Sex and Gender in the Historiography of Caribbean Slavery

  • Hilary Beckles


The recent historiographical departure from ‘History’ to ‘Women’s History’ in the Caribbean segment of the north atlantic slave mode of production cannot be described as a mass movement. Throughout the methodologically turbulent 1960s and 1970s excess conceptual inertia in the Caribbean historiographic tradition shaped and limited the culture of criticism and therefore theoretical enquiry. This was so in spite of a pervasive ideological practice by some nationalist scholars to discredit academically elements of what was considered the politicised historiography of a fractured and retreating colonising mentality.1


White Woman Black Woman Slave System Gender Ideology Slave Mode 
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  1. 2.
    See Bridget Brereton, ‘Text, Testimony and Gender: An Examination of some Texts by Women on the English-Speaking Caribbean, 1770s to 1920s’, a paper presented at the Symposium — Engendering History: Current Directions in the Study of Women and Gender in Caribbean History’, U.W.I, Mona, 1993, and her article in this volume. Marietta Morrissey, ‘Women’s Work, Family Formation and Reproduction among Caribbean Slaves’, Review 9 (1986) pp.339–67.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Lucille Mair, ‘Women Field Workers in Jamaica During Slavery’, Department of History, U.W.I., Mona, 1989; ‘An Historical Study of Women in Jamaica from 1655 to 1844 (Ph.D, U.W.I., Mona, Jamaica, 1974); The Rebel Woman in the British West Indies during Slavery (Kingston, 1975); ‘The Arrival of Black Woman’, Jamaica Journal, 9: nos 2–3, (1975).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Kamau Brathwaite, ‘Caribbean Woman during the Period of Slavery’, 1984 Elsa Goveia Memorial Lecture, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados; Verena Martinez-Alier, Marriage, Class and Colour in Nineteenth Century Cuba: A Study of Racial Attitudes and Sexual Values in Slave Society (Cambridge, U.K. 1974); Arlette Gautier, Les Soeurs de Solitude: La condition feminine dans l’esclavage aux Antilles du XVIIe as XIX e siecle (Paris, Editions Caribbeennes, 1985); Hilary Beckles, Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados (Rutgers Univ. Press, New Brunswick, 1989); Barbara Bush, Slave Women in Caribbean Society, 1650–1838 (Indiana Univ. Press, Bloomington, 1990); Marietta Morrissey, Slave Women in the New World: Gender Stratification in the Caribbean (Kansas Univ. Press, Lawrence, 1989); Barry Higman, Household Structures and Fertility on Jamaican Slave Plantations: A nineteenth Century Example’, Population Studies, vol. 27, 1993; and ‘The Slave Family and Household in the British West Indies, 1800–1834’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 6, 1976; Bernard Moitt, ‘Women, Work and resistance in the French Caribbean during Slavery, 1700–1848’, unpublished paper (1993); and ‘Behind the Sugar Fortunes: Women, Labour, and the development of Caribbean Plantations during Slavery’, in S. Chilungu and S. Niang (eds) African Continuities (Toronto, Teribi Publications, 1989).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Linda Gordon, ‘What’s New in Women’s History’, in Teresa de Lauretis (ed) Feminist Studies/Critical Studies, Indiana Univ. Press, Bloomington, 1986) p.22; See also, Louise M. Newman, ‘Critical Theory and the History of Women: What’s at Stake in Deconstructing Women’s History’, Journal of Women’s History, vol. 2, no. 3, 1991; Mary Poovey, ‘Feminism and Deconstruction’, Feminist Studies, vol. 14, 1988.Google Scholar
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    Beckles, ‘White Women’, op. cit.; Trevor Burnard, “Family Continuity and Female Independence in Jamaica, 1665–1734’, Continuity and Change, 7, (2) 1992; and, ‘Inheritance and Independence: Women’s Status in early colonial Jamaica’, William and Mary Quarterly, vol. xxxiv (1977); Mary Butler, ‘White Women and Property in early Nineteenth Century Barbados’, Conference Paper: Engendering History — U.W.I, Mona, 1993.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    See Hilary Beckles, White Servitude and Black Slavery in Barbados, 1627–1715 (Knoxville, Tennessee Univ. Press, 1989); and ‘Black Men in White Skins: The Formation of a White Proletariat in West Indian Slave Society’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 15:1, 1986.Google Scholar
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    A.F. Fenwick (ed) The Fate of the Fenwicks: Letters to Mary Hays, 1798–1828 (Methuen, Lon. 1927) p. 164.Google Scholar
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    Joan Wallach Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York, Columbia, Univ. Press, 1988).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Department of History, U.W.I., Mona, Jamaica 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hilary Beckles

There are no affiliations available

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