Season 2, Episode 8
In 2013, the music librarian David Hunter found the name George Frideric Handel in a printed list of investors in one of Britain’s official slave trading companies. Since then, Dr. Hunter has researched Handel and his patrons’ investments in the slave trade, as well as the broader relationship between slavery and the history of classical music. What does it mean that profits from the brutality and horror of the Middle Passage benefitted the career of the composer who wrote the “Messiah”? And what should we do with our knowledge of this today?
David Hunter is Librarian Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin.
If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Hunter’s work, you can check out:
- The 2015 book The Lives of George Frideric Handel
- The 2019 article “Handel Manuscripts and the Profits of Slavery: The ‘Granville’ Collection at the British Library and the First Performing Score of Messiah Reconsidered,” in Notes
- The 2015 article “Worlds Apart? The Slave Trade, Handel and Opera in 18th-century London,” in Opera
- The 2018 article “The Beckfords in England and Italy: a case study in the musical uses of the profits of slavery,” in Early Music
- The 2015 blogpost “Handel and the Royal African Company,” in AMS Musicology Now
- Stay tuned as well for the book chapter “Music and the Use of the Profits of the Anglo-American Slave Economy, ca.1610-ca.1810,” in the Oxford Handbook of Economic Ethnomusicology (forthcoming online)
Sound Expertise is hosted by Will Robin (@seatedovation), and produced by D. Edward Davis (@warmsilence). Please subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and/or Spotify. Questions or comments? Email williamlrobin@ gmail
A written transcript of this episode is available here; many thanks to Andrew Dell’Antonio for volunteering to prepare transcripts for the show!