From slavery to indenture
Scripts for slavery’s endings
in Emancipation and the remaking of the British imperial world
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Anita Rupprecht examines arguments about the transition from slavery in the period c.1790 and 1833 in relation to three main themes. First, the discourses of political economy combined an economic critique of mercantilism and a moral argument. It was the conjunction of these elements which energised much of the early abolitionist movement. Second, the Abolition Act of 1807 acted as a conduit funnelling rescued Africans to the Caribbean as indentured servants or to bolster the British West Indian forces against the French. The Act inaugurated the policy of ‘apprenticeship’ that came to pass for ‘emancipation’ after 1833. Moreover, it was partly abolitionist ideas which were responsible for apprenticeship. Third, the many arguments about emancipation are to be heard in the Royal Commission of 1821 investigating the conditions of Caribbean indentured servants. The Commission showed the many-sided character of the debates about what regimes of labour should succeed slavery.

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