Monthly Archives: May 2020

Additional works

In addition to monographs, journal articles and book chapters, I have written a few smaller
pieces in late 2019 and 2020 that connect to work on slavery and emancipation in the Atlantic
world. I have also have finished a number of works in preparation that will be published
either in 2020 or 2021 but which do not yet have assigned publication dates.

These include:
“A New look at the Zong Case of 1783,” XVII-XVIII: Revue de la Société d’études anglo
americaines des XVII et XVIII siècles 75 (2019)
“Plantations,” in Claude Chevaleyre, Paulin Ismard, Benedetta Rossi, Cécile Vidal, eds.,
Histoire Mondiale de l’esclavage (Paris: Seuil, 2020)
“Tacky’s War,” in Timothy Lockley, ed., The Routledge Encyclopaedia of Race and Racism
Forthcoming articles accepted and in preparation for publication:
“Ireland, Jamaica and the Fate of White Protestants in the British Empire in the 1780s,” in
Frank Cogliano and Patrick Griffin, ed., Ireland and America: Empire and Revolution
(Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2021)
“Anthony Benezet, A Short History of Guinea and its Impact on Early British Abolitionism”
in Trevor Burnard, Joy Damousi and Alan Lester, eds., Humanitarianism, Empire and
Transnationalism in the Anglophone World, 1760-1995 (Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 2021)
“An Imperial History of the American Revolution,” in Jasmin Falk, ed., New Perspectives on
Transatlantic Relations vol. 23 Bavarian American Academy Series, (Heidelberg:
Universitäsverlag, 2020).
“The Slave Mistress: Women and Whipping in the British Caribbean, ca. 1750-1834,” (with
Deirdre Coleman), Atlantic Studies
“Special Issue: The Management of Enslaved people in British America and the American
South, 1750-1850,” Guest editor with Natalie Zacek, Journal of Global Slavery.
“The British Male Abroad: Hospitality and Work in Late Eighteenth Century Jamaica,” in
Special Issue on Intoxicants and Early Modernity, eds. Phil Withington and Kathryn James,
Historical Journal
“The Historiography of Jamaica in the Time of James Knight,” in Jack P. Greene, ed., The
Natural, Moral, and Political History of Jamaica … by J[ames] K[night] (Charlottesville;
University of Virginia Press, 2021).
“Slavery and Empire,” in David Doddington and Enrico Del Lago, eds., Writing the History
of Slavery (London: Bloomsbury, 2020).
“The British Americas before the Revolution,” in Marjoleine Kars, Michael A. McDonnell,
and Andrew M. Schocket, eds., Cambridge History of the American Revolution 3 vols.
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021)
“Unfreedom in the British West Indies in the Eighteenth Century,” in Jared Hardesty and
Allison Madar, eds., Unfreedom in the British West Indies in the Eighteenth Century (New
York: Routledge, 2021).

`Slaves and Slavery in Kingston, 1770-1815,’ International Journal of Social History 65 (2020), 39-65

If you wander down to the magnificent Kingston waterfront, you will see nothing which
marks the fact that Kingston was the `Ellis Island’ of African American life in British
America. It was the place where nearly 900,000 Africans were landed to begin a usually
miserable and often foreshortened life as slaves working on sugar and other plantations and
occasionally enjoying a slightly better life as an urban enslaved person in Kingston. Slavery
and the slave trade were central to eighteenth-century Kingston and in turn Kingston is vital
as a place to study so that we understand Jamaican and Atlantic slavery in the period of the
Atlantic slave trade. But our knowledge of Kingston and its slaves is very limited. This article
looks at slavery in Kingston from when the slave trade was at its height, between the early
1770s, and through to the immediate aftermath of the ending of the slave trade in Jamaica in
This article summarizes what we know about slavery in Kingston already and provides some
empirical data which can be helpful in drawing attention to Kingston’s importance in the
history of slavery. The Atlantic slave trade in Kingston was easily the largest business in

