Loyal Men, Licentious Women: Ameliorating Reproduction, Resistance, and Religion in the British West Indies, 1801-1833

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0009-0008-1428-053X
Dunklee, Sara, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Dierksheide, Christa, University of Virginia

Following the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, statistics published in 1815 indicated that fifteen of the twenty colonies in the British West Indies were experiencing a decline in the enslaved populations. Questions arose as to what was causing the population decline, to which British doctors and missionaries residing in the Caribbean responded by attributing the population decline to enslaved women procuring abortions and practicing the African religion Obeah. In an attempt to reverse the population decline, British Parliament legislated the Amelioration Proposal in 1823 which required an increased presence of doctors and missionaries on plantations to work toward improving the fertility and mortality rates. Both professions supported amelioration measures to end abortion and Obeah practices, but while some saw these measures as a means to simply reform slavery, others saw amelioration as a means to abolish it altogether. Through analyzing legislation from Parliament, letters and testimonies, and revolts led by enslaved laborers, this essay traces the downfall of the Amelioration Proposal and the new, politicized roles taken on by doctors and missionaries during the abolition debates.

MA (Master of Arts)
Abolition, Abortion, Amelioration, British West Indies, Doctors, Medicine, Missionaries, Obeah, Religion, Reproduction, Resistance, Slavery, Women
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