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Abigail Coppins

In 2017 freelance curator Abigail Coppins produced an award-winning new exhibition for English Heritage at Portchester Castle which revealed how 2500 free black French soldiers, women and children from the Caribbean were imprisoned at the castle during the Revolutionary decade. Their presence in Britain provides a new and unique lens through which to explore issues of race, gender, agency, warfare and incarceration in Britain and the Caribbean.

photo of Portchester castle

The PhD is a collaborative project between the University of Warwick and English Heritage to deepen knowledge of these POWs and better understand this unique chapter in Franco-British history. In addition to the PhD, it will lead to training for Portchester site staff, further exhibition material and outreach activities.

The aim of this collaborative studentship is to extend the exhibition research through extensive archival work to analyse the full significance of these prisoners in Britain, France and the Caribbean, with a particular focus on the women and children who were part of the group of prisoners of war who arrived at Portchester.

You can read more about her research on the English Heritage website here: Black Prisoners at Portchester Castle | English Heritage (

A podcast about the Black prisoners and Elaine Mitchener's sound installation can be found here: Speaking with Shadows Podcast Series 1 Episode 2 | English Heritage (

A conference paper on the women and children brought to Portchester during the Revolutionary decade is here: Katherine Astbury e Abigail Coppins - Women and children as prisoners of war... - YouTube

An article co-authored by Abigail Coppins and Kate Astbury on the 2019 sound installation by Elaine Mitchener can be found here: Les Murs Sont Témoins | “These Walls Bear Witness” at Portchester Castle | National Council on Public History (

A blog entry on the wreck of the London in 1796 is here: Ilfracombe | Wreck of the Week (