Slavery and emancipation in Caribbean history
It should come as little surprise that, regarding the Caribbean area, of all possible topics of historical investigation, slavery has claimed by far the greatest attention. The theme’s importance to Caribbean historiography clearly mirrors the institution’s overall historical significance and weight. For nearly four centuries after the European conquest, the vast majority of the Caribbean’s residents were slaves. Even now, on the threshold of the twenty-first century — the second without formal, legal slavery — possibly more than half of the region’s inhabitants are descended from these enslaved people. Moreover, the quality of the human experiences involved amply justifies slavery’s centrality in historical writings about the region. The chattel slaves of the Caribbean and elsewhere endured an extreme victimization. By contemporary standards of civil and human rights, the bondage to which so any people were subject was bizarre, as were the societies that were built upon the institution. It was, after all, a bondage which dishonoured its subjects as it alienated them from labour and kin in a perpetual and inheritable fashion.1
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