The Cuban Slave Market: 1790-1880 The book gives an incisive analysis about the slavery business that was carried out in Cuba and it was authored by three renowned cliometricians, Fe Iglesias Garcia, Laird Bergad and Maria Del Carmen Barcia…
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One gets a unique opportunity to know or learn more about the slavery especially in the century in which it existed last. It is however unfortunate that at one point the reader finds it hard to draw the understanding from the limited data supplied. However this is easily understood when one realizes that even the authors themselves are much aware of the limitations of the data they provided. It is believed that slavery is the only labor system from the West that has information available readily on the internal dynamics of the West. It is the only labor system highly known by many as compared to others and this is attributed to the fact that most of the times the respective governments were involved at different levels of operation. The three authors employed tricks such as turning lose the student research teams and enabling them to access protocol and notary documents which were rich in information and were housed in Cuba’s National Archives. Since the business was diligently taxed by the state, in what was commonly referred to as the alcabala, all the transactions involving slave trade were recorded in the notaries. Through this method of using the student research teams the authors managed to extract information about the more than 23,022 slave trade transactions documented. The notary records in all cases outlined the gender, slave price and whether or not the particular slave was a domestic born of foreign. The notaries also in many cases recorded information pertaining to; type of sale, age, marital status, profession, skin color, health and ethnic identity. The authors state several justifications and reasons as to why they conclude that the records in the notaries contained accurate information especially with regard to the purchase price. The book goes further to give information about the slavery activities during the peak season of sugar plantation and growth in the nineteenth century which is a valuable and extraordinary contribution and one is not mistaken to feel that Cuba is very much indebted to the labor of the three authors in as much as its history is concerned. The authors, armed with information, went an extra step to hold a comparison between the price trends of Cuban time with those in the United States and also those in Brazil. It should be noted that in the slavery business of the New World order, Brazil and the United States of America are the sister slave societies. Cuban data did not deviate much from the data belonging to the neighboring slave societies, because it, in most cases, followed the trends closely. The three authors did not disappoint when they presented a detailed chapter that was dealing with the coartacion institution in Cuba in a fascinating manner. In the nineteenth century Cuba developed a unique legal position for the slaves which gave them the opportunity to begin the process of freedom purchasing for their own sakes. Such slaves were then referred to as the coartacion slaves. The value or price of the slave never changed the moment after a down payment for him or her had been paid on freedom. It is clear in the book that the coartacion slaves had very many privileges which included the right to collect given percentage of the intended earning if or when they were hired out; and they possessed the right to freely find another master. Of all the slave sales documented in the book, about 13% were coartacion purchases and it is evident that the slaves’
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