B. W. Higman, Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807–1834 (Baltimore, 1984) [hereafter Higman, Slave Populations], pp. Klein and Engerman, ‘Fertility Differentials’, 358, 368; Mathurin, Lucille, ‘The Arrivals of Black Women’, Jamaica Journal, ix (1975), [hereafter Mathurin, ‘Arrivals of Black Women’], 4; Handler and Corruccini, ‘Weaning among West Indian Slaves’, 111–17. However, despite the use of such means of limiting fertility, it is doubtful that slave women had significant control over their bodies beyond the overpowering effects of disease, malnutrition and brutal overwork. 182–3. Chang, M. C., ‘Demographic Aspects of Lactation and Postpartum Amenorrhea’, Demography, vii (1970), 255– 71. So many documented material and epidemiological factors contributed to the low reproductive capacity of slave women that self‐induced abortion or abstinence is unlikely to have contributed significantly. Long's mention of ‘penns’ referred to cattle‐raising estates, often in the western part of the island, where men managed the animals and the women present had less arduous duties. Though raised in Canada, Brown was born in Jamaica. Slaves deficient in thiamine would have been unable to utilize riboflavin and niacin, which would have upset metabolization of all the B vitamins.2020 Africans probably practised extended birth spacing more than creoles. 68, 125, 145, 186, 210, 240, 279, 286, 288–9. Data for Worthy Park plantation, in St Thomas‐in‐the‐Vale parish, shows that by 1834 the birth rate among creole mothers had surpassed the creole death rate, indicating that slaves on that sugar estate were approaching natural reproductive increase.3838 Slaves sometimes caught colds and fevers through toiling in the fields in wet clothes. Buchanan took part in the 1831 Slave Rebellion led by Samuel Sharpe, and this was ultimately why he was sent to Australia as a convict. The contemporary evidence is mainly taken from the writings of white planters, doctors and estate attorneys that dominate the documentary record on slavery in British America. My thanks to Joseph C. Miller for help with this note. But planters were also under pressure from abolitionists to ameliorate slave working and living conditions in order to justify the continued existence of slavery. Ward, British West Indian Slavery, pp. The psychological bases for interruptions in the menstrual cycle are still not fully understood. Between 1801 and 1831 on Mesopotamia estate in Westmoreland parish the 130 slave women aged between twenty and twenty‐nine spent 88 per cent of their working time in these gangs, mostly the great gang that prepared the canebreaks and harvested the mature cane.3030 . Igbo people in Jamaica were shipped by Europeans onto the island between the 18th and 19th as forced labour on plantations. Ward, British West Indian Slavery, p. 188; William A. Dunn, ‘Sugar Production’, p. 66. Engerman, Stanley L., ‘Fertility Differentials between Slaves in the United States and the British West Indies: A Note on Lactation Practices and their Possible Implications’, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., xxxv (1978), [hereafter Klein and Engerman, ‘Fertility Differentials’], 357– 74; Thomson, Treatise on Diseases, p. 117. Long, History of Jamaica, ii. But the comparison should not be pushed too far. 380, 436. The link between concentration camps and slave plantations has been suggested by Bush, Slave Women, pp. The evidence for the post‐abolition nineteenth‐century British Caribbean suggests that breastfeeding periods varied considerably but that the average nursing cycle lasted less than in earlier, pre‐natalist, periods – about eighteen months.6565 The interaction of malnutrition and infection was far more serious than would be expected from the combined effect of the two working independently.4848 Jamaica's plantocracy, for all of its racial prejudices, obstetric ignorance, and denials of the lethal effects of overwork and under‐nourishment, was vaguely aware of the dangers of childbirth in dirty conditions. Not only does malnutrition disrupt the regular menstrual cycle, but it can also delay the age of menarche and hinder post‐partum recovery, thereby depressing fertility and thus limiting further pregnancies.2626 Verene Shepherd and Hilary McD. Contemporary observers pointed to irregularities in the menstrual cycle as inhibiting Caribbean slave women's reproduction. It was therefore extremely difficult to determine whether a dead baby was stillborn or premature or whether a relatively healthy child had died at the hands of the mother. Severe beatings could sometimes lead to a prolapsed uterus. The harsh material circumstances and brutal treatment of slave women in Jamaica are clearly enough established to account fully for the limited biological reproduction in the island's slave population – or throughout most of the British Caribbean. Their descendants are still fighting for recognition. 