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Slaves and peasants in the era of emancipation

Scanlan, Padraic X. (2019) Slaves and peasants in the era of emancipation. Journal of British Studies. ISSN 0021-9371 (In Press)

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During the era when British antislavery was ascendant, from the middle of the eighteenth century to the late 1830s, the idea of enslaved people as 'peasants' was a commonplace among defenders of slavery. Concomitantly, antislavery advocates hoped that freedpeople might become a 'peasantry' after the abolition of slavery. This article explores how the idea of slaves-as-peasants, a fantasy of black labour on sugar plantations as simultaneously rural, idyllic, grateful and respectful of hierarchy was coproduced by slave-owners and abolitionists. Ideas about the 'amelioration' of slavery that were prominent in the later eighteenth century overlapped with comparisons between slave labourers and British 'peasants' in an era of widespread crisis for British farm-workers. The institution of the 'provision ground' in Britain's sugar colonies became a basis for imagining enslaved workers as 'peasants.' The slave-as-peasant was invoked by slave-owners to defend slavery and by abolitionists to argue for emancipation. British antislavery, at least in its most prominent and mainstream iterations, adopted ideas promoted by slave-owners about the suitability of black workers for sugar production, and about the necessity of white management over even free black labour.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 The North American Conference on British Studies
Divisions: International History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2019 13:39
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2020 15:36

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