The British Slavery Abolition Act of 1834 provided a grant of u20
million to compensate the owners of West Indian slaves for the loss
of their human 'property.' In this first comparative analysis of
the impact of the award on the colonies, Mary Butler focuses on
Jamaica and Barbados, two of Britain's premier sugar islands.
The Economics of Emancipation
examines the effect of
compensated emancipation on colonial credit, landownership,
plantation land values, and the broader spheres of international
trade and finance. Butler also brings the role and status of women
as creditors and plantation owners into focus for the first time.
Through her analysis of rarely used chancery court records,
attorneys' letters, and compensation returns, Butler underscores
the fragility of the colonial economies of Jamaica and Barbados,
illustrates the changing relationship between planters and
merchants, and offers new insights into the social and political
history of the West Indies and Britain.