Glossary


B C D E F H I J K L M N P U R T U V

B

Buddhism
Founded by Siddhartha Gauthama, the Buddha (the 'Enlightened One'), Buddhism developed out of Hinduism and is practised in Japan, China, and South East Asia. It is based on the search for enlightenment.

 

C

Caribbee
The islands of the Caribbean, the West Indies.

Christmas pudding
The ingredients of the traditional festive pudding may include spices from India and Sri Lanka, sugar and rum from the West Indies, and dried fruits from Australia and South Africa.

Cook, Captain James
Born in Yorkshire in 1728, Cook commanded three voyages of discovery and sailed around the world twice. He claimed the eastern coast of New Holland (Australia) for Great Britain.

Coolie
A word commonly used to refer to cheap or menial labour, often from the Indian subcontinent or China. Its origin is uncertain. It may come from 'kuli', the Tamil word for a casual worker. Or from 'Koullis' or 'Kulis', used in Gujarat to refer to robbers or to a so-called aboriginal tribe. The term is now considered pejorative.

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D

Diaspora
People who are dispersed around the world due to enforced or voluntary migration. The term originally applied to the scattering of the Jewish people in the 8th century BC. Today, it is also often used to refer to all Black people living outside Africa.

Durbar
In India, a royal court or ceremonial assembly. Also, the hall in a palace where public audiences and ceremonial assemblies were held.

Dyewoods
Timber from which dyes were extracted for printing calico and other cloths.

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E

East Indies
A general geographical description that frequently encompassed South Asia, the lands of Malaysia, and the islands of the Indian Ocean. In the context of this exhibition, it is often used in this sense. In Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor (c. 1598-1601), Falstaff says of Mistress Page and Mistress Ford 'They shall be exchequers to me; they shall be my East and West Indies, and I will trade to them both.' Today, the term is commonly used to refer to the Malay archipelago. The Dutch colony known as the Netherlands East Indies became Indonesia in the 20th century.

Eboracum
The Latin name for York, the capital of Roman Britain.

Enclosure
The practice of enclosing common land to turn it into private landholdings. This practice increased substantially during the last two decades of the 18th century, often to the disadvantage of the poor.

Enlightenment
An 18th-century intellectual movement arguing that human reason could be used to combat ignorance, superstition and tyranny and to build a better world. The Enlightenment had profound consequences for the intellectual and political development of western Europe - and beyond.

Equiano, Olaudah
Equiano was born in Africa around 1745. As a boy of 11 he was kidnapped and transported to the West Indies to work as a slave. He was bright, found work on English ships, and learned to read and write. In England he converted to Christianity and was baptised 'Gustavus Vassa'. He married an English woman from Cambridge and had a family. In 1789 he published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.

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F

Feudal system
A system of landholding, common throughout Europe in medieval times, whereby freehold land was held or occupied in return for personal service to a lord or for goods paid in kind.

Freedom of the city
An honour, conferring certain privileges, awarded by a city or town to persons of distinction or for services rendered.

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H

Habeas corpus
A writ ordering that a detained person be brought before a court or judge, at a specified time and place, in order to determine whether such detention is lawful. The right of any citizen to obtain the issue of such a writ is regarded as one of the most fundamental civil liberties. In England, writs beginning with the instruction 'Habeas corpus' (Latin for 'Have the body…', meaning 'You are to produce the person detained') were first issued in the 13th century. The law relating to them was formalised by the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679.

Hinduism
Also referred to as Sanatana Dharma, the eternal faith, Hinduism is not strictly a religion. It is based on the practice of Dharma, the code of life. A detailed explanation of Hindu texts is found in the Vedic scriptures. 'India' comes from the word 'Hindu'.

Hogshead
An imperial unit of measurement equal to approximately 250 litres or 63 gallons. Also the name given to a cask of that size.

Hottentot
The name given to the Khoe Khoe people by the Dutch colonists (now considered derogatory).

Hulk
An old ship used as a prison. Large, redundant old battle ships without their masts were used as floating prisons for captives who were sentenced to be transported to British overseas penal colonies. Hulks were moored along the River Thames at Chatham, Deptford, Woolwich and Sheerness, usually near dockyards or arsenals so that prisoners could be used there as labourers.

