Surviving Slavery: Mortality at Mesopotamia, a Jamaican sugar estate, 1762 - 1832

M. Forster, S.D. Smith

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We use survival analysis to study the determinants of mortality of 1099 slaves living on the Jamaican sugar plantation of Mesopotamia for seven decades before the Emancipation Act of 1833. We find evidence that female slaves who were first observed during Joseph Foster Barham II's period of ownership (1789–1832) faced an increased risk of death compared with those who were first observed during his predecessor's tenure. We find no such relationship for males. We cite as a possible explanation the employment regime that was operated under Foster Barham II after his voluntary withdrawal from the transatlantic slave trade, which allocated increasing numbers of females to gang labour in the cane fields. g-estimation models estimate that continuous exposure to such work, versus never being exposed, reduced survival times by around 30%. We compare our results with previous studies of Mesopotamia and the wider literature dealing with work and survival in Caribbean slave populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-929
JournalJournal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011

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