218. Robert Dirks, ‘Resource Fluctuations and Competitive Transformation in West Indian Slave Societies’, in Extinction and Survival in Human Populations, ed. Slaves left virtually no testimony on the issues discussed in this article. What is clear, however, is that the primary reproductive challenges for slaves in Jamaica stemmed from the dietary inadequacies and hard labour of slavery, which compounded epidemiological and whatever social, cultural and political factors may have motivated female slaves in the British Caribbean concerning their own reproductive capabilities. B. W. Higman, Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica, 1807–1834 (Cambridge, 1976) [hereafter Higman, Slave Population and Economy], p. 154; B. W. Higman, Montpelier, Jamaica: A Plantation Community in Slavery and Freedom, 1739–1812 (Kingston, 1998), p. 39; Ward, British West Indian Slavery, pp. Longer lactation, it is argued, would have served as a natural means of contraception, either through the physiological suppression of fertility in the mother by producing breast milk or through the social impact of constant nurturing of infants and consequent unavailability to men. Patterson, Sociology of Slavery, p. 169. In Africa the period of abstinence was often two years.7171 One of the best studies of the purchase of enslaved Africans in Jamaica, including consideration of their ethnic identity, is Trevor Burnard and Kenneth Morgan, ‘The Dynamics of the Slave Market and Slave Purchasing Patterns in Jamaica, 1655–1788’, William and … Beckles (Kingston, 2000), p. 706. It can be hypothesized that this increase in reproduction and reduction in lactation periods occurred because free black women received better nutrition and endured less demanding work schedules than when most of them had been tied to the punishing work regimes of the sugar plantations. 800 AD A people called the Arawaks lived in Jamaica. The records for Mesopotamia show that three mothers out of seventy‐two (just over 4 per cent) died in childbirth.103103 Williamson, Medical Observations, ii. Breaking the Ties: French Romantic Socialism and the Critique of Liberal Slave Emancipation. Slave nurses were often considerate and patient despite their age or state of health.115115 The problem of creating a self‐reproducing slave population after the ending of the British Atlantic slave trade in 1807 meant that the fecundity of slave women became central to the viability of plantation slavery in the British Caribbean. Slave diet was monotonous and deficient in thiamine, calcium and vitamin A, but estimates of quantities of rations provided by masters are patchy.1616 353–4. Dr John Quier, an experienced doctor based at Worthy Park for fifty‐five years, highlighted ‘abortions, which he thinks to be rather frequent amongst them’ as the cause of their ‘lack of breeding’.7575 They fall into a consumption or emaciated state, in which they linger for a few years.’7070 Certainly, planters were concerned over the lengthy lactation of their female slaves. If the poor nutrition characteristic of slavery and the diseases it aggravated, strenuous work demands in the sugar fields, and severe physical punishment thus all discouraged reproduction among slave women, most planters were loath to search too closely for the causes that would reflect badly on the regime of slavery that they enforced. Paradesi 2013 In 1831, Jamaica experienced what is considered one of the largest, longest and most influential slave rebellions of the three emancipation era revolts in the British Caribbean. Pregnant women worked in the cane fields until six weeks before expected delivery.3535 Olaudah Equiano, the famous black writer and abolitionist of the late eighteenth century, wrote of women in his African homeland that he did not ‘remember to have ever heard of an instance of incontinence amongst them before marriage’.5959 At Mesopotamia between 1762 and 1831 around half the recorded pregnancies resulted in miscarriages, stillbirths, or the death of infants within a few days after birth.100100 436. Marietta Morrissey, ‘Women's Work, Family Formation, and Reproduction among Caribbean Slaves’, in Caribbean Slave Society and Economy: A Student Reader, ed. Bryan Edwards, A Speech delivered at a free Conference between the Honourable the Council and Assembly of Jamaica, held the 19th November, 1789, on the subject of Mr. Wilberforce's propositions in the House of Commons, concerning the slave‐trade (Kingston, 1789), p. 46. Studies carried out on survivors of modern concentration camps give some weight to the argument that emotional stress can halt the menstrual cycle. Lack of shoes allowed the entrance of chigoes into the body, causing elephantiasis, and assisted the entrance of hookworm, which further depleted slaves’ nutritional status. These numbers indicate one miscarriage for every 4.6 live births, or around 18 per cent.102102 Page, H. J., ‘The Post‐partum Non‐susceptible Period: Development and Application of Model Schedules’, Population Studies, xxxiv (1980), 143– 69. There must be some doubt about how accurately Lewis estimated these figures. In severe cases, when women lack a good blood supply and their uterus fails to contract properly, the risks of a difficult birth increase. Stillbirths and miscarriages occurred frequently, but malnutrition and mistreatment are much more likely than self‐abortion or infanticide as causes. But it may be useful to review all of the potential barriers to reproduction among British Caribbean slaves and to assess their cumulative effect on reproduction, particularly in the context of sugar plantations, and secondarily in relation to the agency that female slaves may have exercised through their own reproductive strategies. This view focuses on strategies deployed to avoid pregnancy and acts undertaken to curtail pregnancies and unwanted births, such as abortion and infanticide. 