The British Parliament's decision to abolish the slave trade in 1807 had disastrous implications for plantation societies, such as Jamaica, in regards to the health and the labour of the enslaved population. Many of the Jamaican sugar planters could not accept the fact that the 1807 Abolition Act was a watershed moment which demanded a more conciliatory form of management and a willingness to implement critical labour reforms, such as task work. The failure to introduce these necessary internal reforms resulted in the continuing decline in the plantations' crude production figures and in their productivity levels, despite the introduction of steam engines on many estates. The numerical strength of the enslaved population was also decreasing, and most important the health of the enslaved Africans was seriously declining. The planters' failure to also eliminate their ambiguous management structure further hastened their own demise and the profitability of slavery in Jamaica.
Dave Gosse is Lecturer in History, Department of History and Archaeology, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. He specializes in the social, economic and political history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Jamaica.
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