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Senior Lecturer in Critical History and Politics @ University of Brighton


Historian / SCS treasurer - email

Geographical location : Brighton, UK

Research Area and Interest :

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Caribbean Warfare and Rebellion


Class dynamics of the Demerara Rebellion of 1823
Summary: The bicentenary of the Demerara Rebellion of 1823 deserves to be widely commemorated and remembered this year, and also coincides with a renewed scholarly interest in Atlantic slave revolts and what is meant by ‘abolition from below’ in recent years. With sugar prices falling and greater agitation from abolitionists, planters in Demerara (now Guyana) pushed their enslaved population into a revolt led by Jack Gladstone who, with his father, Quamina, a Church deacon, lived and worked on Sir John Gladstone's Success plantation in Demerara. Under the impression that an order had come from Britain instructing the slave-owners to free their slaves, Jack wrote a letter to several people telling them what he'd heard and urging them to rise up. The Demerara Revolt began on 18 August 1823 and lasted two days, involving ten thousand slaves in what in many ways was a mass strike situation. This paper will build on and engage with the growing literature on the slave revolt such as Emilia Viotti da Costa, Crowns of glory, tears of blood: the Demerara Slave Rebellion of 1823 (1994) and more recently Thomas Harding’s White Debt: The Demerara Uprising and Britain’s Legacy of Slavery (2022), but in particular will focus on the class dynamics and ‘proto-proletarian’ aspects of this critical rebellion in the anglophone Caribbean.

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