Slaves and Free Blacks in the Caribbean early 19th century


Map Code: Ax01942

The pattern and incidence of slavery varied widely across the Caribbean. The British and French colonies, with economies dominated by the highly labour-intensive plantation cultivation of sugar, were the largest slave markets. The sugar crop produced lucrative returns; Barbados was adjudged ‘the richest spot of ground in the world’, and, under the Treaty of Paris, France willingly swapped the whole of Canada for the retention of Martinique. Spain, concentrating on its bullion convoys from its mainland colonies, did not develop plantation farming in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo to the same degree. Napoleon abolished slavery in 1794, only to reinstate it (1802) after insurrection broke out in Haiti and Martinique. In Haiti, independence was briefly achieved under Toussaint Louverture, an ex-slave. British Jamaica experienced 18 rebellions, and two wars with its refugee slaves, the Maroons. Britain abolished the slave trade (1807), but the institution persisted in the Caribbean until the 1840s.

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