SURVIVING SLAVERY: POLITICS, POWER, AND AUTHORITY IN THE BRITISH CARIBBEAN, 1807-1834 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
Creator
  • Browne, Randy M.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
Abstract
  • This dissertation explores a broad range of power relationships and struggles for authority in the early nineteenth century British Atlantic, focusing on the Caribbean colony of Berbice. I aim to understand how enslaved people and their enslavers negotiated their relationships and forged their lives within multiple, interconnected networks of power in a notoriously brutal society. To do so, I focus on politics and culture writ large and small, zooming in to see the internal conflicts, practices, and hierarchies that governed individual plantations, communities, and families; and zooming out to explore the various ways that imperial officials, colonial administrators, and metropolitan antislavery activists tried to shape West Indian slavery during the era of amelioration--a crucial period of transformation in the Atlantic world. To analyze these overlapping power struggles, I focus on specific social contexts in which authority was contested. In particular, I explore: obeah, the construction of spiritual authority and its dangers; the predicament of drivers, enslaved men who balanced the competing needs of enslaved laborers and plantation managers; the gendered politics of marriage and sexual control; the connections between metropolitan penal reform and efforts to regulate physical violence against slaves; and enslaved people's struggles to assert ownership of different forms of property. In each case I show how the goals and priorities of different individuals and groups, enslaved and free, competed, overlapped, and intersected to shape high politics and lived realities. I use a range of sources, including travel narratives, trial records, missionary correspondence, and official government documents. Most important are the records of the Berbice fiscals and protectors of slaves, officials charged with hearing enslaved peoples' grievances and enforcing colonial laws. Their investigations produced detailed, first-person testimony from owners, managers, overseers, drivers, and enslaved laborers themselves. These records provide an unparalleled opportunity to understand how enslaved people negotiated their day-to-day relationships with one another and with Europeans and how they struggled to survive. The voices at the heart of this project reveal a complex set of power relationships and concerns, painting a rich portrait of a world where authority was constantly contested and contingent.
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  • In Copyright
Advisor
  • Sweet, John Wood
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2012
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