Monday, March 07, 2005


Hochschild describes the the Caribbean slave economy as a "slaughterhouse". It was significantly more deadly than the horrific North American cotton plantations. The survivors of the 400,000 slaves brought to North America over the centuries had grown to a population of 4 million by the end of slavery there . The 2,000,000 slaves brought to the British West Indies left a surviving population of only 670,000 when the institution was abolished on those islands. Of course, many more than 1,330,000 people died because of the large numbers of children born to the slaves.

One of the biggest plantations on Barbados, at the centre of this mass murder (in which the usual punishment for rebellion was burning at the stake), was the Codrington estate. It was owned by an absentee landlord. But the absentee was not an individual:

"It was the Church of England.

Specifically, it was the church's missionary arm, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, whose governing board included the Regius Professors of Divinity at Oxford and Cambridge and the head of the church, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The estate's brand, burned onto the chests of slaves with a red-hot iron, was 'SOCIETY'."

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