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Lecture: Racial slavery

One of the most important ‘inputs’ to the Caribbean plantation system was, of course, labour, particularly unfree labour. In this lecture we will consider the slave trade and the systems of slavery it supplied, as well as the broad social patterns it created. We will also look at those social groups, including so-called free people of colour, who did not seem to fit in with the dominant racial patterns of freedom and unfreedom.

Reading list

Baranov, D. and Yelvington, K. A., ‘Ethnicity, Race, Class, and Nationality’ in R. S. Hillman and T. J. D’Agostino (eds), Understanding the Contemporary Caribbean (London, 2003), pp. 209-238.

Blackburn, Robin, The Making of New World slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern 1492-1800 (London, 1997).

Chaplin, Joyce E., ‘Race’, in David Armitage and Michael J. Braddick (eds), The British Atlantic world, 1500-1800 (Basingstoke, 2002), pp. 154-172. [There are mutiple copies of the first and second edition - from 2009 - available.]

Cooper, Elizabeth, ‘The Conundrum of Race’ in Stephan Palmié and Francisco A. Scarano (eds), The Caribbean: A History of the Region and its Peoples (Chicago, 2011), pp. 385-397.

Curtin, P., The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969).

Davis, David Brion, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (Oxford; New York, 2006).

Diouf, Slyviane A. (ed), Fighting the Slave Trade: West African Strategies (Athens, OH, 2003).

Eltis, David, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas (Cambridge University Press, 2000).

Fuentes, Marisa J., Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

Goveia, Elsa V. ,‘The West Indian Slave Laws of the Eighteenth Century’ in Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd (eds), Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World: A Student Reader (London, 2000), pp. 580-596.

Handler, Jerome S., ‘Custom and Law: The Status of Enslaved Africans in Seventeenth-Century Barbados’, Slavery & Abolition 37: 2 (2016), pp. 233–55.

Handler, Jerome S., The Unappropriated People: Freedmen in the Slave Society of Barbados (Baltimore, 1974).

Harrigan, Michael, Frontiers of Servitude: Slavery in Narratives of the early French Atlantic (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018).

Heuman, Gad, Between Black and White: Race, Politics, and the Free Coloreds in Jamaica, 1792-1865 (Westport, CT, 1981).

* Heuman, Gad, The Caribbean (London, 2006), chapters 3, 4, 5 and 9.

Hudson, Nicholas, ‘From “Nation’ to ‘Race”: The Origins of Racial Classification in Eighteenth-Century Thought’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 29 (1996), pp. 247-64.

Knight, Franklin W., The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism (2nd edition, Oxford, 1990), pp. 120-185.

Lambert, David, ‘Liminal Figures: Poor Whites, Freedmen, and Racial Reinscription in Colonial Barbados’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 19 (2001), pp. 335-350.

Lambert, David, White Creole Culture, Politics and Identity during the Age of Abolition (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 73-104.

Lewis, Gordon K., Main currents in Caribbean Thought: The Historical Evolution of Caribbean Society in its Ideological Aspects, 1492-1900 (Baltimore, 1983), pp 94-170.

Ono-George, Meleisa, '“Washing the Blackamoor White”: Interracial Intimacy and Coloured Women’s Agency in Jamaica' in Will Jackson and Emily Manktelow (eds), Subverting Empire: Deviance and Disorder in the British Colonial World (Palgrave Macmillan, July 2015), pp. 42-60.

Palmer, C. A., ‘The Slave Trade, African Slavers and the Demography of the Caribbean to 1750’, in Franklin W. Knight (ed.), The Slave Societies of the Caribbean, UNESCO History of the Caribbean, vol. 3 (London, 1997), pp. 9-44.

Patterson, Orlando, ‘The Constituent Elements of Slavery’ in Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd (eds), Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World: A Student Reader (London, 2000), pp. 32-41.

Pieterse, Jan Nederveen, ‘Savages, animals, heathens, races’, in White on Black: Images of Africa and Blacks in Western Popular Culture (London, 1992), pp. 30-51.

Richardson, David, ‘The British Empire and the Atlantic slave trade, 1660-1807’, in Peter J. Marshall (ed.), The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume 2 - The Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1998), pp. 440-464.

Rugemer, E. B., 'The Development of Mastery and Race in the Comprehensive Slave Codes of the Greater Caribbean during the Seventeenth Century', William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Series, 70 (2013), pp. 429-458.

Sheppard, Jill, The “Redlegs” of Barbados, their Origins and History (Millwood, NY, 1977).

Steel, M. J., ‘A Philosophy of Fear: The World View of the Jamaican Plantocracy in a Comparative Perspective’, Journal of Caribbean History, 27 (1993), pp. 1-20.

Walvin, James, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery (London, 1992), chapters 3-6

Williams, Eric, ‘Origin of Negro Slavery’, in Capitalism and Slavery (Chapel Hill, 1944), pp. 3-29.

The following web-site provides access to a database of almost 35,000 trans-Atlantic slave voyages between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is fully searchable and is a fantastic resource:

‘The Trans-altantic Slave Trade Database’, (accessed 11 April 2016).


Kitson, Peter J. (ed.), Slavery, Abolition and Emancipation: Writings in the British Romantic Period, Vol. 8 – Theories of Race (Pickering and Chatto, 1999).

Long, Edward, The History of Jamaica: or, General Survey of the Ancient and Modern State of that Island, with Reflections on its Situation, Settlements, Inhabitants, Climate, etc., 3 vols. (London, 1774).