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Production Activities in the Household Economies of Plantation Slaves: Barbados and Martinique, Mid-1600s to Mid-1800s

Abstract

Formerly British and French colonies, the eastern Caribbean islands of Barbados and Martinique were major players in the early development of European overseas empires dependent on African slave labor and the large-scale production of sugar. Utilizing documentary and archaeological data we discuss and compare the independent production activities or household economies of plantation slaves on these two islands. The household economy was one of the more prominent aspects of plantation slave life throughout the Caribbean, and in this paper we examine the multiple adaptive production strategies slaves employed to ameliorate the poverty of their material and economic lives.

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Acknowledgments

A much briefer version of this paper was presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Leicester, England. Wallman thanks the National Science Foundation (Grant No. 1117214), and the University of South Carolina, Richard L. Walker Institute of International Studies, for support of her research. She also acknowledges the continued assistance of the Service Regional d’Archeologie, Fort-de-France, Martinique, and Sandrine Grouard, laboratory UMR 7209 du CNRS, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris. Earlier drafts of the present paper have benefited from the comments and suggestions of Douglas Armstrong, Linsey Bates, Mark Hauser, Kenneth Kelly, and Frederick Lange. Benjamin Guichard and Neil Norman have given research help, and a special thanks to Sally Vergette for her assistance.

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Correspondence to Jerome Handler.

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Handler, J., Wallman, D. Production Activities in the Household Economies of Plantation Slaves: Barbados and Martinique, Mid-1600s to Mid-1800s. Int J Histor Archaeol 18, 441–466 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10761-014-0265-2

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Keywords

  • Slavery
  • Household economy
  • Plantations
  • Barbados
  • Martinique