, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 1-17

Who owns knowledge? Heritage, intellectual property and access in and to the history of Antigua and Barbuda

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This article explores the recent history of a corpus of manuscripts known as ‘The Codrington Papers’. These relate to the administration of Sir Christopher Codrington, Governor of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, his lease from the British Crown of the island of Barbuda, and the subsequent administration of the Codrington estates in Antigua and Barbuda. Originally held by the family, but deposited with the most local county archives’ office, the manuscripts were sold by auction in December 1980, and they became embroiled within two dilemmas. The first of these was that the ownership of the physical documents became uncertain, and the second was that whilst the identity of the purchaser has still not been revealed, they are now housed within the National Archives of Antigua and Barbuda. The past 30 years have witnessed continued contestation of ‘ownership’ of the factual and intellectual content of the papers, and of permission to disseminate information, knowledge or analysis derived from them. The discussion is considered here through the focus of whether any individual or group is privileged or has primacy over the content of the Codrington Papers.