The lecture was given by independent historian Angus Mitchell who has studied the life and legacy of Roger Casement for more than two decades. In 1997, he edited and annotated The Amazon Journal of Roger Casement (Dublin: Lilliput Press & London: Anaconda Editions). In 2003, there appeared a companion volume Sir Roger Casement’s Heart of Darkness: The 1911 Documents (Dublin: Irish Manuscripts Commission). These editions helped to retrieve Casement into the history of human rights and situated him within a progressive anti-colonial dialogue in pre-First World War Britain. The work also reinvigorated academic interest in Casement and the controversies associated with his life and afterlife.
In the Seamus Deane lecture, Angus Mitchell revealed Roger Casement’s role as a pioneer of international human rights and his investigations of crimes against humanity in Africa and Brazil that still reverberate down to the present day. Rubber accounted for as much as 45% of Brazil’s national economy at that time and saw the accumulation of vast fortunes for international speculators.
However, this fabled ‘boom’ came at the expense of the indigenous world that lived throughout the Brazilian, Peruvian and Colombian Amazon. Defined now as an ethnocide, it is estimated that in the Putumayo alone some 30,000 Indians died because of this tragedy. Casement’s denunciations of the atrocities in his report to the British Foreign Office scandalised public opinion around the world and ultimately led to the demise of the extractive industry.
The lecture was followed by a screening of the Brazilian 2020 documentary, Secrets from Putumayo, directed by Aurélio Michiles.
View the lecture below