John Wilson on the anti-racists of the Jamaica Committee and the racists of the Governor Eyre Defence and Aid Committee; Gwyn Griffiths on Richard Cobden and others who opposed English meddling in foreign affairs; Ian Bullock on the leading socialist Henry Hyndman’s advocacy of home rule for India and Ireland

Priyamvada Gopal (The British empire’s hidden history is one of resistance, not pride, 28 July) could have been a bit more specific about the reaction in Britain to the suppression of the Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica, as it identifies the racists and anti-racists among mid-Victorian intellectuals. The protests she refers to were organised mainly by the Jamaica Committee, who tried to get Edward Eyre, the governor of Jamaica, prosecuted for murder. The most eminent member was Charles Darwin, and it included his fellow scientists (and allies in the evolution debate) Thomas Huxley and Charles Lyell. The best-known other member was John Stuart Mill.

The racists led by the philosopher Thomas Carlyle organised the Governor Eyre Defence and Aid Committee, including John Ruskin, Charles Dickens, Charles Kingsley and Alfred Tennyson. I don’t think that is generally part of the reputation of these Victorian men of culture and supposed humanity.
John Wilson

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