Plantations and Homes

This article is about the wealth and material culture of the Jamaican elite during the age of abolition. The planter class had a huge material investment in plantation slavery, and wealth derived from this allowed it to live ostentatiously and to consume conspicuously. Those who did not migrate away from Jamaica were drawn towards colonial towns, many of them taking up residence in, or at the edges of, urban centres. Lists of personal property found in probate inventories show how planters cultivated separate spheres of activity on the plantations and at their peri-urban homes, putting physical and cultural distance between themselves and the sources of their wealth. Click here

Full text of accepted manuscript: Petley – Plantations and Homes

The Material Cultures of Slavery and Abolition

This is the introduction to a special issue of the journal Slavery and Abolition, which gathered together articles by historians and archaeologists seeking to shed new light on the system of slavery, and on the processes of abolition and emancipation, in the British Caribbean. This work, some of it based on archaeological field work, some of it on the reading of texts, enables us to pay close attention to the complex fabric of daily existence during slavery. The politics of slavery and abolition related to the most mundane but essential parts of daily life. Taking a material approach allows us to connect this to wider transatlantic, imperial and global themes. This article argues that we can only really study the politics of slavery if we accept that the meanings attached to objects and to physical locations were of fundamental importance to the institution as it was lived by its perpetrators and victims. Click here

Full text of accepted manuscript: Petley and Lenik – Introduction

Slavery, Abolition and Empire

Listen to podcasts by Christer Petley, interviewed by Christopher Prior, about slavery in the British Empire, the abolition of the slave trade and the ending of slavery.

We have created these as part of a wider series in response to the choice of Jeremy Paxman’s book, Empire as the book for a University of Southampton initiative designed to encourage staff and students across students to read a book and discuss its themes.

To find out more, click here. While in some ways, this book provides a readable introduction to selected themes in British imperial history, aimed at a popular audience, it’s focus and assertions are also often problematic, as these discussions show:

The first podcast is about the history of slavery:


The second is about abolition and emancipation: