Sunday, January 31, 2010

C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Chapter 1, "The Property"

The focus here is on the qualitative aspects of slavery in Domingo, and especially the exceptionally brutal treatment of slaves in the colony. The point of this brutality was not just to maximize the output of labor, but even more to forestall revolt by keeping the slaves in a state of terror.

Some notable divisions within slave society:
  • servant caste and laborers -- the servant caste had a greater tendency to identify with their masters, but it was also members of this group who had the experience and even education that would enable them to provide leadership
  • creole and African -- native African slaves were a greater threat to revolt
  • maroons -- slaves who ran away to the hills and lived by banditry
James frequently draws comparisons to or refers to more recent colonial enterprises (especially in the British Empire), either in the text or notes. At times this is confusing, as it's not clear if the reference is intended to fill in gaps in the sources by reference to an analogous situation, or is there simply to provide contemporary relevance. See the footnote on page 16, for example.

The usage of the term creole is somewhat obscure. It is used to refer to both blacks and whites(see pages 17 and 57, respectively, for examples). I gather that it is used to distinguish members of both groups who were natives of the San Domingo colony from newcomers or outsiders (Africans or metropolitan French).

Le Jeune case in 1788 -- a planter killed four of his slaves and tortured two others in pursuit of an imagined poisoning conspiracy. His other slaves brought charges, but these were ultimately dismissed. Demonstrated that, despite the restrictions on the treatment of slaves that existed in law, the slaveowners in fact had total impunity.

1 comment:

願望 said...