Hamel, the Obeah Man
  • Publication Date: October 5, 2010
  • ISBN: 9781551115764 / 155111576X
  • 496 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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Hamel, the Obeah Man

  • Publication Date: October 5, 2010
  • ISBN: 9781551115764 / 155111576X
  • 496 pages; 5½" x 8½"

Hamel, the Obeah Man is set against the backdrop of early nineteenth-century Jamaica, and tells the story of a slave rebellion planned in the ruins of a plantation. Though the novel is sympathetic to white slaveholders and hostile to anti-slavery missionaries, it presents a complex picture of the culture and resistance of the island’s black majority. Hamel, the spiritual leader of the rebels, becomes more and more central to the story, and is a surprisingly powerful and ultimately ambiguous figure.

This Broadview Edition includes a new foreword by Kamau Brathwaite, as well as a critical introduction and appendices. The extensive appendices include contemporary reviews of the novel, other authors’ and travellers’ descriptions of Jamaica, and historical documents related to slave insurrections and the debate over slavery.


“This edition of Cynric Williams’s startling if little-appreciated novel will prove indispensable to scholars and students interested in the dynamic among history, the novel, and the potent set of circumstances that led to Emancipation. In Hamel one finds a precocious account of how Afro-Creole religious and political traditions and their peripatetic leaders were remaking the violent world on which Caribbean slaveholders and their defenders were losing hold—a point expertly made in the editors’ introduction and supported by comprehensive appendices that include contemporary reviews of the novel and competing fictive and nonfiction accounts of Caribbean slavery.” — Sean X. Goudie, Pennsylvania State University

“Candace Ward and Tim Watson have produced what is probably the definitive scholarly edition of Cynric Williams’s Hamel, the Obeah Man. Their introduction is a magisterial synthesis of archival research and textual analysis that contextualizes the novel’s themes and plot within the conjunctural specifics of white West Indian Creole racial anxieties in the face of slave revolts and abolitionist agitation in 1820s Jamaica. In producing this edition of Hamel, Ward and Watson do an impressive job in shifting the temporal boundaries of Anglophone Caribbean literature from its assumed twentieth-century origins, and Caribbeanists of all stripes will be grateful for their intellectual labor.” — Nadi Edwards, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica

A Note on the Text

Hamel, the Obeah Man

Appendix A: Contemporary Reviews

  1. From Westminster Review (April 1827)
  2. From London Magazine (June 1827)
  3. From The Atlas (8 April 1827)
  4. From The Scotsman (21 April 1827)

Appendix B: British and White Creole Views of Jamaica

  1. From Matthew Lewis, Journal of a West India Proprietor (1834)
  2. From Cynric R. Williams, A Tour through the Island of Jamaica (1826)
  3. From Marly; or, A Planter’s Life in Jamaica (1828)

Appendix C: Insurrections

  1. From Joshua Bryant, Account of an Insurrection of the Negro Slaves in the Colony of Demerara (1824)
  2. From The Missionary Smith (1824)
  3. From Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers, “Copy of All Judicial Proceedings Relative to the Trial and Punishment of Rebels, or Alleged Rebels, in the Island of Jamaica, Since the 1st of January 1823” (1825)

Appendix D: The Debate Over Slavery

  1. From Report of the Committee of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions (1824)
  2. From William Wilberforce, An Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Humanity of the Inhabitants of the British
  3. From George Wilson Bridges, A Voice from Jamaica (1823)
  4. From James M’Queen, The West India Colonies (1824)

Select Bibliography

Tim Watson is Associate Professor of English at the University of Miami and the author of Caribbean Culture and British Fiction in the Atlantic World, 1780–1870 (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

Candace Ward is Associate Professor of English at Florida State University and the editor of the
Broadview Edition of Sarah Fielding’s The Governess.