Book Review.. Law and Society

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Slavery, Law and Society in the British Windward Islands 1763-1823 September 29, 2011
Lecturer: Dawn M. McNeil
Reviewed by Natasha Stewart

Published by Arawak Publications
ISBN 976 8189 81 9 (hbk)
ISBN 976 8189 27 4 (pbk)

One of the most important courses that are required for matriculation into law school is “law and society”. This is due to the fact that this course covers interaction between Law and Society from a historical, economical, political, sociological perspective of Caribbean societies, from primitive to transitional and also modern societies. It incorporates trends of law enforcement as well as current social and technological changes that influence society. It is premised on the fact that law has a critical function in all forms of social conduct. Though not the exact words of lecture McNeil, they were enough to help me to understand the importance of this course. Therefore upon her instructions to review the book “Slavery Law and Society”, I was most enthused, as I intended to read with an objective that would allow me to understand more about the laws of slavery and their impacts, the composition of society and to compare it with the society we have today. As I thought that this would allow me to be understanding of this course of study. My attention was also naturally drawn to the author Bernard Marshal, as I think he did a great job in compiling this case study. Nonetheless, I feel privilege to know that my review o this book will ultimately make it better, while giving me knowledge of a society that I fortunately escaped. The book slavery law and society is a comparative study, which looks at the political, economical, legal and social life of a majority black population, a minority white population and a relatively large amount of free colored in St Vincent, Tobago, Dominica, Grenada and the Grenadines between the years 1763 to 1823. This period marks a relevant and vital time in the history of the Caribbean and the importance of these Windward Islands to French and British economy. These two European nations stood in constant conflict over wealth and ownership of these islands. Thus building our understanding of how Caribbean history in these islands was developed. Bernard Marshall assessed the relationship between different groups in society, with special attention placed on the enslaved population who were in constant resistance of slavery, especially the maroons. Throughout the sixty years of slavery, many writers have analyzed the nature of slavery in some of the more popular Caribbean islands, however it must be noted that this book is the first to help with understanding the nature of the slave system in these four important communities. At a time when slavery and plantation ownership was very important to the economic success of the planter class, the nature of the slave society was examined and critiqued in this study. Special emphasis was placed the political, social, religious, economic and legal organizations of these islands. Nonetheless there was decline which brought into question, the importance of a seemingly redundant enslaved population. Bernard however, presents a harsh historical reality, which was seen in the most inhumane activities meted out to mankind, which is the trans-Atlantic slave trade. During that period the establishment of sugar plantations required purchasing of land, plantation buildings, equipment and upkeep of one’s own labour force which translated into large expenditures: for example a sugar estate in St Vincent that contained 442 acres was 74,035 pounds. Funds were secured to purchase such an estate from the mercantile houses in the metropolis. When the economy declined and prices paid for crops were reduced, many planters defaulted on their loans and went bankrupt. This period saw many such declines and loss for planters, whether for economic reasons or as a direct result of the many...
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