Murder in the Name of Sugar

Many academics agree that systems of slavery took on different levels of brutality depending on which region is under observation. This can be explained by three main aspects within the system.  Geography Population composition, and type of crops being produced. This blog will be analyzing these aspects to validate the interpretation of the Caribbean slave system as being more ruthless than anywhere else in the triangular trade route.

cutting-cane-antigua

Enslaved Africans cutting sugar cane in Antigua, published in 1823. -Courtesy of Liverpool Museums  

Geography and population composition were aspects of the Caribbean system that greatly influenced the level of brutality towards slaves. Typically African slaves outnumbered their white captors three to one in conservatives, and sometimes even by ninety percent. [1] This unbalanced ratio place the smaller white population in constant fear of a slave revolt. This fear was intensified by the isolation of the island plantations. If a slave rebellion were to break out, reinforcements would be months away. Ultimately this led slave owners to implement brutal tactics to subdue and control their slaves. [2]

The type of cash crop being produced also had a huge part to play in the increased brutality in the Caribbean slave system. This area of the triangular trade route almost exclusively relied on sugar production. The sugar making process requires quick pace compared to other cash crops. This is because the harvested sugar cane will deteriorate quickly after it’s harvested. Slave owners would work slaves on sugar plantations to their maximum physical potential to keep up the pace and efficiency of the sugar plantation. Slave owners cared little for their labor force and would have to pay less just to replace slaves every few years after they were worked to death. [3]

I draw connection to Mary Prince by her birth place in British controlled Bermuda. Prince’s birth place connects her narrative to other Caribbean slaves. Did her writing directly influence the motivations behind the Haitian slave revolt? Hopefully will be exploring this question in further research.

~WDL

References

  1. Dirks, Robert, and B. W. Higman. “Slave Population of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834.” Ethnohistory1 (1986): 99. Web.
  2. Reddit Forum
  3. “Slavery in the Caribbean.” Slavery in the Caribbean – International Slavery Museum, Liverpool Museums. International Slavery Museum, n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.
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