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Slavery and the Enlightenment in the British Atlantic, 1750–1807

$39.99 (C)

  • Date Published: April 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107680753

$ 39.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • This book examines the daily details of slave work routines and plantation agriculture in the eighteenth-century British Atlantic, focusing on case studies of large plantations in Barbados, Jamaica, and Virginia. Work was the most important factor in the slaves' experience of the institution. Slaves' day-to-day work routines were shaped by plantation management strategies that drew on broader pan-Atlantic intellectual and cultural principles. Although scholars often associate the late eighteenth-century Enlightenment with the rise of notions of liberty and human rights and the dismantling of slavery, this book explores the dark side of the Enlightenment for plantation slaves. Many planters increased their slaves' workloads and employed supervisory technologies to increase labor discipline in ways that were consistent with the process of industrialization in Europe. British planters offered alternative visions of progress by embracing restrictions on freedom and seeing increasing labor discipline as central to the project of moral and economic improvement.

    • Demonstrates the impact of Enlightenment ideas on plantation management
    • Provides a nuanced comparison of Barbados, Jamaica and Virginia which shows that Barbados was in some ways more similar to Virginia than Jamaica
    • Shows similarities in the process of industrialization in Europe and the management of plantations in the Americas
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "In this richly researched volume, Roberts casts light on the "lived experience of enslaved peoples" by documenting the daily life of slaves in the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world."
    M. G. Spencer, Choice

    "Justin Roberts has written a challenging and thought-provoking book. In it, he underlines the centrality of work and the conditions pertaining thereto to the lives of enslaved Africans in Barbados,Jamaica, and Virginia in the late eighteenth century … a multipolar study of their lives that sheds light on important differences not only between the Chesapeake and Caribbean worlds of slavery but also within the Caribbean world of slavery. In this respect, Roberts has written an important book, providing for the later eighteenth century the more nuanced and comparative study of sugar production, plantation life, and slave demography in the Caribbean that one has come to associate with the research of Barry Higman, among others, for the period after British slave trade abolition in 1807."
    Rosalie G. Riegle, H-Peace

    "Roberts’ book is a fine study of how the plantocratic urge to ensure that slaves worked was the key both to profitability and to social and political calm."
    James Walvin, International Journal of Maritime History

    "There is a great deal that is impressive and worthwhile about this study. The book is based on a wide body of scholarship on labor, political economy, archaeology, and other fields … for scholars and students interested in slave labor in the New World and the Caribbean and North America in particular, this is a valuable text."
    Frederick Knight, Agricultural History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107680753
    • length: 366 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.6kg
    • contains: 31 b/w illus. 27 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Clock work: time, quantification, amelioration, and the Enlightenment
    2. Sunup to sundown: agricultural diversity and seasonal patterns of work
    3. Lockstep and line: gang work and the division of labor
    4. Negotiating sickness: health, work, and seasonality
    5. Labor and industry: skilled and unskilled work
    6. Working lives: occupations and families in the slave community

  • Author

    Justin Roberts, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia
    Justin Roberts is an Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he specializes in the study of slavery and the Atlantic World. He is the recipient of multiple fellowships, including awards from the Huntington Library, John D. Rockefeller Library, John Carter Brown Library, Virginia Historical Society, Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. Professor Roberts has published articles on slavery in the William and Mary Quarterly, Slavery and Abolition, and Historical Geography. He received his Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University.

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