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Choosing Family, Friends, and Familiarity over Freedom in the Leeward Islands, 1835–1863

image of Journal of Global Slavery

Planters and colonial officials throughout the Caribbean feared the consequences of emancipation in the nineteenth century, especially after the British abolished slavery in 1834. Concerns were particularly strong among the planters and colonial officials of the Dutch Leeward islands of St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius, as their geographical location left them vulnerable to the decisions of neighboring imperial powers. As early as 1825, when British law prohibited the extradition of foreign runaway slaves from their colonies, freedom was just a short boat ride away for the enslaved population of the Dutch islands, leading to worries that their islands would quickly become depopulated of their laborers. These fears were ultimately unfounded, however. As this article shows, the majority of slaves of the Dutch Leeward islands chose to either stay home or, after sojourning in another place, decided to return to their homes.

Affiliations: 1: KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies


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