The information in this database is transcribed from manuscript inventories and lists held in archives, libraries and museums.
The information has been organized into categories mostly derived from the source manuscripts but not always reproduced directly from them: the Record Number, Gender and Notes headings are additions.
Some editing has also been necessary in order to make the material searchable across inventories. You should find here almost everything that appears in the original documents. But the categories selected by each inventory taker, and the allocation of information between them, vary widely. Some of the material has therefore been redistributed, especially in the Age, Occupation and Condition categories.
An example of inconsistent allocation of information is the inventory for Spring Plantation 1784, which has only three columns: Name, Occupation and Condition. But the type of information found in the latter two often overlaps: for example the Occupation column includes the entries ‘in the Yaws’ and ‘laid up with the Yaws’, while Condition entries include ‘Man Boy’, ‘New Negro’, ‘Young Girl’ and ‘runaway.’ These Condition entries can partly be explained by the fact that the inventory taker did not include a column for Age, which would have accommodated many of them. But the inclusion here of ‘runaway’ sheds light on the fundamental point of the inventory, which is not to produce an objective description of the enslaved, but to determine their use value as workers: that is to say, their exploitability. This applies even to much more rationally-organized inventories, as can be easily seen by correlating the entries in (among others) the Age and Condition columns with Value.
More detail about the principles observed in transcription can be found on the SEARCH page, under EDITING NOTES.
Inventories and Lists
Blue Mountain Plantation 1771: Derbyshire County Archive, Matlock, Derbyshire, Fitzherbert Papers
York Plantation 1778: University of Exeter, Gale-Morant Papers
Spring Plantation 1784: Bristol Record Office, Smyth Manuscripts
Hope Plantation 1788: Huntington Library, Stowe-Brydges Papers
Further information about the history and ownership of these plantations can be found in the Estates section of The Legacies of British Slave Ownership.
- Patterson, Orlando. 1982. Slavery and Social Death: a comparative study. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press.
- Konadu, Kwasi. 2010. The Akan Diaspora in the Americas. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
- Rucker, Walter. 2015. Gold Coast Diasporas. Identity, Culture, and Power. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
- Burnard, Trevor. 2001. ‘Slave Naming Patterns: Onomastics and the Taxonomy of Race in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica.’ Journal of Interdisciplinary History 31/3: 325-346.
- DeCamp, David. 1967. ‘African Day-Names in Jamaica.’Language 43: 130-47.
- Williamson, Margaret. 2017. ‘Africa or Old Rome? Jamaican slave naming revisited.’ Slavery and Abolition 38/1: 117-134.
- Handler, Jerome S. and Jacoby, JoAnn. 1996. Slave Names and Naming in Barbados, 1650-1830. William and Mary Quarterly 53/4: 685-728.
- Slave Biographies: the Atlantic Database Network is an open access database with information about the names, ethnicities, occupations and illnesses of individual slaves in colonial Louisiana and Maranhão, Brazil.
- The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database is a pioneering database with information about almost 36,000 slaving voyages. Linked to it is the African Origins Project, a scholar-public collaboration still in progress that attempts to trace the geographic origins of 91,491 enslaved and transported Africans using their recorded names.
- The Legacies of British Slave Ownership, which gathers information about plantation owners, is currently extending its focus from the 19th back into the mid 18th century.