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Slavery by another name: apprenticed women in Jamaican workhouses, 1834-81

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JournalSocial History
DatePublished - Jan 2001
Issue number1
Volume26
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)40-59
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Hitherto, the historiography of Jamaican slavery has ignored the period of Apprenticeship which lasted from 1834 until 1838 when Jamaica changed from a forced?labour to a free?labour economy. The purpose of this article is to show that the period deserves studying as it was 'slavery by another name'. It does this by examining the experiences of apprenticed women in the island's workhouses. The disciplinary regime that the women faced was similar to that exercised on the estates prior to 1834 and was enforced by a similar set of officers. It is shown that the disciplinary regime served above all the needs of the local planters. It not only safeguarded their economic enterprises but also enabled them to regain some of the arbitrary and proprietary power they had lost after 1834. The planters therefore fiercely combated attempts by the colonial governor and the Colonial Office to change the disciplinary regime. They only lost their fight in March 1838 when the British parliament issued an Act?in?Aid which allowed the colonial governor to legislate against abuses in the workhouses. It is argued that the planters were able to stay in control of the workhouse for such a long time because the Apprenticeship System depended upon existing administrative, judicial and legal systems.

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