eighteenth-century British America and had a very distinctive character. Contrary to popular
legend, African captives were seldom sold directly from ships in what was described as a
`scramble’, when potential buyers pushed and shoved each other in order to acquire valuable
property. Slaves cost too much money for any factor selling slaves to allow such chaos to
occur. Instead, Africans were purchased in large lots by carefully selected merchants and
were moved to merchant houses where they were corralled (`like sheep’, Olaudah Equaino
lamented) and then sold usually in small lots to planters. In short, the slave market in
Kingston harbor was a wholesale market and was followed by retail sales. Everyone took
their cut at all times and the money that flowed was so substantial as to make Kingston and
its slave merchants very wealthy.
The manner of slave sales meant that enslaved Africans experienced the transformation of
themselves into `commodities’ first in Kingston. That was a profound, and profoundly
disturbing, human moment. From Kingston, they were dispersed throughout Jamaica, in ways
that made enslaved populations very polyglot – Africans from various ships from various
places in West Africa were purchased together and sent to very ethnically diverse plantations.
Some enslaved people, of course, stayed in Kingston, and I discuss what they did as
tradespeople, domestics and sailors in the article.
One would think that the end of lucrative slave trade would spell disaster for Kingston and its
wealthy merchant class. Surprisingly, this did not happen. Why not? What seems to have
occurred, although much more work needs to be done on this subject, is that Kingston moved
quickly from being a major slave trading entrepot to being the centre of trade with Spanish
America. It was a depot from which British manufactured goods were dispersed throughout
the Spanish American empire. In an ironic restatement of the famous thesis by Eric Williams
that slavery created capitalism, after 1807 capitalism remade slavery as capitalism in the form
of British manufactured goods stimulating the slave system and slave economy in places like
The slave trade ended in 1807 but slavery remained in Kingston, I finish this article with the
perspective of the enslaved, and their participation in festivals, such as Jonkunnu. A spatial
inversion occurred during these carnivals, during which black entertainers invaded the spaces
of white authority. Slavery was complicated and diverse in Kingston, as in the rest of

Britain in the Wider World, 1603-1800 (London: Routledge, 2020)

2020, it now seems clear, is a decisive year in British history, however it ends. It is a year that
has seen the disaster of a major pandemic and which will probably see Britain’s withdrawal
from Europe and possibly even herald the breakdown of the United Kingdom itself. Just
potentially, 2020 will see the final end of a process that began as long ago as 1603, when
England/Wales and Scotland were joined together through having a common monarch,
coming together properly in 1707 and being enlarged by the addition of the kingdom/colony
of Ireland into a new polity in 1801 called the United Kingdom. 1603 preceded by a couple of
years the founding of the East India Company, giving England and then Britain a toehold in
India, which became much bigger after Britain’s victory in the Seven Years War in 1763. It
was followed by the tentative starts of a British Empire in the Americas, begun in a chaotic
and disastrous fashion in England’s first settlement in North America, in Jamestown,
Virginia. By 1800, that empire, despite the political loss of the 13 colonies and the creation of
the USA, was extremely large and world-spanning. My book on how England and then
Britain went through this dramatic transformation, one that might be on the verge of finally
collapsing, between 1603 and 1800 is a British history as written by an historian of the
Atlantic world. It explores how the British nation was made in this period and how

England/Wales moved from being the pariah of Europe – insular nations devoted to
Protestantism and to the killing of monarchs – to near global dominance, with a powerful
empire and an even more flourishing economy. Britain by 1800 had become a mighty world
power and through the Industrial Revolution the richest country in the world, overturning in a
few decades China’s millennium-long presence at the top of wealthy nations. I pay particular
attention in my book to three things: imperialism, economic growth and changes in gender
And within these three topics, slavery is important, though it is only one of many themes that
I cover in this survey of a lengthy period in British history. I deal with slavery here less than I
do in other works but I take for consideration Barbara Solow’s famous statement that `it was
slavery that made the empty lands of the western hemisphere valuable … [and] what moved
in the Atlantic … was predominantly slaves, the output of slaves, the inputs of slave societies
and the goods and services purchased with the earnings of slave products.’ America was
valuable to Britain because it had plantations and it had plantations due to the work of
enslaved Africans. Britain became the most important slavery nation in the eighteenth
century. That this was the case makes us pause when thinking about imperialism and the
development of settler societies in North America and Australasia. Britain’s movement into
the wider world was immensely successful for Britain itself, not least for its poorest
inhabitants, who got goods that they wanted from the colonies and could improve their
standard of living by moving out of Britain. It came, however, at great cost, including the
immiseriment of thousands of enslaved slaves, living miserable lives as coerced worker. The
gap between British prosperity and the misery Britain caused its non-white imperial subjects
was something that increasingly bothered thinking Britons, not least of whom was a young
Hull-born politician and evangelical, William Wilberforce, born in the triumphal year of
1759, when Britain acquired Canada, Senegal and Bengal, and who lived his life in a time
when Britain and its empire were important in the world in ways Britain never had been
booker cover