208. Lambert, Commons Sessional Papers, lxxii. The Life of Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, ed. Thomas Cooper, Facts illustrative of the Condition of the Negro Slaves in Jamaica with Notes in an Appendix (1824), p. 10; The attorney of Mesopotamia plantation attributed the lack of pregnant slave women there to ‘their incontinency & their being so much addicted to polygamy which is scarcely possible to prevent’.5151 The slave trade is said to have drawn between ten and twenty million Africans from their homeland, with approximately six hundred thousand coming to Jamaica (one of the largest importer of slaves at the time) between 1533 and 1807. Cicely D. Williams, Naomi Baumslag and Derrick B. Jelliffe, Mother and Child Health (1984) [hereafter Williams, Baumslag and Jelliffe, Mother and Child Health], p. 61; D. B. Jelliffe, Child Nutrition in Developing Countries: A Handbook for Field workers (Washington, DC, 1969), p. 14. in females, thus circumstanced, it was on every occasion extremely dangerous’.8484 . Less cautious statements can also be found: slave women, realizing the planters’ need after 1807 to reproduce the slave population, ‘sought to free their previously enchained wombs, refusing to bear children who would, themselves, be enslaved’.121121 Bush, Slave Women, pp. He owned 240 female slaves at the time, of whom 72.5 per cent had reached or passed through their childbearing years. White overseers and black slave drivers showed little accommodation in disciplining pregnant women. For the same political reason the high rate of infant mortality in the British Caribbean might have included deaths owing to maternal infanticide. Four weeks after delivery slave mothers were back in the second gang, responsible for less demanding weeding, and so on. A battle between masters and slaves over the respective benefits of home delivery and lying‐in rooms raged from the late eighteenth century through to slave emancipation. Possibly revealingly, ‘Monk’ Lewis made no mention of the practice of abortion on his Jamaican estate. Long, History of Jamaica, ii. Simon Taylor, the wealthiest Jamaican sugar tycoon of the eighteenth century, complained in 1789 of venereal disease being rife at his Golden Grove plantation and blamed these attacks on the lax mores of black women.5454 They continued this work so long as they continued to breastfeed.3636 61, 70. James Thomson, A Treatise on the Diseases of Negroes as they occur in the Island of Jamaica with Observations on the Country Remedies (Jamaica, 1820) [hereafter Thomson, Treatise on Diseases], p. 45. Brown originally intended to write a more academic book, but fiction gave her the freedom to depict William’s life through his own eyes. Ward, British West Indian Slavery, p. 156. A similar comment appears on p. 201. National Archives, Kew, CO 137/88, Report of the Jamaica House of Assembly on the slave issue, 20 Nov. 1788, app. Richard B. Sheridan, Doctors and Slaves: A Medical and Demographic History of Slavery in the British West Indies, 1680–1834 (Cambridge, 1985) [hereafter Sheridan, Doctors and Slaves], pp. D. B. Jelliffe (1968), p. 265. Charles D. Laughlin and Ivan A. Brady (New York, 1978), p. 146. Kiple, Caribbean Slave, pp. 42–3. 74–5. “It was deep and dark,” Brown says of the research. 76–119. In this line of analysis, slave women assume the major role in determining the predisposition to pregnancy and the decisions then taken about babies over the nine‐month cycle and in the first weeks of life.1212 Sienna Brown originally intended to write a more academic book, but fiction gave her the freedom to depict William’s life through his own eyes. THERE exists the opinion of some people that to comment on the experiences and consequences of chattel slavery in Jamaica, spanning over 300 years under two European powers, is … Thomson pointed to the ‘early and unbound indulgence in venereal pleasure [as] a common cause of sterility. John Williamson, Medical and Miscellaneous Observations relative to the West India Islands (2 vols., Edinburgh, 1817) [hereafter Williamson, Medical Observations], ii. Even if some slave women abused themselves for such reasons, their strategies are unlikely to have contributed significantly to the observable low rates of natality and reproduction. But these arrangements were not always observed. Barbara Bush, Slave Women in Caribbean Society 1650–1838 (1990) [hereafter Bush, Slave Women], pp. They were stone age farmers. Mortality is sometimes referred to as endogenous death, i.e soon after a mother gave.... 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