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I

India
The Indian subcontinent includes what are now Bangladesh and Pakistan. These countries were created in 1947 but had previously long been part of what was called 'India', including the British colony of India.

Indian Mutiny
A revolt by Indian troops in the British Army in India. Some historians suggest this was the early stages of the nationalist movement leading to Indian independence.

J

Joint stock company
A company in which members invest capital to be used jointly. The members receive a share of the profits according to the size of their investment.

K

Khoe Khoe
The indigenous people who lived in the Cape Colony in South Africa.

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L

Lascars
Indian sailors or soldiers. Often used when referring to sailors who worked on East India Company ships and other merchant vessels.

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M

Maharaja
In South Asia, a person of high rank, especially a prince.

Malaguetta pepper
A type of pepper (Amomum melegueta), also called 'grains of paradise', 'Guinea grains' or 'alligator pepper'. In the 18th century, the part of West Africa where Malaguetta pepper was grown was commonly known as the Pepper Coast or Malaguetta Coast. The pepper produced in India is botanically different, being derived from Piper nigrum and related species.

Maroons
Runaway slaves who lived in the mountains of Jamaica; these communities date back to the period of Spanish occupation. The Maroons eventually signed a treaty with the British whereby they undertook not to encourage other slaves to run away from plantations. They also cooperated in capturing and returning escaped slaves.

Masters
'Masters' were required to give up their Black workers in Elizabeth I's proclamations. Since both slaves and apprentices had masters, it is not clear whether the Black people referred to were enslaved or free.

Miasma
Infectious or poisonous exhalations once thought to float about and pollute the atmosphere.

Moor
Originally, this term was applied to Muslims who conquered parts of Spain in the 8th century and settled there until they were driven out in the 15th century; it also denotes people from Morocco or Mauritania in North Africa. In Britain it was often used to refer to any Black person (particularly Muslims). The word 'Moor' appears in Shakespearean literature. It was spelt in a variety of ways (such as 'more', 'moir', 'moorish' 'moris' 'moryen') and often combined with 'black' or 'blak', as in 'black moor', 'blackamoor' and 'black more'. 'Blackamoor' was also used as a synonym for 'negroe' in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

Mughal
The Islamic Mughal emperors ruled much of India between the 15th century and the British takeover.

Mulatto
A term used during the slave trade era and later to describe people of mixed race. It is now considered to be pejorative.

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N

Nabob
A derivation of 'nawab' used to describe high-ranking, wealthy Englishmen who returned from India with a large fortune acquired there.

Nawab
An Indian ruler, a nobleman of India.

Negro
A term (now considered pejorative) used to describe Black people. Africans are called 'negroes' in many documents from the period of slavery.

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P

Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus, Roman historian and scientific encyclopedist (AD 23-79). In his Historia Naturalis, he surveyed all the known sciences of his day, ranging from astronomy and geography to natural history and mineralogy.

Poor laws
The Elizabethan poor law of 1601 was a very significant piece of legislation. It attempted both to care for and to control the poor. It was preceded by an earlier law of 1597, and by a number of earlier (Tudor) anti-vagrancy acts. It remained in force until 1834.

Presidency towns
For administrative purposes, colonial India was divided into three 'presidencies' (Bombay, Madras and Bengal), which developed from the East India Company's 'factories' (trading posts) at Surat, Madras and Calcutta.

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R

Raj
The British government in India during the period of direct British parliamentary rule (1858-1947).

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T

Taubronar
A drummer. Derived from the same root as 'tabor' (which came to mean a small, portable drum).

Toussaint L'Ouverture
A self-educated freed slave who organised the uprising in Saint Domingue (now Haiti) against the French, Spanish and then the British in 1793 to create the first independent Black nation.

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U

United East India Company
The Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), the Dutch company responsible for trade and colonisation in India, South Africa and the Far East.

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V

Vagrants
Able-bodied people who were unemployed (generally without a master). Vagrancy Acts were passed to control the unemployed. Vagrants could face criminal charges, and be pressed into military service or transported to the colonies.

Vassa, Gustavus
See Equiano, Olaudah.

Vedas
The spiritual teachings of the Hindu faith.


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