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Additional info for Capitalism and Antislavery: British Mobilization in Comparative Perspective

Sample text

Who in the eighteenth century would have so described Jamaica or Barbados? " The phenomenon of absenteeism was of course one of the more obvious signs that the slave islands were not the best rich man's country either. Those who resided for some time in Africa and the slave colonies tended to 'suspend' patterns of customary behaviour. " This tension between economic utility and social distaste was present early in the development of the British slave colonies. Such attitudes appeared far too soon to attribute the phenomenon to the enlightenment.

Their high colour visibility was not matched by a correspondingly high social tension. Yet, however indistinctly, the stage was set for a special kind of class struggle. Blacks did not arrive in Britain like the Scots , Irish, Jews and other minorities. They arrived with masters who claimed them as slaves and who , within limits, tried to retain that bundle of rights they had claimed with full public sanction in the colonies. They tried to retain the options to buy, to rent, to recapture, to bequeath and to discipline their black servants.

And during the third quarter of the eighteenth century at least one community, the Quakers, slowly withdrew itself from the slave system. 58 It is possible that it was the capitalists' intensive involvement with the market per se which produced the conditions for their withdrawal. As a result of immersion in the market, with its combination of calculation, trust and interdependence, human sensibility expanded within the capitalist ethic. One must be cautious about placing too much reliance upon the 'sensibility' generated by the market mechanism, however.

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