The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:
Open location in Google Maps: 13.193887, -59.543190
"Barbados was the seed crystal for the slavery regimes of the Restoration colonies.... In 1661, almost exactly at the moment that the strong Restoration push to establish slavery on the mainland was getting under way, Barbados became the first English colony to legislate extensively on slavery....[esp. with the landmark] Act for the Better Ordering and Governing of Negroes (1661), considered "absolutely Needful for the publique Safety.  " This Act served as the template for similar Acts in other Restoration colonies as far north as New England. E.g., in South Carolina "in 1669/70...a mixed expedition of English and Barbadian adventurers established continuous settlement under the sponsorship of [Samuel Pepys' nemesis] proprietor Anthony Lord Ashley (later the Earl of Shaftesbury).....[T]he Barbadians insisted [lands] should be granted to importers of 'negroes as well as Christians.' Ashley had also drafted (with the assistance of John Locke, his secretary) the "Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina," which confirmed in the course of establishing religious toleration that Carolina slaveholders would enjoy the same absolute power over their slaves that Barbados' "better ordering" statute had guaranteed. ...Carolina's first general statute,An Act for the Better Ordering of Slaves [February 1690/91, a] version of the Barbadian Better Ordering Act of 1661.400]
("Transplants and Timing: Passages in the Creation of an Anglo-American Law of Slavery," Christopher Tomlins, University of California, Irvine, Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2012-24, 2009) http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_i…
Since many Scots were present on Barbados, one way or tother, I found it interesting to see how early the University of Glasgow began to receive endowments from Scots trading families involved in the Caribbean and therefore slavery.
Cambridge and Oxford are currently reviewing their records and similar reports to this should be forthcoming during the early 2020's.
The lack of endowments during the Diary years and for decades afterwards indicates to me that income from slavery-related undertakings was at that time tenuous and formative.
A shout out to the British Library, which is undertaking conservation projects during Covid-19. A very good use of their time! One of this month's efforts focused on slavery in Barbados:
"Britain's slave plantation model began in Barbados in the 17th century before spreading throughout the Caribbean. Built on the enslavement of men, women, and children from Africa, it was a lucrative system that generated excessive wealth for many slave owners and drove the British economy. As the anti-slavery movement gained momentum in the late 18th century, plantation owners and merchants throughout the empire blamed abolitionists for their own economic woes. In tandem with calls to abolish slavery, they demanded reciprocal compensation on the basis that laws protecting inanimate property also applied to slaves. This campaign had political support from absentee proprietors in the UK parliament and when the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act came into force, it was in conjunction with a system that enabled 46,000 slave owners, including more than 80 MPs, to claim compensation.
"The British government paid a total of £20 million - 40% of its national budget - to compensate thousands of slave owners; the equivalent of approximately £17 billion today. It required enormous borrowing by the government, so much that the debt was not fully repaid until 2015.
"This statistic was announced to the world in a 2018 Fact Of The Day tweet by the UK Treasury and prompted a sharp rebuke by historian David Olusoga. The tweet was pitched as a pat on the back for UK taxpayers’ contribution towards abolishing slavery. Instead it was an unsightly reminder that 21st century taxpayers had continued to fund the ill-gotten gains of human enslavement."
What this excerpt doesn't say (it may make the point later) is that money paid off the owners who lost the use of their slaves, not the slaves who had lost years of their lives, their dignity, their homes, and often their families.
Lots of information -- but not about the 17th century -- at
My thought: The British government paid off the WWI and WWII debt to the USA at least 30 years before this. Perhaps the Americans had a higher interest rate?
Between 1624 and 1632, St. Christopher (St. Kitts), Barbados, Nevis, Monserrat, Providence and Antigua were settled by the English. The typical arrangement governing settlement was a grant by the king to a trading company, and the grant defined the parameters of settlement.
Wherever they settled, the English quickly asserted their rights and liberties against the mother country, and saw themselves as English abroad, whatever their motives for emigration.
In the Caribbean, the native Carib peoples with whom the settlers came into contact were subject to episodic violence by the English and French.
More slaves from West Africa were brought to Providence Island, off Columbia, than to any other English colony before 1640. Qualms by some of the investors and colonists over the legitimacy of slavery was overcome by the perceived need to acquire more labor than emigration from England could provide.
When the Spanish overran Providence Island in 1641, ending English rule there, they captured 350 English and 381 slaves.
In England, the opening of the Parliament in November 1640 provided the new arena for conflict between King Charles and the Puritan opposition, compared to which the failure of Providence Island was of no consequence, and the jarring discord of Black slavery in a colony founded to promote Puritan English liberties was simply not perceived or articulated at Westminster.
The Caribbean colonies were intended to be engines of trade, and in terms of the labor market, Barbados was by far the most significant. White labor there was provided by indentured servants. But neither the scale of white immigrant labor, nor the principles upon which it rested, were sufficient to service the new booming sugar industry, which took over from tobacco and cotton cultivation in the West Indies from the 1640s.
Sugar production was highly profitable, supplying an insatiable European market: by the mid-1650s sugar accounted for nearly half the cargoes imported into Bristol, England’s second largest port, and it all came from the Caribbean.
