Historians have used a range of sources, including oral histories, written accounts, and plantation inventories, to reconstruct the lives of people subjected to slavery in the Atlantic World. Yet in peripheral colonies like St. Lucia, the experiences of enslaved people remain little known. Attention to a seemingly static, bureaucratic document—the 1815 Registry of Plantation Slaves, St. Lucia—provides insight on the life histories and genealogies of these lesser-known individuals. Despite its formulaic nature and the remunerative purposes for which it was later used, this simple registry sheds new light on key phenomena in the study of slavery, including regional trafficking and the role of reproductive labour in giving rise to female-headed multigenerational families. By tracing how these phenomena shaped the lives of individuals and families, this article centres the experiences of people who were enslaved on the frontiers of the British Empire during the Age of Abolition.
Tessa Murphy is Associate Professor of History at Syracuse University. Her book The Creole Archipelago: Race and Borders in the Colonial Caribbean (2021) has won the James A. Rawley Prize in Atlantic History from the AHA, the Association of Caribbean Historians Elsa Goveia Book Prize and the French Colonial History Society’s Mary Alice and Philip Boucher Book Prize.
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