Review: The Scots who profited from slavery

Review: The Scots who profited from slavery

Robert Shiels welcomes an important new study on the Glasgow Sugar Aristocracy, the Clydeside merchants who made fortunes from Caribbean misery.

The nature and extent of the economic impact of Caribbean slavery in British society is a highly topical and political issue. There is no doubt that many more prosperous members of Scottish society had links and thereby profited from their connections with the colonies.

Amongst these beneficiaries, the Glasgow Sugar Aristocracy, a grouping of West India merchants and planters, became active before the emancipation of chattel slavery in the British West Indies in 1834. Their interest seems not to have been wholly philanthropic.

Dr Mullen’s study traces the development of merchant capital and poses interrelated questions during an era of rapid transformation: for example, what impact did the private investments of West India merchants and colonial adventurers have on metropolitan society and the economy?

The examination considers the fortunes of temporary Scottish economic migrants who travelled to some of the wealthiest of the Caribbean islands, and presents a survey of repatriated slavery fortunes for Scots in Jamaica, Grenada and Trinidad before emancipation in 1834.

The whole book has been made available generously to download and it is available here. Given the understandably emotional nature of the subject matter of slavery, close attention is given by academic commentators to new publications and a review of Dr Mullen’s study is available here.

The Glasgow Sugar Aristocracy: Scotland and Caribbean Slavery, 1775–1838 by Stephen Mullen. Published by University of London Press, 340 pp.

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