The owners and managers of enslaved African workers in British colonies left copious recorded information about themselves and their history. But they were far less interested in the lives and identities of those on whose labor they depended. Often they would record just a single name, with no other detail except what concerned an individual’s value as a worker. Often, too, we cannot tell whether that name had been chosen by its bearer or imposed by a manager or owner.
But the vast quantity of information available in plantation inventories, much of it still untapped, may one day make up in volume for what it lacks in detail, making it possible to address questions about the origin and lives of the enslaved by tracing patterns and movements over time.
This database aims to make available for analysis over 5,000 records for named individuals on 18th-century Jamaican plantations, in a format that both enables large-scale analysis and preserves each original manuscript’s detail.