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appendices include contemporary reviews of the novel, other authors’ and travellers’ descriptions of Jamaica, and historical documents related to slave insurrections and the debate over slavery.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