The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice

Book - 2014
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The illegitimate daughter of a captain in the Royal Navy and an enslaved African woman, Dido Belle was sent to live with her great-uncle, the Earl of Mansfield, one of the most powerful men of the time and a leading opponent of slavery. Growing up in his lavish estate, Dido was raised as a sister and companion to her white cousin, Elizabeth. When a joint portrait of the girls, commissioned by Mansfield, was unveiled, eighteenth-century England was shocked to see a black woman and white woman depicted as equals.
Publisher: New York : Harper Perennial, 2014.
Edition: 1st U.S. edition.
ISBN: 9780062310774
Characteristics: xii, 283 pages :,illustrations ;,21 cm


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Apr 05, 2018

I saw the movie. It was pretty good.

bibliosara Jan 06, 2017

I admit, I read this because I watched the movie and was swept away by the drama and historical importance of Dido Belle's life. Since usually the book is better than the movie, I was very excited to read Paula Byrne's biographical account of Belle.

Byrne is a great research author. But don't read this book expecting a print format of the movie. Rather, the biography focuses on how Belle's existence impacted the Lord Chief Justice's legal decisions. It is more a biography on the Lord Chief Justice-the Earl of Mansfield-than on Dido Belle herself. The first quarter or so is dedicated to how Belle came to be the adoptive daughter of the Earl, and her place in the Mansfield home. It is fascinating to learn about how her childhood was, and it is with certainty that I can say she was a very strong woman. The complexities of her childhood were significant on a much larger scale than just her own difficulties, however. Her presence in the Mansfield home-and the closeness she had with the family- would indirectly cause the beginnings of slave emancipation throughout the empire. The Earl of Mansfield was influenced by his fatherly love of Belle to show compassion in many of the legal cases that set precedent for slave conditions, regulations, and freedoms. By being personally affected by the slave trade, he was moved enough to change it.

Paula Byrne's book is heavy with legal decisions and jargon, but the story is an important one to know. Byrne makes the complex story easier to understand, and presents it in a way that would do honor to both Dido Belle and her adoptive father, the highly influential Earl of Mansfield.

Apr 25, 2015

It's not the story but it provides historical background for the movie. I will be watching the movie in a few weeks and hope that this book will help me understand things better.

LayritzVictoria Nov 26, 2014

It reads like a university researched and analyzed report. Terribly dry and filled with speculation. I did only get through 20 % of the "novel" before I gave up. I do respect and read black "slave" history, but this just couldn't keep my attention.

d2013 Sep 20, 2014

Historically informative but would have liked to have known more about Dido Belle herself. Looking forward to seeing the movie.

aisha65 Sep 12, 2014

very enjoyable book. A lot about her spirituality

m2 Jul 16, 2014

Wonderful examination of abolition's status in England before William Wilberforce, through the lens of the fascinating story of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield and his neice and adopted daughter, Dido Elizabeth Belle. The book was put together to supply the true story behind the recent movie, Belle (2014), staring Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Especially fascinating is the author's appendix, Jane Austen's Mansfield Connection in which she examines the connection between Jane Austin and the Lord Chief Justice and how that may have influenced her novel, Mansfield Park. And there is a strong possibility that Austin's unfinished novel, Sanditon, is suggested by Dido Elizabeth Belle's life.

May 05, 2014

"Belle" the movie is going to be in very limited release May 16th. I look forward to reading the book AND seeing the movie.

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