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Surviving slavery: mortality at Mesopotamia, a Jamaican sugar estate, 1762–1832

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  • Martin Forster
  • S. D. Smith

Abstract

We use survival analysis to study the mortality experience of 1111 slaves living on the British West Indian sugar plantation of Mesopotamia for seven decades prior to the Emancipation Act of 1833. Using three different concepts of analysis time and employing non-parametric and semi-parametric models, our results suggest that female slaves first observed under Joseph Foster Barham II's period of ownership (1789-1832) faced an increased hazard of death compared with those first observed during his predecessor's tenure. We find no such relationship for males. We cite as a possible explanation the employment regime operated by Foster Barham II, which allocated increasing numbers of females to gang labour in the cane fields. A G-estimation model used to compensate for the 'healthy worker survivor effect' estimates that continuous exposure to such work reduced survival times by between 20 and 40 per cent. Our findings are compared with previous studies of Mesopotamia and related to the wider literature investigating the roles of fertility and mortality in undermining the sustainability of Caribbean slave populations.
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Suggested Citation

  • Martin Forster & S. D. Smith, 2011. "Surviving slavery: mortality at Mesopotamia, a Jamaican sugar estate, 1762–1832," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 174(4), pages 907-929, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jorssa:v:174:y:2011:i:4:p:907-929
    DOI: j.1467-985X.2011.00713.x
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    1. Tunali, Insan & Pritchett, Jonathan B, 1997. "Cox Regression with Alternative Concepts of Waiting Time: The New Orleans Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1853," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 1-25, Jan.-Feb..
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