The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 53, Issue 1

Article 3
“Slavery wears the mildest Aspect”: Imagining Mastery and Emancipation in Bermuda’s House of Assembly

Sarah Hannon and Neil Kennedy


Drawing on the records of Bermuda’s House of Assembly, this article begins to untangle the historical roots of the colony’s long-standing narrative of benign slavery. As colonial elites reassured themselves of the benignity of Bermudian slavery, and predicted a harmonious transition, they passed laws that contradicted their self-assurances and revealed their deep anxieties about the epochal change. Examining the rhetorical strategies employed by the Assembly leading up to and immediately following Emancipation, it suggests approaches for re-opening Bermuda’s colonial archive and positioning it in the Caribbean context, challenging the notion that Bermuda’s slavery was fundamentally unique.