Book launched on slavery in Berbice

Stabroek News
November 24, 2002

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Guyanese born Professor of History, Dr Alvin Thompson, has launched a book entitled A Documentary History of Slavery in Berbice 1796-1834

The launching took place in the Rupununi Room of the Hotel Tower on Friday evening. The book is a collection of contemporary documents which provide insights into the living and working conditions slaves experienced in Berbice during the last decades of slavery.

University of Guyana History Professor, Dr Winston McGowan said the book gives a detailed understanding of every conceivable characteristic of slavery. One gets a good understanding of the political, social and cultural aspects, he said. Professor McGowan, who assisted Dr Thompson with the research, called the work, "a book of great length and breadth." McGowan was also credited with putting together the book's index.

Dr Thompson said that many persons might ask why not publish a history of slavery throughout Guyana. If this were to be accomplished, he said, it would have taken much longer, and the resulting work would have been much thicker. For this, and other reasons, he chose to focus on Berbice, this being his area of specialisation.

In addition to the researching of documents for the writing of the book, much work was done to verify many aspects of life at the time, like the colour and design of the uniforms worn by the Dutch soldiers, and the colour of garments worn by slaves. The style of dress is captured in illustrations by Barrington Braithwaite. The book was printed in Guyana by Free Press, a local publishing house.

Professor Thompson is a University of the West Indies Professor of History and a former lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Guyana. Some of his other works include:

Colonialism and Under-development in Guyana, 1580-1803; Unprofitable Servants. Crown Slaves in Berbice, Guyana, 1803-1831; and The Haunting Past. Politics and Race in Caribbean Life. He has also edited In the Shadow of the Plantation: Caribbean History and Legacy; and the Journal of Caribbean History.

Since 1972, Dr Thompson has been a member of the History Department of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, where he teaches African History and Caribbean History.

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