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Seminar: Barbados' sugar revolution

In this seminar we will discuss a first-hand account of the ‘sugar revolution’ in Barbados from the mid seventeenth century.

Seminar questions

  • How did planters seek to establish and maintain their power in seventeenth-century Barbados? What challenges and threats did they face?
  • What does Richard Ligon’s History of Barbados reveal about the attitudes of white people to enslaved people (captives) of African descent?
  • As described by Richard Ligon, what are the main elements that went into the production of sugar?

Required reading


Ligon, Richard, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados, edited David Smith (2014, 4th edition; originally published London, 1657),!the-richard-ligon-project/c1fc1 (6 September 2018).

Read as much as you can of the following: pp. 71-88 (different populations), pp. 129-149 (sugar-cane and its processing) and pp. 164-177 (planting).

Read also the introduction (pp i-xl) in this freely-available on-line teaching edition, which also includes some helpful footnotes.

If you want to see an electronic facsimile of the original, it is available through the following e-resources:

Early English Books Online

The Making of the Modern World


Also read the following…

Kupperman, Karen Ordahl, ‘Introduction’ to Richard Ligon, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (Indianapolis, 2011), pp. 1-37.

Further reading

Beckles, Hilary McD., A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Nation-State (Cambridge, 1990), especially chapters 2 and 3.

Beckles, Hilary McD., The First Black Slave Society: Britain’s “Barbarity Time” in Barbados, 1636-1876 (Kingston, Jamaica, 2016).

Campbell, P. F, Some Early Barbadian History (St. Michael, Barbados, 1993).

Gragg, Larry, Englishmen Transplanted: The English Colonization of Barbados 1627-1660 (Oxford, 2003).

Sandiford, Keith A., The Cultural Politics of Sugar: Caribbean Slavery and Narratives of Colonialism (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 24-40.

Walvin, J., Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery (London, 1992), chapter 6.

See also the suggested readings at the end of David Smith’s ‘Brief Introduction’ to his electronic edition of Ligon’s History.