The Atlantic in World History (London: Bloomsbury, 2020)

Atlantic history is a way of envisioning the making of the early modern world that was a
historiography that arose in the 1970s, became more fully developed in the 1990s and 2000s,
and has now become an established field of historical inquiry by 2020. My synthesis of
Atlantic history, based as being a practitioner of such history for nearly thirty years, provides
for students and the general reader a quick introduction to this interesting field. It is a field
that is diverse and which means different things to different people but at bottom is an
exploration of movement across the ocean and between the four continents of Africa, the
Americas, and Europe – that movement being the movement of people, things and ideas. It
starts with European involvement in Africa in the mid-fifteenth century and Columbus’
epoch-making voyages to the Caribbean from 1492. It ends in the mid-nineteenth century,
with the abolition of slavery in most New World societies. It explores the ways in which the
peoples and the environments of Atlantic places were linked together, in ways that were both
good and bad, but always historically interesting. I show how the Atlantic has been more than
just an ocean – it has been an important site of circulation and transmission, allowing

exchanges and interchanges between various peoples in ways that have profoundly shaped
the development of the world, beyond as well as within the Atlantic.
The Atlantic world was about more than slavery, the Atlantic slave trade and the plantation
system sustained by African slavery. Thus, slavery is only part of a book in which gender,
religion and trades are extensively discussed. Nevertheless, slavery is a vital part of the
Atlantic world and indispensable to its workings Thus, slavery courses throughout the
volume as a major theme in Atlantic history. I explore its Iberian origins, its African
dimensions and its apogee in the eighteenth-century Caribbean and North America before
examining how the most central institution in Atlantic history, outside empire and the
monarchy, was abolished in a very quick time, with the movement for abolition begun by a
determined and small number of evangelical Britons in the last eighteenth century. William
Wilberforce, of course, was principal among this small group of committed early
abolitionists. Wilberforce and his friends were supported by resolute black abolitionists and
was built in part out of enslaved resistance to enslavement occurring in the Americas. The
most important slave resistance to planter power was in Haiti between 1791 and 1804 – an
event that has a prominent role in my chapter on the age of revolutions.
I end my account by recalling the quintessential American song `Oh! Susanna’ written by
Stephen Foster in 1847. It is a very African and Atlantic song as well as an American song –
a `negro melody,’ as Foster called it. It is a comic, indeed tragicomic, retelling of an enslaved
person left behind in the many breakups that characterized African American slavery in the
nineteenth century. It is a song written by a person of European heritage using the voice of a
descendant of Africans wanting to leave a place which had once been Native American land.
Thus, it unites through culture the ways in which peoples of the Atlantic were brought, often
unwillingly, together. These many connections point to the relevance of Atlantic history
today and to why it is such an exciting field that really helps us understand how the modern
world is shaped as it is.
book cover

`Terror, Horror and the British Atlantic Slave Trade in the Eighteenth Century’ in ? The Cambridge World History of Violence vol. III 1500-1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), 17-35

