Philip J. Caudrey. Military Society and the Court of Chivalry in the Age of the Hundred Years War. Warfare in History. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2019. Pp. 238. $99.00 (cloth)
Journal of British Studies
Berbice had the highest mortality rate among plantation colonies, largely because of unsanitary water supplies and dependence on plantation managers for subsistence. Violence and white supremacy upheld the regime, but on those counts Browne does not find Berbice to be exceptional. He distances himself from historiography based "on unspoken assumptions that continue to shape the study of slavery, including the notion that enslaved people's primary goal was freedom and that their lives can best
... understood by focusing on the hot and cold wars they waged against their enslavers" (4). His revisionism requires an evidentiary tautology: to gain a voice in the record, enslaved people tacitly had to accept slavery and then explain how they had suffered exceptionally while fulfilling their obligations. In counterpoint to Browne's revisionism, it bears remembering that the Dutch mainland colonies were synonymous with profound repudiations of European slave regimes. Upriver regions were heartlands of grand marronage. In 1763-64 enslaved people in Berbice waged the greatest slave rebellion before that on Saint-Domingue. During the 1790s there was a five-year civil war over slavery in Suriname. And in 1723 roughly thirteen thousand enslaved people in Demerara launched a short-lived, initially nonlethal, protest against the government's supposed withholding of a parliamentary declaration of emancipation. Browne's book on Berbice gets us more deeply into the lives of enslaved people in the Caribbean than any other work of nonfiction that comes readily to mind. It bears favorable comparison with Emmanuel Le Roi Ladurie's Montaillou (1975): a deep microhistory, based on fortuitously rich sources that a gifted historian uses to illuminate a previously obscure world with profound humanity. Accordingly, Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean won the biannual Elsa Goveia Book Prize for excellence from the Association of Caribbean Historians.