“The Politics of Reproduction: Race, Medicine and Fertility in the Age of Abolition” (OUP, 2017)
The fertility of Afro-Caribbean women's bodies was at the crux of visions of economic success elaborated by many British politicians, planters, and doctors during the age of abolition. Reformers hoped that a home-grown labor force would obviate the need for the Atlantic slave trade. By establishing the ubiquity of visions of fertility and subsequent economic growth during the age of abolition, The Politics of Reproduction sheds fresh light on the oft-debated question of whether abolitionism was understood by contemporaries as economically beneficial to the British Empire. At the same time, Katherine Paugh makes novel assertions about the importance of Britain's colonies in the emergence of population as a political problem. The need to manipulate the labor market in Britain's Caribbean colonies prompted crucial innovations in governmental strategies for managing reproduction. While assessing the politics of reproduction in the British Empire and its Caribbean colonies as a whole, the study also focuses in on the island colony of Barbados in order to explore the politics of reproduction within the British Caribbean. By recounting the remarkable story of an enslaved midwife and her family, The Politics of Reproduction explores the deployment of plantation management policies designed to promote fertility during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Along the way, the volume draws on a wide variety of sources, including debates in the British Parliament and the Barbados House of Assembly, the records of Barbadian plantations, tracts about plantation management published by doctors and plantation owners, and missionary records related to the island of Barbados.