The Journal of Caribbean History Volume 57 Issue 2
Edited by Professor Kathleen E. A. Monteith
by Suzanne Francis-Brown
Until an 1817 census mandated by the British government, the lives of enslaved individuals throughout the British West Indies remained outside the public record; the purview of largely unavailable plantation records and correspondence. Even the 1817 baseline and subsequent triennial returns provide very sparse information. Yet these and other public records can be interwoven to even dimly illuminate some of these majority populations, challenging the archival silences and contributing to our understanding of the character of lives within slavery. This article focuses on the Papine Estate, St Andrew, Jamaica, for which no estate records have been located, yet where this interweaving of diverse public records illuminates some aspects of the lives of the enslaved community and individuals, especially family — unusually including male as well as female participation.
by Nicholas Crawford
This article examines the significance of provision grounds and informal marketing to Jamaican plantation enterprise in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It draws evidence primarily from the papers of the planter Simon Taylor (1739–1813) and traces how managers attempted to control enslaved subsistence practices. Taylor sought to encourage marketing among the enslaved through various managerial incentives and by arranging for the purchase of African captives from certain ethnic groups he considered the most eager to cultivate provision grounds. Yet, his inabilities to direct enslaved cultivation and marketing demonstrated the limits of planters’ influence over the provision-ground system.
by Alex Gough
In the last fifty years, the recognition of indigenous identity and associated rights has emerged as a well-established norm within the international legal system. In Belize, the Toledo Maya have become globally renowned due to the twenty-five-year legal battle they have fought for tangible recognition of their customary land rights. However, it was Toledo’s “other” indigenous people — the Garifuna — who first used legal redress to claim their own collective rights in Belize. This article documents the unique story behind the purchase, reclamation, and struggle to maintain the land known as the St Vincent block, outside Punta Gorda town.
John Garrigus’ A Secret among the Blacks makes an important contri-bution to the historiography of pre-revolutionary Saint Domingue. The book “tells the story of men and women who . . . over thirty years, prepared the land they lived on for revolution” (1). It sheds light on the lives of several enslaved and free black people who were all caught up in poisoning scandals such as Medor, a domestic servant and Assam, a plantation nurse; Makandal, the well-known alleged conspirator; enslaved driver, Nicholas; Lizette, a free black woman and her free adult son, as well as the less poison-related case of enslaved foremen, Jean-Jacques and Hippolyte.
Reviewed by Kathleen E. A. Monteith
It seems rather strange to be reviewing a book first published some fifty-five years ago, given that publications are very much about the place and time in which they are conceived, researched and published. This book is therefore a historiographical snapshot of an early period in the emergence of a “West Indian” historiography in the research of slavery, the plantation and the enslaved. While styled as a work in his-torical sociology, this book was the first major treatment of the history of slavery in Jamaica, and joined other early histories produced by West Indian historians, notably, Hall’s Free Jamaica, 1838–1865: An Economic History (1959), the multi-authored (Augier, Hall, Gordon, and Reckord) Making of the West Indies (first published in 1960) and Goveia’s Slave Society in the British Leeward Islands at the End of the Eighteenth Century (1965). These publications represented essentially the emergence of a modern West Indian historiography, which placed the colonies and the region at the centre, marking a significant departure from the previous period in which the region’s history was largely from that of the per-spective of the imperial, and involved seeing the colonies as extensions of the British empire, with limited if any attention to the wider social context. This was a natural development as this reorientation reflected the post-independence period and the recognition of the importance of history for national development throughout the region. As elaborated upon by Howard Johnson in his detailed “Historiography of Jamaica”, decolonisation, and the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and 1970s, was the social and economic context which helped to orient the focus to themes of “race, cultural identity, the slave past and links with Africa”.
On 24 February 1899, just four months after the United States military took control of Puerto Rico, because of the Spanish American War, a tragic incident took place in the small town of Caguas. Private John Burke, a 28-year-old Irish immigrant and soldier with the 47th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, was brutally murdered at the Workmen’s Club. Rafael Ortiz, a local coachman, approached Burke from behind and swiftly slit his throat with a razor, nearly decapitating him. Despite several witnesses, Ortiz managed to escape into the nearby mountains, eluding the American Army and the newly formed insular police force for three weeks. Ortiz, 23 years old at the time, was engaged to Inés Sandoval. There was a dispute between Ortiz and Burke, who were pre-viously friends, sparked by comments Burke made about either winning or ruining Inés’ reputation. In the presence of Inés, Burke had slapped Ortiz across the face, and on another occasion, he struck Ortiz’s nose with a cane. Burke’s murder by Ortiz is the subject of Arcadio Díaz Quiñones’ book Once Tesis Sobre un Crimen de 1899.