This article reviews scholarship on the history and historiography of slavery in the British West Indies and Bermuda. The British West Indies differed from other places colonized by the British in the Americas in the rapidity by which slavery became central to the workings of society. In this process, Barbadosstands stood out both for the qualitative leap taken by entrepreneurial Barbadian sugar planters in integrating the factors of production — Barbadian land, African slaves, and London Capital — into an impressively efficient operation under a single owner and for the influence of Barbados's slave society on English and non-English colonies. In Bermuda, the charter generation of Africans, possibly from West-Central Africa, arrived early (by 1620, the island had around 100 African slaves) and lasted for several generations. Bermuda tried — and for a time succeeded — in establishing an economy based on tobacco, but this tiny archipelago, one-eighth the size of Barbados, never made the transition to a mature plantation society. Without a plantation generation to overwhelm them, however, Bermudian slaves were quintessential Atlantic creoles, often attaining a measure of independence denied to slaves elsewhere in a fluid society where slavery closely resembled indentured servitude.
Henk den Heijer
This article reviews scholarship on the history and historiography of slavery in the Dutch Caribbean. The history of the Dutch slave trade and slavery started a new phase with the Dutch West India Company's (WIC) seizure of Curaçao from the Spanish in 1634. Strategically located north of Venezuela and possessed of a superb deep-water port at Willemstad, the island would develop in little more than a decade into an important transit port for slaves destined for sale in the Spanish colonies. During the last quarter of the seventeenth century, Dutch interlopers from West Africa supplied most of the slaves offered for sale in the island of St Eustatius. Between 1719 and 1727 the WIC organized the island into an open slave market. The recent historiography of Dutch slavery has also dissolved crusted stereotypes of slave docility by detailing a range of ways, from passive resistance to open rebellion, that slaves countered dehumanization and altered the terms of their bondage.
This article reviews scholarship on the history and historiography of slavery in the French Caribbean. Pierre d'Esnambuc, a Norman sailor, planted France's first Caribbean colony on the tiny Lesser Antillean island of St Christopher in 1625. The settlement contained several dozen slaves. Although Great Britain removed this French foothold at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), slavery expanded under French auspices, albeit in fits and starts, to other islands during the seventeenth century. Slavery peaked in the French Caribbean during the eighteenth century as French slave traders carried more than one million slaves to the Americas. Most slaves in the French Caribbean laboured on plantations and in other commercial enterprises.
Stephen D. Behrendt
This article reviews scholarship on the transatlantic slave trade. The foundations of a slave trade historiography date to the late eighteenth-century abolition movements in North America, Britain, and France. Before then, occasional voices sounded in protest. The Dominican friar Tomás de Mercado, for example, published in 1569 an anti-slave trade tract based on his observations of slave sales in Seville and of the institution of slavery in Mexico. From 1698 to 1714, 198 pamphlets concerning the Royal African Company's monopoly were published in England. With the founding of the world's first antislavery crusade, antislavery advocates came to predominate among the researchers who were seeking information on the slave trade. Abolitionist energies coalesced in 1787–9 in London with the formation of anti-slave trade committees and the subsequent British parliamentary inquiries. In this three-year period at least twenty-five British, American, and French authors wrote about the slave trade, a total that would not be reached again until the 1970s, when academics organized the first major conferences on Atlantic slaving.