Social and political control in the slave society

  • Hilary McD. Beckles


Caribbean slave owners, like their counterparts elsewhere in the Americas, paid close attention to the level of social and economic return on their capital investment in African slave labour. In general, they aimed to minimize cost and maximize efficiency in the use and supervision of their human chattels. Slaves, however, concerned with the preservation of their humanity, and the establishment of social rights, proved difficult to control. The result of this contradiction of objectives was that the personal security and social stability slave owners pursued were as elusive as their slaves’ quest for civil liberties.1 Between the early sixteenth century when slaves were introduced into the region in large numbers by Spanish settlers at Hispaniola, and the end of the nineteenth century when slavery was finally abolished throughout, slave owners experienced incidents and episodes of violent slave unrest that destroyed profits, property and lives.


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© UNESCO 2003

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  • Hilary McD. Beckles

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