EDWARDS, BRYAN (1743-1800), English politician and historian, was born at Westbury, Wiltshire, on the 21st of May 1743. His father died in 1756, when his maintenance and education were undertaken by his maternal uncle, Zachary Bayly, a wealthy merchant of Jamaica. About 1759 Bryan went to Jamaica, and joined his uncle, who engaged a private tutor to complete his education, and when Bayly died his nephew inherited his wealth, succeeding also in 1773 to the estate of another Jamaica resident named Hume. Edwards soon became a leading member of the colonial assembly of Jamaica, but in a few years he returned to England, and in 1782 failed to secure a seat in parliament as member for Chichester. He was again in Jamaica from 1787 to 1792, when he settled in England as a West India merchant, making in 1795 another futile attempt to enter parliament, on this occasion as the representative of Southampton. In 1796, however, he became member of parliament for Grampound, retaining his seat until his death at Southampton on the 15th or 16th of July 1800. In general Edwards was a supporter of the slave trade, and was described by William Wilberforce as a powerful opponent. By his wife, Martha, daughter of Thomas Phipps of Westbury, he left an only son, Hume.
In 1784 Edwards wrote Thoughts on the late Proceedings of Government respecting the Trade of the West India Islands with the United States of America, in which he attacked the restrictions placed by the government upon trade with the United States. In 1793 he published in two volumes his great work, History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies, and in 1797 published his Historical Survey of the French Colony in the Island of St Domingo. In 1801 a new edition of both these works with certain additions was published in three volumes under the title of History of the British Colonies in the West Indies. This has been translated into German and parts of it into French and Spanish, and a fifth edition was issued in 1819. When Mungo Park returned in 1796 from his celebrated journey in Africa, Edwards, who was secretary of the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa, drew up from Park's narrative an account of his travels, which was published by the association in their Proceedings, and when Park wrote an account of his journeys he availed himself of Edwards' assistance. Edwards also wrote some poems and some other works relating to the history of the West Indies.
He left a short sketch of his life which was prefixed to the edition of the History of the West Indies, published in 1801.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)