Accessibility statement

Defining a transnational colonial picturesque?- Ireland, Jamaica and Saint Domingue (Haiti)

Thursday 17 June 2021, 6.00PM

The sugar plains of Saint-Domingue, now Haiti, arguably contained the most ambitious and complete designed landscapes of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Their integrated infrastructural design, featuring the most advanced irrigation systems that created a web of dykes, canals, roads and avenues centred on the grand case, sat easily within the grand French tradition of landscape design. The planters of the neighbouring island of Jamaica advocated a less total concept of landscape planning but did conspire to represent their plantations to the metropole in more calculated and picturesque ways, echoing in many respects the accepted character of British landscape design. Was this cycle of competitive differentiation in which the English and French gardens are traditionally engaged rendered more or less acute in colonial environments?  Did such oppositions, incorporating style and politics, liberty, freedom and other lofty sentiments, not mask the similarity of what was really going on in their respective wider empires? 

Villa landscape and its translation as plantation landscape, however utilitarian it may strive to appear, is still affected by the changing mores and fashions of landscape design, particularly where owners are resident, less so if they are not. This lecture will compare the designed plantation landscapes of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and Jamaica by examining the Irish-owned plantations of those who in Kit Candlin’s words, “did not fit (or would not fit) into any one empire”?[i] It will explore how landscape design is affected when the markers of national identity are in flux. By interrogating the uses and misuses of the colonial picturesque it will also recreate some of Europe's most calculated, damning and lost environments.

Finola O’Kane is a landscape historian, architect, and Professor at the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, University College Dublin. Her books include Ireland and the Picturesque: Design, Landscape Painting, and Tourism, 1700–1840 (2013) and Landscape Design in Eighteenth-Century Ireland: Mixing Foreign Trees with the Natives (2004). She has also published widely on eighteenth-century Dublin, Irish urban and suburban history and plantation landscapes, with a co-edited volume Ireland, Slavery and the Caribbean: Interdisciplinary Perspectives forthcoming from Manchester University Press in 2021. In 2017, she was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Registration is via Eventbrite. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. When joining please mute your microphone, but you’re more than welcome to keep your camera on – we like to see you!

Location: Online via Zoom