Michael Morris

Scotland and the Caribbean: Capital, Women, and Emancipation 1823-33

In recent decades, scholars have noted the crucial double role that enslaved women played in production and reproduction – labour and childbirth – in the Atlantic world. Jennifer L. Morgan observes that during the long “birth of capitalism, black women were its conduits”.[1] As such, they were freighted with a host of economic, social and symbolic values: considered both sexually enticing and repellent, nurturing and monstrous, black and enslaved women were central to the new and enduring conundrums of race and gender, sex and family, in the emerging world-system of racial capitalism.

This paper looks to bring that thinking to bear on the representation of black and enslaved women in a selection of Scottish-Caribbean texts by male authors during the emancipation debates of 1823–1833. These include the political pamphlets The Horrors of Slavery by Jamaican-Scottish radical Robert Wedderburn and The History of Mary Prince (1831) which was edited by Thomas Pringle and prosecuted by James MacQueen. The fictional texts Marly; or a Planter’s Life in Jamaica (1828) and John Galt’s Bogle Corbet; or The emigrants (1831) take the planter’s view of gender codes as part of their apology for slavery.

Michael Morris, University of Dundee, Scotland

[1]    Jennifer L. Morgan, Reckoning with Slavery: Gender, Kinship, and Capitalism in the Early Modern Black Atlantic (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, forthcoming).