Lesson 4C

4C. How and why have historians disagreed upon the decline of the Jamaican slave economy?

4C. How and why have historians disagreed upon the decline of the Jamaican slave economy?

What are we learning about?

An optional lesson – as part of the requirements for the AQA A Level Coursework module. Using what has been learned in the previous lesson – students will be asked to assess the lively historical controversy – known as the Williams-Drescher debate – as to when the West Indian economy declined. Having secured an understanding of the controversy, students will be asked to analyse why Drescher, Williams and Draper have disagreed – focusing on both the context in which they were writing and the access to the archive.

Lesson Objectives

  • To analyse how the decline of the ‘West Indian’ Economy has been interpreted differently
  • To analyse why the decline of the ‘West Indian’ Economy has been interpreted differently.

PowerPoint Lesson

Lesson 4C Powerpoint

Suggested Tasks

  • Read through our two theses – Williams and Hall’s and draw out arguments on both.
  • Note take on the historiography (story of the story) of the West Indian Economy.
  • Write an evaluation of Williams’ & Halls interpretation – discussing both the context of the historians and your own supporting evidence

Essential Resources

Lesson 4C Notetaker
Lesson 4C Notetaker: How and why have historians disagreed upon the decline of the Jamaican slave economy?

Eric Williams (1944) Capitalism and Slavery. Extract from Chapter 6 : The American Revolution.
As part of his hugely influential work Capitalism and Slavery Williams sets out his ‘decline thesis’ arguing that the loss of North America was the turning point in the ‘West Indian’ Economy. Students will need to understand the principles of mercantilism and the Navigation Acts and also the reliance the Sugar Islands had upon America – and that once America declared Independence they were no longer part of the British Empire and therefore could no longer be traded with legally. France and Spain filled the gap – with Saint-Domingue in particular rising to prominence.
Guided questions are included to support students in their note taking.

Hall, Catherine, ‘Towards a new past: The legacies of British Slave-ownership’, UCL Lecture
In launching the online database of British Slave-Owners, Hall gives an interesting and clearly argued response to the Williams’ decline thesis. It is her contention – as well as others at the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project who worked so hard on the archives – that the ‘West Indian’ economy did not decline after the American Revolution and that in fact those beneficiaries of the Transatlantic Slave system continued to financially benefit up to and beyond the 1833 Emancipation Act.
Guided questions are included to support students in their note taking.

Extract from Catherine Hall (2013) UCL Lecture discussing the legacies of British Slave Ownership.

Extra Resources