“Barbados, the beautiful Caribbean island known for its social amiability and political civility, was the site of the first ‘black slave society’ – the most systemically violent, brutal and racially inhumane society of modernity. . . . The society has a distinct social character and cultural identity that are rooted in its slavery past. Public perceptions of the nation remain linked to the legacies of slavery. Once described by an economist as closest in the Caribbean to a model of the ‘pure plantation’, first to be reformatted as a black slave society, Barbados remains the last to loosen the political stranglehold of plantocracy.”
—From the preface
In this remarkable exploration of the brutal course of Barbados’s history, Hilary McD. Beckles details the systematic barbarism of the British colonial project. Trade in enslaved Africans was not new in the Americas in the seventeenth century – the Portuguese and Spanish had commercialized chattel slavery in Brazil and Cuba in the 1500s – but in Barbados, the practice of slavery reached its apotheosis.
Barbados was the birthplace of British slave society and the most ruthlessly colonized. The geography of Barbados was ideally suited to sugar plantations and there were enormous fortunes to be made for British royalty and ruling elites from sugar produced by an enslaved, “disposable” workforce, fortunes that secured Britain’s place as an imperial superpower. The inhumane legacy of plantation society has shaped modern Barbados and this history must be fully understood by the inheritors on both sides of the power dynamic before real change and reparatory justice can take place.
A prequel to Beckles’s equally compelling Britain’s Black Debt, The First Black Slave Society: Britain’s “Barbarity Time “in Barbados, 1636–1876 is essential reading for anyone interested in Atlantic history, slavery and the plantation system, and modern race relations.
HILARY McD. BECKLES is Professor of Economic and Social History and Vice-Chancellor, University of the West Indies. His many publications include Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide; A Nation Imagined: The First West Indies Test Tour, 1928; and Freedoms Won: Emancipation, Identity and Nationhood in the Caribbean.
- Preface and Acknowledgements
- INTRODUCTION: Defining the Black Slave Society
- PART 1. Creating the Black SlaveSociety
- 1. Made in England
- 2. “Our Negroes Are Our Property Forever”
- 3. The First Labour Force
- 4. “We Desire No Workers of the Irish Colour”
- 5. “One of the Riches Spotes of Ground in the Wordell”
- 6. The Chattel Model Exported
- PART 2. “A Well Constituted Society"
- 7. White Women as Equal Enslavers
- 8. “Some Whites Will Be Poor and Oppressed"
- 9. “Some Blacks Will Be Rich and Free”
- 10. White and Brown against Black
- 11. “Town Negroes Have Too Much Tongue”
- PART 3. The End of Delusion
- 12. “Cheaper to Breed Than to Buy Negroes”
- 13. Punish the Bad and Reward the Good
- 14. The War of General Bussa
- PART 4. Ending the “Barbarity Time”
- 15. “Little England” versus “Great Britain”
- 16. Tear Down the Church and Lynch the President
- 17. “To Set Them Free Is to Endanger the Colony”
- 18. Making the Enslaved Pay for Emancipation
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Chapter 9
- Chapter 10
- Chapter 11
- Chapter 12
- Chapter 13
- Chapter 14
- Chapter 15
- Chapter 16
- Chapter 17
- Chapter 18