A celebration of Emeritus Professor Barry Higman's career

Barry Higman retired on 15th July 2011 after 16 years at the Australian National University and a very distinguished international career. To celebrate his accomplishments, a public lecture will be held at the Hedley Bull Lecture theatre with a reception following in the foyer.

Professor Trevor Burnard, Head of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne, will present the below lecture in theme with Barry Higman's works in Jamaican history.

This lecture is free and open to the public.

Public Lecture

'You want men infinitely more than women’: Improving human capital and the gender gap in Jamaican slavery, 1674-1784

ProfessorTrevor Burnard, University of Melbourne

Barry Higman’s seminal works on the plantation economies and the demographic history of Jamaica during the period of slavery have alerted scholars to the manifold ways in which gender operated within the plantation system and how attempts to improve slave management techniques had enormous impact upon the quotidian lives of enslaved people.

This paper seeks to explore within the world of Jamaican slavery the answers to a question that touches on both slave management and also on gender differences within slave communities.  The question is a very modern one:  why would the work that women did that was similar to the work that men did be valued at a lower rate?  Today, we recognize this sociological truism through looking at wages and salaries.  In slave societies we can answer that question with reference to values attributed to individual slaves. 

This paper explores how much enslaved men were worth than enslaved women and explores whether women were valued less than men because they did work that was less valuable; because planters failed to maximise their investment in women slaves due to conventional gender prejudices against women; or whether valuing men slaves more than female slaves was a means whereby slave owners reconciled men to the plantation system in ways that deemed unnecessary for more docile women slaves.

Trevor Burnard has taught at universities in America, Jamaica, New Zealand and Britain before taking up his current post at the University of Melbourne in February 2011.  He is the author of four books and around 50 articles and chapters, mostly on plantation society, planters and slaves in eighteenth century British America and the Atlantic World.  He is the author of Mastery, Tyranny and Desire:  Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World (2004) and is working on a joint authored history of Jamaica and Saint Domingue in the mid to late eighteenth century.  He is the editor in chief of the Oxford Bibliographies Online series on Atlantic History.  This paper draws out of a longstanding interest in onomastics and on the commodification of slaves in the British Atlantic during the period of the slave trade.


E Karen.Smith@anu.edu.au
T 6125 2354


Date & time

Thu 13 Oct 2011, 4–6pm


School of History


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