Online course
A History of the Caribbean 1673-1974

Wednesday 24 February 2021 - Wednesday 31 March 2021

Join us as we tell a story of the Caribbean that extends over 300 years, and uncover the role the V&A has played in that story. It begins in 1673, the year of the oldest Caribbean manufactured object in the collection, and ends in 1974, arguably when the Museum last acquired art by artists who live and work in the Caribbean. We intend to create a safe, rigorous space for people to add their own voices to an emerging narrative.

Developed by the V&A with heritage consultant and curator S I Martin, this course will identify objects from the Museum’s collections and beyond, and use them to examine and retell recurring narratives of art and cultural identity, racism and enslavement, colonialism and creolisation, power and patronage, insurrection and self-liberation, emancipation and indenture, and migration to the 'Motherland'. The course is designed for people from Caribbean backgrounds living in the UK or in the Caribbean, as well as those in the African Diaspora, and anyone interested in Europe's colonial past, who may want to learn more about Caribbean history and culture through the lens of manufactured objects, and the art and craft traditions of this historically misrepresented and misunderstood region.

Learn wherever, whenever. With V&A Academy Online, you can log in to view lectures live and pose your questions in the Q&A, or view the recording later in your own time. Download lecture notes, copies of the slides, and additional study materials from our secure learning environment. Then join the conversation: share your perspective with your fellow students, and support each other in your further enquiries outside of class time.

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S. I. Martin

Course Leader S. I. Martin

S. I. Martin is a British author, heritage consultant, journalist and curator, with a track record of promoting understanding of Black British history and literature to wide audiences. He has published six books of historical fiction and non-fiction for adults and young people, and founded the 500 Years of Black London Walks.

Course Overview

Comb Case (1673) from Jamaica, arguably the oldest Caribbean-made object in the collection; Frances Williams, the flawed scholar of Jamaica (1745); Haiti’s hero Toussaint Louverture, leader of the first Black insurrection (1791); absentee slave owner Ralph Bernal and the Cabinet of Curiosities; the nameless Portrait of a Trinidadian Woman (1926); the prominent British Trinidadian textile designer Althea McNish; and the suit (1951) made by tailor Nat Gaynes for Guyanese headteacher Beryl Gilroy. We end this journey in 1974 with two key works, including The Warrior bracelet by Trinidadian jeweller Barbara Jardine, and the Play Mas Carnival Costume by Guyanese-Trinidadian Carnivalist Peter Minshall. Finally, we will discuss how the V&A plans to move forward, incorporating previously unheard voices, collecting, exhibiting, and showcasing Caribbean history and culture for all.


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Online course: A History of the Caribbean 1673-1974

24 February 2021 - 31 March 2021


Need help enrolling? Talk to the admissions team:

+44 (0)20 7942 2000

Open 9.30 - 17.30, Monday to Sunday (closed 24-26 December)