Dr Désha Osborne
Daiches-Manning Memorial Fellowship in 18th- century Scottish Studies
Project: The ‘Charaib Argantes’ and the Scottish Tancredi: Historical Imagination and the Colonial Legacy in eighteenth-century Caribbean and Scotland.
During her time as this year’s Daiches-Manning Fellow, Dr Osborne’s project will explore the lives of Garifuna Chief Joseph Chatoyer of St Vincent and Major Alexander Leith of Scotland, whose legendary duel on 14 March 1795 has symbolically represented the end of indigenous resistance to British colonial rule in the Caribbean islands of St Vincent, Tobago, Grenada and Dominica, ceded to Great Britain in the years after 1763. The truth behind the legend of both Chatoyer (the “Chariab Argantes” styled by colonial Governor William Young) and Alexander Leith remained obscured and overlooked in favour of unverified accounts of the events and agenda-driven, anti-colonial narratives. The fellowship will provide access to Leith’s family records scattered across various archives and collections around Edinburgh and insight into the counter-narrative of the “duel” allegedly documented by Leith to his relatives in Scotland. The work will intersect and offer possible collaboration with several other ongoing studies of British military history and material cultures connecting Scotland to the Caribbean and Americas. This study also provides possibilities for further investigation into the broader narrative of Scotland’s acknowledged role in British settlement in the Americas – and in particular West Indian slavery – to include deeper unexplored cultural and interpersonal connections.
Dr Osborne completed her PhD in English at the University of Cambridge; her research was the first full length study of the epic poem Hiroona: An Historical Romance in Poetic Form by Horatio Nelson Huggins. The first critical edition of Hiroona, for which she edited and provided the introduction, was published in 2016 with University of the West Indies Press. Dr Osborne is an adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Africana, Puerto Rican/Latino Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York where she teaches literature.