This paper uses the experiences of Sir John Pope Hennessy (1834‐91) as Governor of Barbados (1875‐76) and Hong Kong (1877‐82) to investigate the political geography of British imperial government in the later nineteenth century. Pope Hennessy's postings brought him into conflict with successive white settler elites, as he attempted to forward both colonial policy and his own humanitarian and political concerns. Two consecutive episodes demonstrate the centrality of slavery to these conflicts. In the Barbadian ‘Confederation Riots’, the legacy of plantation slavery was invoked to understand plantocratic rule and the racial and political conflict it provoked, confirming Pope Hennessy's sympathies. In Hong Kong, however, the controversy over the Chinese practice of adopting children for unpaid domestic labour brought the principles of humanitarianism and inclusive government into open conflict. Read alongside Pope Hennessy's peripatetic imperial career, we argue that ‘slavery’ was thus ‘translated’ from one colony to another, installed in the places and spaces of the imperial network, and entangled in its tensions.
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