduct research at the Virginia Historical Society into escaped slaves from the American Revolution who are listed in the 1783 'Book of Negroes'.

Funding body: Carnegie Mellon University

Funding body Carnegie Mellon University
Project Team

Kit Candlin

Scheme Andrew Mellon Visiting Fellowship
Role Lead
Funding Start 2010
Funding Finish 2010
GNo
Type Of Funding International - Competitive
Category 3IFA
UON N

20071 grants / $3,000

The John Fraser Travelling Scholarship$3,000

A competitively won travelling grant to conduct research into the Southern Caribbean 1790-1815 in the United Kingdom

Funding body: The University of Sydney

Funding body The University of Sydney
Project Team

Kit Candlin

Scheme Research Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2007
Funding Finish 2007
GNo
Type Of Funding Aust Competitive - Non Commonwealth
Category 1NS
UON N

20061 grants / $2,000

The James Kentley Memorial Scholarship for History$2,000

A Travel Grant to research liminal or marginal actors in the southern Caribbean 1790-1815

Funding body: The University of Sydney

Funding body The University of Sydney
Project Team

Kit Candlin

Scheme Research Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2006
Funding Finish 2006
GNo
Type Of Funding Grant - Aust Non Government
Category 3AFG
UON N
Edit

Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current5

Total current UON EFTSL

PhD1.65

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title Program Supervisor Type
2017 PhD Let Devastation be the Standing Order of Your Cruise: Maritime Violence in the Atlantic World, 1812-1815 PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2016 PhD 'The Artificial Distinction':Balancing Great and Powerful Friends and Geopolitical Considerations in Australian Foreign Policy, 1921-1991 PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2016 PhD What Significance did Women of African and West Indian Descent have in Social, Cultural and Economic Society During Eighteenth Century Britain? PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2015 PhD General George Brinton McClellan Union Army PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2014 PhD "Wild Humours" of the Common People: The Emotions During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1639-1653 PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
Edit

News

Historicizing Violence: the Contested Histories of Present Day Conflict

Call for papers: Historicising Violence

June 7, 2017

Historicising Violence: the Contested Histories of Present Day Conflict

A multidisciplinary conference convened by the Centre for the History of Violence at the University of Newcastle, Australia, to be held at the Rome Global Gateway, University of Notre Dame, Rome, 22-24 November 2017.

Dr Kit Candlin

Position

Lecturer
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Contact Details

Email kit.candlin@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 49216413
Mobile 0400717044

Office

Room MCLG26A
Building McMullin BDG
Edit