Boundaries of rule, ties of dependency : Jamaican planters, local society and the metropole, 1800-1834
This thesis examines the planter class in Jamaica in the period before the end of slavery in 1834 and considers the relations of the planters with local free society and the metropole. In spite of the large body of scholarly work on Jamaica during the slavery period, we lack a modern study of the planters. Based on archival research conducted in Britain and Jamaica, this research tackles the related issues of how locally resident planters sustained slavery in Jamaica and sought to control local society, how they related to other local groups and to the metropole, and how they identified themselves as British slaveholders in an age in which slavery was coming under increasing criticism in Britain. The study looks at the composition of the planter class and at the relations between the planter elite, non-elite white men, free non-whites and enslaved people. It also examines the way that the planters and their allies responded to criticisms directed against them and their local practices. The main conclusions of the thesis are that, to maintain the creole institution of slavery, the planters depended heavily on the support of other white men, who enjoyed a range of privileges and opportunities. This assuaged class tensions within white society and led to a distinctively local social order based on ideas of racial difference. However, in the period before emancipation, the rising population of free coloureds and free blacks, along with the increased influence of non-conformist missionaries, meant that the planters struggled to sustain local support across free society. Furthermore, their cultural and practical reliance on the metropole weakened their position as anti-slavery came to dominate British public opinion. Therefore, shifting circumstances in both Jamaica and Britain helped to make the planters' continued defence of slavery impractical and contributed to the emancipation of enslaved people in the 1830s.