"As if she had been actually born free": understanding manumission, self-purchase, and freedom in 19th century Bermuda

Mick, Erin (2019) "As if she had been actually born free": understanding manumission, self-purchase, and freedom in 19th century Bermuda. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Despite its significant role since the early 17th century as a maritime center of the Atlantic economy, Bermuda and its role in the slave trade, particularly in the illicit slave trade after 1807, have been left largely unexplored by historians of enslavement. Those few histories, and historic travel accounts, which do focus on Bermuda tend to associate its small size, maritime economy, relatively low reported rate of severe physical punishment of slaves, and the rough parity of white and black demography, with a benign or mitigated reality of enslavement compared to other areas of the slaveholding world. After cataloguing and analyzing documents from the Colonial Secretary’s Books of Miscellany, held by the Bermuda National Archives, the volume of manumission and self-purchase records alone could easily make for an argument that bolsters the previous historiography of benignity. However, through discussing a number of case studies drawn from the Books of Miscellany, new perspectives on 19th century understandings of freedom and slavery bubble to the surface. This thesis aims to broach the topics of manumission, self-purchase, and slave-owner negotiation in an effort to reveal the sheer complexity of how freedom was understood, used, negotiated, upheld, withheld, and performed by Bermudians, both black and white, both slave and free, in the final three decades leading up to Emancipation in 1834.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/13761
Item ID: 13761
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 113-116).
Keywords: Bermuda, Slavery, Manumission, Freedom, Atlantic
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: January 2019
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Slaves--Emancipation--Bermuda--19th century--History; Slave trade--Bermuda--19th century--History

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