This article examines the office of the Fiscal in Berbice (later British Guiana) between 1819 and 1834—a period encompassing amelioration and emancipation. It looks in particular at the lives and concerns of enslaved women as revealed in an extraordinary set of slave testimonies collected as part of the Fiscal’s duties. It outlines the peculiar nature of the Office of the Fiscal and how it allowed enslaved women a voice to complain about aspects of their treatment under slavery in a particularly harsh slave regime. It connects this office also to a developing ideology of “protection” to be extended to non-whites in the British Empire in the second and third decades of the nineteenth century. Using the concept of “moral economy” as developed many years ago by E.P. Thompson to analyse early nineteenth-century British working class culture and as extended by Emilia Viotta Da Costa to Demerara and Berbice, it suggests that enslaved women had clear expectations of what could be rightfully expected of them and what were unjust demands within a slave system designed to keep enslaved women in their place.
A Voice for Slaves: The Office of the Fiscal in Berbice and the Beginning of Protection in the British Empire, 1819–1834
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Trevor Burnard; A Voice for Slaves: The Office of the Fiscal in Berbice and the Beginning of Protection in the British Empire, 1819–1834. Pacific Historical Review 1 February 2018; 87 (1): 30–53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/phr.2018.87.1.30
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