The Cambridge World History of Violence is a path-breaking four volume series, edited by
Australian scholars Joy Damousi and Philip Dwyer, which argues that violence was a key
driver of history from ancient to modern times. My chapter on violence in the Atlantic slave
trade is in the early modern volume, running from 1500 to 1850. It contributes to an
intensive, profoundly meaningful and often disturbing conversation about how violence
speaks to critical issues such as the problem of civility in society, the nature of political
sovereignty and the state, the legitimacy of conquest and subjugation, the possibilities of
popular resistance, and the manifestations of ethnic and racial unrest. I start with J.M.W.
Turner’s 1840 masterpiece, Slavers Overthrowing the Dead and Dying and connect to a
notorious incident in the history of the Atlantic slave trade, from 1781. That incident was the
murder of 122 African captives on the Zong, becalmed off south-west Jamaica, in order to
make an insurance claim. I use this and other cases of violence in the Atlantic slave trade to
argue that one of the effects of that slave trade was the evocation in slaves of the emotion of
terror – the apprehension of worse things happening if one did not obey commands. To show
how this worked, I analyze James Field Stanfield’s The Guinea Voyage to explore the
workings of terror and horror (a related but different emotion to terror) through violence as it
operated in the Atlantic slave trade. I conclude with a consideration of how the terror that was
involved in the British Atlantic slave trade inspired abolitionists, not least William
Wilberforce, though I concentrate in this chapter on Thomas Clarkson and John Newton, to
protest against the slave ship as a place of radical disorder, an essentially lawless place
presided over by cruel tyrants. Without the revulsion that was aroused in metropolitan
Europeans and Americans about the terror that resulted from the multiple acts of violence that
characterized the Atlantic slave trade, abolitionism and humanitarianism would have taken a
different shape – and possible been less immediately successful.
the zong

Jamaica in the Age of Revolution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020)

Between the start of the Seven Years War in 1756 and the onset of the French and Haitian
Revolutions after 1789, Jamaica was the richest and most important colony in British
America White Jamaican slaveowners presided over a highly productive economic system, a
precursor to the modern factory in its management of labour, its harvesting of resources, and
its scale of capital investment and output. Planters, supported by a dynamic merchant class in
Kingston, created a plantation system in which short-term profit maximization was the main
aim. It led to a powerful planter class, a dynamic slave system and impoverished and
oppressed enslaved people, living lives of desperation and unhappiness.
My aim in this book is to explore through a series of interlinked essays how this brutal, rich,
extraordinary, modern, and highly exploitative society worked. I start with Jamaican planters
and their vision of the ideal plantation order, as seen through the lens of Thomas Hobbes as a
theorist of societies held together by fear and through the writings of the proslavery racist but
very astute historian, Edward Long. Long was a fervent promotor of the Jamaican planter
class but he also saw their faults, notably their addiction to short-term profit making and in
their `rage to develop their estates’ how they exposed themselves to enormous risk from a
brutalized enslaved majority. The enslaved population, I argue, were the victims of a
profitable and efficient plantation system that was based at bottom on a pernicious doctrine
whereby the exploitation of enslaved people was vital for the success of the system. Enslaved
people were systematically ignored and their interests neglected, making them the worst
treated group in all of British America. Jamaica was a society at war. It was a place divided
between entrepreneurial but vicious white (and occasionally mixed-race) planters and
merchants and brutally mistreated enslaved people. Sometimes the Cold War became a hot
war, as in Tacky’s War in 1760-61 – the event, I argue, which was pivotal in the internal
history of eighteenth-century Jamaica. Tacky’s War was one of several defining events in
Jamaican history, all of which led Britons to question the morality of imperialism in this
realm, no matter the material benefits that plantation agriculture brought to Britain at a time
when Britain was developing new forms of mercantile and industrial capitalism. I look at two
of these events – the Somerset legal case of 1772 and the Zong scandal of the early 1780s-
and the disruptions of the American Revolution in order to re-evaluate Jamaica in a period
when its white residents were at a height of prosperity while its enslaved population was at
the nadir of its colonial experience. The question for white Jamaicans in this period was
whether their happiness, self-satisfaction and undeserved wealth was sustainable. My answer
is that it was not. They learned in retrospect that the halcyon years of the American
Revolution were the last period in which white Jamaicans exercised real power and