The slave economies of the Caribbean: Structure, performance, evolution and significance

  • David Eltis


The drive to establish colonies and migrate has always been fundamen- tally economic, but in the case of the Caribbean the economic motive seems particularly stark. Here people from one continent forced those from a second to produce a narrow range of luxury goods in a third - having first found the latter’s aboriginal population inadequate to their purpose.1 All other chapters in this third and indeed, all subsequent volumes of the UNESCO General History of the Caribbean, whether concerned with social, demographic, cultural or political history, follow from this central fact. To make sense of what has happened in the Caribbean since the seventeenth century, we must begin with Europe and the economic system Europe imposed on the region.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 5.
    Stuart Schwartz, ‘Free Labor in a Slave Economy: The Lavradores de cana of Colonial Brazil’, in Dauril Alden (ed.), The Colonial Roots of Modern Brazil (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), pp. 147–97Google Scholar
  2. Stuart Schwartz, Sugar Plantations in the Formation of Brazilian Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 295–337Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Hilary McD. Beckles, White Servitude and Black Slavery in Barbados, 1627–1715 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989), pp. 27–35Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    The earliest systematic data on the composition of the total product of a slave economy is from Jamaica at the end of the slave period. See Gisela Eisner, famaica, 1830–1930: A Study in Economic Growth (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1961), pp. 25–42Google Scholar
  5. B. W. Higman, Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica, 1807–1834 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), pp. 36–42.Google Scholar
  6. Jerome S. Handler and Frederick W. Lange, Plantation Slavery in Barbados: An Archeological and Historical Investigation (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1978), pp. 86–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 21.
    Robert Louis Stein, The French Sugar Business in the Eighteenth Century (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988), pp. 160–1Google Scholar
  8. Noel Deerr, The History of Sugar (London: Chapman&Hall, 1950), pp. 429–30Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    Douglas Hall, Free Jamaica, 1838–65: An Economic History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), pp. 12Google Scholar
  10. Michael Moohr, ‘The Economic Impact of Slave Emancipation in British Guiana’, Economic History Review, 25 (1972), pp. 588–607Google Scholar
  11. 30.
    Robert W. Fogel, Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 84–102Google Scholar
  12. David Eltis, Economic Growth and the Ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 185–204.Google Scholar
  13. 32.
    Calculated from Eisner, Jamaica, p. 46, using a Jamaican population figure of 398 700 (calculated from W. A. Green, British Slave Emancipation: The Sugar Colonies and the Great Experiment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), p. 316)).Google Scholar
  14. 39.
    See Selwyn H. H. Carrington, The British West Indies During the American Revolution (Dordrecht: Nijhoff, 1988).Google Scholar
  15. 41.
    Sidney W. Mintz, ‘Slavery and the Rise of Peasantries’, Historical Reflections, 6 (1979), pp. 213–42.Google Scholar
  16. 42.
    Rebecca J. Scott, Slave Emancipation in Cuba: The Transition to Free Labor, 1860–1899 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), pp. 63–110Google Scholar
  17. 47.
    See tables of ship clearances in Appendices 2, 3 and 4 in Ian K. Steele, The English Atlantic: An Exploration of Communication and Community (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  18. 50.
    Maurice Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism (New York: International Publishers, 1963)Google Scholar
  19. Robert Brenner, ‘The Origins of Capitalist Development: A Critique of Neo-Smithian Marxism’, New Left Review, 104 (1977), pp. 25–92.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© UNESCO 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Eltis

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations