EDITED: Scully and Patton on Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World


Pamela Scully and Diana Paton, eds. Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World. Duke University Press, 2005.

via Duke U Press:

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BOOK: Paton on Crime, Punishment, and Gender in Jamaica

Diana Paton, No Bond but the Law: Punishment, Race, and Gender in Jamaican State Formation, 1780–1870. Duke University Press, 2004.

via Duke U Press:

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ARTICLE: Paton on Obeah and Poison in Atlantic Slavery

“Burial 72, Newton Plantation Cemetery, Barbados,” Image Reference B72_extended, as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library: “View of extended skeleton on its back in situ; copper bracelets on each arm and pipe bowl on pelvic area are visible; possibly an Obeah man/medicine man.” (Click image for details)
Paton, Diana. “Witchcraft, Poison, Law, and Atlantic Slavery.” The William and Mary Quarterly 69, no. 2 (April 1, 2012): 235–264.


In response to Tacky’s Rebellion in 1760 in Jamaica, the colony’s House of Assembly passed a law naming a new crime, “obeah.” This important statute led the way in establishing obeah as a phenomenon understood by colonial authorities as a singular and dangerous problem. Investigating the Jamaica assembly’s decision within a wider Caribbean and Atlantic context and alongside the near-contemporaneous “Makandal conspiracy” in Saint Domingue, which was interpreted by French planters as a mass outbreak of poisoning, shows how similar practices came to be interpreted and constructed in different ways in different colonial cultures. The practices used by Tacky’s “obeah man” and Makandal’s followers were conceptually and practically similar, deriving from African understandings of medicine in which substances could be imbued with spiritual power. Why, then, did the French colonists emphasize poison while the British emphasized obeah (which they glossed with the term “witchcraft”)? In addition to the differences between developments in the colonies, an important context for understanding this distinction was the European experience of the decriminalization of witchcraft. In France decriminalization led to heightened anxiety about poison, while in England witchcraft decriminalization was not connected to poison but made the term and legal category of witchcraft a difficult one for planters to invoke.

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

TOC: Slavery & Abolition 30:2


Volume 30:2 is a special issue called  “Remembering Slave Trade Abolitions: Reflections on 2007 in International Perspective”.

Guest Editors:  Diana Paton and Jane Webster.

The table of contents is available here.  More information on the journal is available here.


Remembering Slave Trade Abolitions: Reflections on 2007 in International Perspective
Diana Paton; Jane Webster
Pages 161 – 167

‘Do You Remember the Days of Slav’ry?’ Connecting the Present with the Past in Contemporary Jamaica
Annie Paul
Pages 169 – 178

Barbados and the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade
Karl Watson
Pages 179 – 195
Reflections in a Shattered Glass: The British Council’s Celebrations of the Bicentenary of the 1807 Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in Ghana
Manu Herbstein
Pages 197 – 207

The Slave Trade in Northern Ghana: Landmarks, Legacies and Connections
Benjamin W. Kankpeyeng
Pages 209 – 221

Remembering Slavery and Abolition in Bristol
Madge Dresser
Pages 223 – 246

Black Voices and Absences in the Commemorations of Abolition in North East England
Sheree Mack
Pages 247 – 257

Bringing it Home: Making Local Meaning in 2007 Bicentenary Exhibitions
Geoffrey Cubitt
Pages 259 – 275

Interpreting the Bicentenary in Britain
Diana Paton
Pages 277 – 289

Revealing Histories, Dialogising Collections: Museums and Galleries in North West England Commemorating the Abolition of the Slave Trade
Alan Rice
Pages 291 – 309

The Unredeemed Object: Displaying Abolitionist Artefacts in 2007
Jane Webster
Pages 311 – 325

The Brooks Slave Ship Icon: A ‘Universal Symbol’?
Jacqueline Francis
Pages 327 – 338