ARTICLES: Material Cultures of Slavery in British Caribbean

“French Set-Girls,” in  Isaac Mendes Belisario, Sketches of character, in illustration of the habits, occupation, and costume of the Negro population, in the island of Jamaica: drawn after nature, and in lithography (Kingston, Jamaica: published by the artist, at his residence, 1837-1838).

Special Issue: Material Cultures of Slavery and Abolition in the British Caribbean

Edited by Christer Petley and Stephan Lenik

Stephan Lenik and Christer Petley, ‘Introduction: The Material Cultures of Slavery and Abolition in the British Caribbean’

Section I – Planters, workers and the development of plantation space

1. Douglas V. Armstrong and Matthew C. Reilly, ‘The Archaeology of Settler Farms and Early Plantation Life in Seventeenth-Century Barbados’

2. Stephanie Bergman and Frederick H. Smith, ‘Blurring Disciplinary Boundaries: The Material Culture of Improvement during the Age of Abolition in Barbados’

3. Christer Petley, ‘Plantations and Homes: The Material Culture of the Early Nineteenth-Century Jamaican Elite’

Section II – Material inequalities and practices inside enslaved communities

4. Justin Roberts, ‘The “Better Sort” and the “Poorer Sort”: Wealth Inequalities, Family Formation and the Economy of Energy on British Caribbean Sugar Plantations, 1750-1800’

5. James A. Delle and Kristen R. Fellows, ‘Death and Burial at Marshall’s Pen, a Jamaican Coffee Plantation, 1814-1839: Examining the End of Life at the End of Slavery’

Section III – The uses and meanings of material culture between slavery and freedom

6. Natalie Zacek and Laurence Brown, ‘Unsettled Houses: The Material Culture of the Missionary Project in Jamaica in the Era of Emancipation’

7. Stephan Lenik, ‘Plantation Labourer Rebellions, Material Culture, and Events: Historical Archaeology at Geneva Estate, Grand Bay, Commonwealth of Dominica’

B.W. Higman, ‘Afterword: Survival and Silence in the Material Record of Slavery and Abolition’

Featured Image Credit: “French Set-Girls,” in  Isaac Mendes Belisario, Sketches of character, in illustration of the habits, occupation, and costume of the Negro population, in the island of Jamaica: drawn after nature, and in lithography (Kingston, Jamaica: published by the artist, at his residence, 1837-1838).

Kriz on Slavery & Visual Culture in British Caribbean

Kay Dian Kriz.  Slavery, Sugar, and the Culture of Refinement:
Picturing the British West Indies, 1700-1840.  Paul Mellon Centre for
Studies in British Art. New Haven  Yale University Press, 2008.

This highly original book asks new questions about paintings and prints associated with the British West Indies between 1700 and 1840, when the trade in sugar and slaves was most active and profitable. In a wide-ranging study of scientific illustrations, scenes of daily life, caricatures, and landscape imagery, Kay Dian Kriz analyzes the visual culture of refinement that accompanied the brutal process by which African slaves transformed “rude” sugar cane into pure white crystals.

In these works refinement is usually associated with the metropole, and “rudeness” with the colonies. Many artists capitalized on those characteristics of rudeness—animality, sensuality, and savagery—that increasingly became associated with all the island inhabitants. Yet other artists produced works that offered the possibility of colonial refinement, not just economic profit and sexual pleasure, thus complicating perceptions of difference between the two sides of the Atlantic.

via Yale University Press.

H-Net review by Christer Petley here.

Paton on Enslaved Women and Slavery circa 1807 (and more)

Posted at History in Focus, a 14 volume journal published by the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London.  [On the main page, the link to the issue on slavery is broken.  Access it here.]

Excerpt below:

This year’s commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the passage of the British Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade have tended to focus on those exceptional individuals who led movements against the trade and against slavery itself. (1) For some, those individuals have been located primarily in Britain: people like Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce and – finally being given his due in recent years – Olaudah Equiano. Others have countered that it is more appropriate to examine the frequently revolutionary actions of enslaved people themselves, whose ‘200 Years’ War’ against slavery, as Barbadian historian Hilary Beckles describes it, ultimately increased the economic and political costs of that system to the point where it could no longer be sustained. (2) On both sides, the emphasis has largely been on men, despite some efforts to include a token woman or two: a Hannah More here, a Nanny or a Mary Prince there. This concentration on men is almost inevitable when historical narrative becomes a search for heroic leaders, for the social conventions of most societies have tended to limit women’s capacity to become prominent leaders.

Yet this attention to the exceptional threatens to obscure the quotidian. What about the men and women who lived through slavery without taking up arms against it? Their experience was the norm for slave societies and, I would argue, is as important, as interesting and as full of political struggle as the lives of those who became rebels. This essay focuses on the everyday lives of enslaved people, especially enslaved women, in the British colonies in the Caribbean, and asks what difference the abolition of the slave trade meant to them. It focuses in particular on two issues: labour and reproduction. Drawing on secondary work as well as my own research in Jamaican archives, it shows the complex results of the end of importation of enslaved Africans. One outcome of the end of the slave trade was increased pressure on enslaved women, and thus increased conflict between them and those who sought to exploit them.

Read it in its entirety here.

The index of articles for the issue on slavery:

Britain, slavery and the trade in enslaved Africans

by Marika Sherwood

Enslaved women and slavery before and after 1807

by Diana Paton

British links and the West Indian proslavery argument

by Christer Petley

Reading the rebels: currents of slave resistance in the eighteenth-century British West Indies

by Natalie Zacek

Runaway slave communities in South Carolina

by Tim Lockley

Abolishing the slave trade

by James Walvin

The Big Disappointment. The economic consequences of the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean, 1833-1888

by Pieter C. Emmer

Political uses of memories of slavery in the Republic of Benin

Ana Lucia Araujo

How could we do without sugar and rum?

Graham Ullathorne