The Bahamas from Slavery to Servitude, 1783-1933

Howard Johnson

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"A significant contribution to the history of the Caribbean and to the comparative study of slavery and transitions to free labor systems."--O. Nigel Bolland, Colgate University

"An extended and comprehensive history of the Bahamas. . . . Shifts the focus of interest from the islands’ elites to the common people . . . with special reference to the black population which has hitherto been largely ignored in historical writing."--Richard B. Sheridan, University of Kansas, Lawrence

In the only scholarly treatment of Bahamian socioeconomic history in the post-emancipation years, Howard Johnson begins by examining the last phase of slavery as one element in the foundation of later, and often more exploitative, labor systems. Looking at both urban and rural slave populations, Johnson discusses the systems of slave hire, apprenticeship, and indenture and highlights the ways in which the people of the Bahamas often exerted more autonomy and power as slaves than as a "free" people.
Following emancipation in 1838, an export economy based on cotton, salt, sponges, and pineapples spawned coercive credit and truck systems, which bolstered the dominance of a white mercantile elite that would exercise control until the early 1960s. Various government policies further perpetuated a "machinery of class slavery," making migration (primarily to Key West and, later, to Miami) one of the few escape routes available to the lower classes.
Throughout, Johnson relates historical developments in the Bahamas to those in neighboring Caribbean islands, Latin America, and the United States, making this an important sourcebook for all Caribbeanists. It will also be of interest to scholars of the historiography of slavery in the Americas and the transition from slavery to freedom or--in a post-emancipation system of domination like that of the Bahamas--from slavery to servitude.

Howard Johnson is associate professor in the Department of Black American Studies and History at the University of Delaware, editor of After the Crossing: Immigrants and Minorities in Caribbean Creole Society (1988), and author of The Bahamas in Slavery and Freedom (1991).

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"an important contribution to the social history of the Bahamas and to the comparative study of slavery and the transition to other coercive labor systems after emancipation." "Highly recommended for collections on the Caribbean and comparative slavery and emancipation."

"Johnson has made a significant and well-written contribution to the on-going debate as to the nature of post-emancipation societies and the transition to them."
--H-Net Reviews

"A valuable contribution to the historiography of slave and post-slave societies. These essays add considerably to the comparative literature on slavery and emancipation and reinforce the need to study societies outside of the pure plantation model." --AHR
--American Historical Review

"Should attract a wide readership, since it addresses issues of both historical and contemporary relevance in understanding all of those societies and economies throughout the Americas that experienced slavery and its baneful and enduring legacy." -- Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science
--Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science

"This clearly written, carefully researched book pays close attention to the current historiographical debates about the transition between 'slave' and 'free' labour in the Americas and especially the British Caribbean, and consistently positions the Bahamas material within these debates. It makes a solid contribution to our understanding of these transitions in a colony which, in many ways, stands out as an exception to the dominant Caribbean trends." -- Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
--Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History

"A well-researched and written work, employing extensive documentary evidence with reasonable support of statistical information. . . . The book will certainly interest scholars in numerous areas of history, and forms a guideline for further specialty research on other Caribbean islands."-- The Americas
--The Americas

"a broad economic and labor history of the Bahamas from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century." "Specialists in Caribbean history and the history of slavery and emancipation will come away from Johnson's work with important new insights into the ever more complicated study of labor use and control in the age of emancipation. Meanwhile, other readers (including students) will find superior archival research on the Bahamian case and well-argued essays on discrete themes of broad relevance to the general study of slavery, emancipation, and its aftermath." -New West Indian Guide
--New West Indian Guide

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