The scale and the processes involved in sugar production (crushing and boiling in continuous, 24-7 shifts, plus back-breaking cultivation, all in searing, humid heat) required cheap, expendable labor (European workers could not withstand the conditions), and West Africans were the answer. Slave labor grew in parallel with the scale of sugar production.
Slaves were regarded as the moveable property (chattels) of their white owners. The practice of chattel slavery in English colonies barely impinged on the consciousness of MPs in Parliament. Curiously the scale of chattel slavery in the Caribbean expanded when the champions of English liberties came into power, and then the scale increased dramatically after the Restoration.
In Barbados there were 6,000 slaves in 1645, but 42,000 in 1698. As the slave trade developed, the code governing ownership of slaves tightened.
After the introduction of the Slave Codes of 1661, slaves could be designated as real estate, by which they were regarded as unalienable parts of the estates from which they were forbidden to leave.
The distinction between offering the native American/Carib peoples the opportunities presented by European ideas of education and conversion to Christianity, exemplified in the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England (1649) were never extended to those who in the Slave Codes were called ‘heathenish’ and ‘brutish’.
As slavery advanced, there was still no significant discussion in Parliament, where Members were preoccupied with the rights and liberties of the English, and not with extending privileges to others.
Highlights and excerpts from Slavery, the Caribbean and English Liberties, 1620-1640
Admirals Penn and Venables always take the rap for the failure of the Caribbean adventure known as the Western Design. But a biography of Martin Noell Sr. MP, a Navy Contractor, has a different opinion:
Martin Noell Sr.’s money bought him political influence. He and Thomas Povey were closely involved in directing government policy on the Caribbean colonies, particularly Barbados.
Noell played a leading part in organizing and financing Cromwell’s ‘Western Design’ of 1655 against the Spanish colony of Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). One well-informed observer identified Noell as ‘he who suggested the design of the West Indies’ to Cromwell.
In the event, the Western Design was a fiasco – partly because profiteering by Martin Noell Sr. and other contractors had deprived the expedition of vital supplies and equipment.
Repulsed from Hispaniola with heavy losses, Cromwell’s troops took Jamaica as a consolation prize. Not that Martin Noell Sr. was complaining. He had taken his usual cut regardless, and he was further rewarded with a grant from Cromwell of 20,000 acres on England’s new colony.
The seizure of Jamaica would provide a massive boost to the English sugar- industry and to the slave trade that sustained it. Noell Sr.’s plantation in Barbados was well-supplied with enslaved Africans to work the sugar-canes. But it was what he euphemistically termed his ‘Christian servants’ on the island, and the circumstances of their presence there, that landed him in trouble with his fellow MPs following his election for Stafford to Richard Cromwell’s Parliament in 1659.
Martin Noell Sr. MP was forced to defend himself against accusations in the House that he had violated English ‘liberties’ as a contractor for transporting Royalist prisoners to indentured servitude on Barbados. The victims of his ‘most unchristian and barbarous usage’ alleged that they been ‘bought and sold … from one planter to another … as horses and beasts’ (Diary of Thomas Burton, Esq. ed. J. T. Rutt (1828), iv. 255-73).
Noell admitted transporting prisoners to the island, but denied that he had effectively sold them into slavery or that they had been harshly treated. Indeed, he claimed that labor conditions for indentured servants on Barbados were better than those of the ‘common husbandman here’. The really hard work, the ‘grinding at the [sugar]-mills and attending at the furnaces or digging in the scorching island’, was mostly undertaken by African slaves, he insisted – and as he well knew, no one in the Commons cared about them.
Martin Noell Sr. MP shrugged off his grilling in the House, and he would emerge from the downfall of the Protectorate and the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660 similarly unscathed.
The British Library's investigations into what happened in Barbados and when and who by continue.
Today they ask for volunteers who are willing to read truly awful stuff, taken from the 18th century archives of that sad country:
Barbados is particularly significant in the history of Caribbean enslavement because this is where Britain’s trans-Atlantic slave plantation model began in the 17th century, before spreading throughout the region.
Other European empires had enslaved and transported Africans to plantations in the Americas since the 1500s, but it was in the 17th century that English capitalists industrialized this process and created what historian Hilary Beckles described as the ‘first black slave society’ in Barbados.
English (and later British) capitalists purchased men, women and children enslaved in Africa, brought them to the Caribbean, forced them to work against their will, and then enslaved their children, grandchildren, and so on.
This model officially ended after the 1807 act to prohibit the trade of enslaved people and the 1833 act to abolish slavery altogether – although enslavement effectively continued until 1838 in the guise of transitional ‘apprenticeships’, which was essentially enslavement by another name.
Even after this date, many people had little choice but to continue working for their former enslavers on very low pay.
While the British enslaved people for hundreds of years across the Caribbean, this project is centered specifically on the abolition and emancipation period of the late 18th and early 19th century in Barbados, the place where Britain’s barbaric colonial slave plantation system began.
