Jean Barr opens the antique chest she inherited from her great-great-uncle Alexander and unravels the strands of his life as an evangelical Presbyterian minister in late nineteenth century Italy, unpacking the cover-ups in Britain’s history of Empire, and bringing to light the ingenious but ordinary ways in which a handful of families, even today, continue to shore up their wealth.
She uncovers a series of marriages that placed Alexander within shouting distance of a network of powerful families stretching over generations, families whose staying power has been rooted in hoarding and passing on land and capital. This is the backdrop to Alexander’s extraordinary life. It enabled him to flourish in Italy and, in his final years, to become a cheerleader for a dictator.
The Legacy: A Memoir is a telling of family history as world history.
Dr Jean Barr is Emeritus Professor at the University of Glasgow where she was Associate Dean of the Faculty of Education. She has also worked for the Open University, the Workers Educational Association, and the Universities of Warwick and Stirling. She is the author of Common Science (1996, with Lynda Birke); Liberating Knowledge (1999); For a Radical Higher Education (2003, with Richard Taylor and Tom Steele); and The Stranger Within: On the Idea of an Educated Public (2008). She is the film critic for Scottish Review.
Lynda Haddock (Guest Review) - 05 Dec, 2022
This is an illuminating, meticulously researched and compelling account of the way in which a network of families accumulated wealth from participation in the slave trade and passed it onto succeeding generations. An exploration of the life of the author's great, great uncle broadens into a narrative that reveals how a small minority continue to benefit from the profits of slavery. Investments in property and land have continued to gain in value for a small elite of powerful families. The author's voice is clear and engaging throughout the book. Highly recommended!