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Obi; or, The History of Three-Fingered Jack 

Obi; or, The History of Three-Fingered Jack

Written by: William Earle
Edited by: Srinivas Aravamudan

Series: Broadview Editions

Publication Date: January 01, 2005
255pp • Paperback / PDF / ePub
ISBN: 9781551116693 / 1551116693

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"Three-Fingered Jack," the protagonist of this 1800 novel, is based on the escaped slave and Jamaican folk hero Jack Mansong, who was believed to have gained his strength from the Afro-Caribbean religion of obeah, or "obi." His story, told in an inventive mix of styles, is a rousing and sympathetic account of an individual's attempt to combat slavery while defending family honour. Historically significant for its portrayal of a slave rebellion and of the practice of obeah, Obi is also a fast-paced and lively novel, blending religion, politics, and romance.

This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction and a selection of contemporary documents, including historical and literary treatments of obeah and accounts of an eighteenth-century slave rebellion.


"This truly innovative edition of a compelling novel about eighteenth-century slave rebellions in Jamaica provides a valuable and necessary context for the complicated politics of obeah. Aravamudan's introduction attends to the ways in which obeah is an epistemological model competing with Enlightenment reason, and demonstrates with meticulous detail how it functions as a form of resistant cultural, political, religious, and medical knowledge. The appendices complement Aravamudan's frame for the novel, making this edition one that will appeal equally to general readers and scholars of post-colonial studies." - Rajani Sudan, Southern Methodist University

Srinivas Aravamudan teaches eighteenth-century literature and post-colonial studies at Duke University, where he is the director of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute. He is the author of Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804 (Duke University Press) and of Guru English: South Asian Religion in a Cosmopolitan Language (Princeton University Press).

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Timeline of Historical and Literary Events Surrounding New World Slavery, Abolitionism, and Obeah, 1492-1838

Obi; or, the History of Three-fingered Jack

Appendix A: Historical Sources on Obeah

  1. From Benjamin Moseley, A Treatise on Sugar (1799)
  2. From House of Commons Sessional Papers (1789)
  3. From Matthew Gregory Lewis, Journal of a West India Proprietor, Kept During a Residence in the Island of Jamaica (1834)

Appendix B: Accounts of Tacky’s Rebellion (1760)

  1. From Edward Long, The History of Jamaica (1774)
  2. From Bryan Edwards, Observations on the Disposition, Character, Manners, and Habits of Life, of the Maroons (1796) 

Appendix C: Literary Treatments of Obeah

  1. From James Grainger, The Sugar Cane: A Poem. In Four Books (1764)
  2. John Fawcett, Obi; or, Three-Finger’d Jack (1800)
  3. From Maria Edgeworth, "The Grateful Negro," Popular Tales (1804)

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Obi; or, The History of Three-Fingered Jack

2005 • 255pp • Paperback • 9781551116693 / 1551116693

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Broadview Press acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund, and also acknowledges the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation. Freehand Books, an imprint of Broadview, acknowledges the support of the Canadian Council of the Arts.