This project will focus on two newspaper titles, which are already free to view online:
• The Barbados Mercury and Bridgetown Gazette (1783-1848) https://eap.bl.uk/project/EAP1086
• The Barbadian (1822-1861) https://eap.bl.uk/project/EAP1251
The physical copies of these newspapers are located at the Barbados Archives Department, where they were digitized by a local team thanks to funding from the British Library’s Endangered Archives Program.
For more information, should you want to help:
This article says the grapefruit spontaneously invented itself in Barbados where it should not be, and was identified in the mid-1660's. It's a fascinating article, BTW, even if you're not a grapefruit fan.
A personal aside, my reaction to antibiotics is becoming compromised. But I have a great reaction to pulverized grapefruit seeds, which is a natural antibiotic. That's just one of the puzzles presented by this mysterious fruit, which can kill you if eaten with some medications.
An article by a Barbadian explains how the Brits maintained an Empire and a Commonwealth ... highlights in case the link disappears:
Royal portraits on coins suggested connections with the past, but a look at the history Barbadians were given in the 1960s was very selective. Even towards the end of the decade, a little after independence, ... I learnt more about the foibles of King James I than I did about anti-slavery and anti-colonialist figures such as Toussaint L’Ouverture or Henri Christophe.
We all knew how the good ship Olive Blossom had put in to an apparently uninhabited Barbados in 1625 and how Capt. John Powell left an inscription somewhere near what became Holetown, proclaiming ‘James K[ing] of E[ngland] and this Island’.
Textbooks current in the 1960's, such as the 3-volume West Indian Histories by Edward W. Daniel, published in the 1930s and several times reprinted, or A Short History of the British West Indies by H.V. Wiseman (1950) described the ending of colonial slavery as if it were the result of the benevolence of British evangelicals and downplayed the significance of enslaved resistance.
Emancipation occured in 1834 and was the official ending of colonial slavery. 1838 marked the end of the apprenticeship system, a half-freedom that tied the formerly enslaved to their ex-masters.
Yet this was a façade. Even by the 1950s, with the introduction of a full ministerial system of government in Barbados in 1954, with the role of the governor largely ceremonial, the country’s internal affairs were run by local politicians chosen by an electorate based on universal adult suffrage.
Barbados’ move to complete independence on 30 November 1966 was the logical outcome of deep-rooted political developments. Since 1639 there had been a local parliament in the shape of the House of Assembly, which frequently engaged in disputes with the Governor in defence of local interests.
Modern historians will note that for much of its history the House of Assembly was elected on a restricted franchise representing only the interests of white Christian male landowners, who were often the most zealous in claiming their liberties as British subjects when they were opposing some policy that the British government was attempting to impose on them.
In 1831 the franchise was extended to all those who met the property qualifications among the island’s Jews and ‘Free Coloureds’ (that is, persons of African descent who were not enslaved) and thereafter a slow series of incremental changes extended it further until, by 1950, all adult men and women had the right to vote. ...
The Independence Constitution provided for Queen Elizabeth to continue as head of state after independence, not as Queen of the United Kingdom, but as Queen of Barbados; diplomats representing the new nation sometimes found themselves challenged to explain the difference to representatives of republics. ...
... in 1936 Edward W. Daniel wrote of ‘the bad old days of slavery’ and pointed out that Charles II and James II had shares in the Royal African Company. The ground-breaking Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams (later Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago) was published in 1944, arguing for the importance of colonial slavery and sugar plantations in the growth of the capital which fuelled Britain’s Industrial Revolution.
From the 1970s, a new generation of locally and regionally educated cultural activists worked to diffuse this attitude among the wider Barbadian public. A more critical view of the British aspects of the island’s past was inevitable. Some of this was practical.
Many questioned why independent Caribbean countries retained Britain’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as their highest legal Court of Appeal, something given repeated attention by judgments in which the Privy Council appeared to be attempting to abolish the death penalty ... while there was widespread local support for retaining the death penalty for murder.
Barbados was one of the parties to the 2001 agreement to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice, formally inaugurated in 2005, ... .
A number of Barbadian historical figures were officially declared to be National Heroes in 1998 and the following year what had been Trafalgar Square in Bridgetown was renamed National Heroes Square.
Since the 1970s there were calls for the removal of Horatio Nelson's statue that stood in Trafalgar Square, having been paid for by many Barbadians through public subscription in 1813. At first, the statue was seen as an relic of colonialism, but by 2020, after the Black Lives Matter protests, Nelson was targeted as a white supremacist and an active supporter of the slave trade.
These claims were based on a letter which Nelson wrote that can be shown to have been altered after his death, but the damage was done. Nelson in Barbados was a powerful symbol of a colonial past which could only be viewed in a negative light.
By the time Nelson was removed from National Heroes Square in 2020, the government of Barbados had announced the country would become a republic in 2021.
What happens next remains to be seen.
Just days after the celebrations, the government announced plans for a Transatlantic Slavery Museum, including a new home for the country’s archives, to be built at Newton Plantation, the location of one of the few slave burial grounds discovered and scientifically studied in the Americas.
With this, the Republic of Barbados inaugurates a new era of official support for heritage on an unprecedented scale.
John T. Gilmore is Reader in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick and co-author of A-Z of Barbados Heritage (Miller Publishing, 2020).
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.