Slaves, Freedmen and Indentured Laborers in Colonial Mauritius (African Studies)
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This social and economic history of the island of Mauritius, from French colonization in 1721 to the beginnings of modern political life in the mid-1930s, emphasizes the importance of domestic capital formation, particularly in the sugar industry. Describing changing relationships among different elements in the society, slave, free and maroon, and East Indian indentured populations, it shows how these were conditioned by demographic changes, world markets, and local institutions. It brings the Mauritian case to the attention of scholars engaged in the comparative study of slavery and plantation systems.
approximately 5 percent of the island's slave population could be expected to maroon each year. By the early 1820s, the annual incidence of maroonage frequently ranged from 11 to 13 percent or more of the colony's servile population. Secondly, most of these fugitives were adult males, a source of additional concern to a white population worried not only about its small numbers vis-aÁ-vis the local slave population, but also by its stereotypical images of the nonwhite males in its midst. As Baron
post-emancipation era, 1839±1851 107 Only 4,000±5,000 ex-apprentices agreed to work as agricultural laborers in 1839, most of whom did so only because they had no where else to go or had been coerced or tricked into signing contracts by local magistrates.12 The following year, hardly any former apprentices could be found on the sugar estates. While some freedmen eventually returned to the plantations, the number who did so would remain small. Of the 48,330 ex-apprentices and their descendants
which they had once been enslaved cannot be explained, however, solely in terms of their connections to or dependency upon these estates. The rural districts also housed a sizable and well-established free population of color. While many whites asserted that gens de couleur and slaves regarded one another with suspicion, if not antagonism,75 others noted that the relationship between elements of these two 120 Slaves, Freedmen, and Indentured Laborers in Colonial Mauritius populations was
139 the ®rst decades of immigration to those aspects of Indian life that did not bear directly upon their service as indentured laborers or their potential threat to public order. The commissions that investigated immigrant living and working conditions did likewise. The 1872 Royal Commission of Inquiry, for example, did little more than acknowledge that some Old Immigrants had acquired property during the 1860s. Only when the grand morcellement became an increasingly visible part of the
Immigrants began to lease land no later than 1850. While most of these early leases covered the use of plots encompassing only 1 or 2 arpents for just a year or two, in some instances substantial tracts were rented for extended periods of time. In one of the earliest such transactions on record, Nareyna, a laborer who had arrived during the immigration of 1834±38, rented 25 arpents already planted in cane for four years at an annual cost of $150.20 Other Old Immigrants such as Mungroo, no. 5324/