Legal Frameworks and Economic Practices Around Slave Labour in Colonial Society


Burnside Hall Room 107 (via video-conference), 805 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 0B9, CA

As part of the series “Slavery Old and New: Labour Exploitation through the Ages and around the Globe”, Prof. Jean-François Niort (Université des Antilles). Jean-François Niort est Docteur en science politique (Paris 1), et maître de conférences à l'Université des Antilles et de la Guyane depuis 2004.

Lunch will be provided, RSVPs to oppenheimer [at] are appreciated.

Legal Frameworks and Economic Practices Around Slave Labour in Colonial Society: The Case of the French West Indies (Guadeloupe-Martinique) in the 18th Century 

Kindly note that this talk will be in French.


This talk aims to clarify the relationship between the legal frameworks and economic practices around slave labour in colonial society of the Little French West Indies ("Petites Antilles" : Guadeloupe et Martinique) through the evolution of legal rules in the 18th century. Two enactments were particularly significant: the Royal decree ("Edit") of March 1685 regulating slavery in the French colonies (commonly referred to as the "Code Noir" or ‘’Black Code’’) and the Decree ("Ordonnance") of the Governor General of the West Indies on the ‘’police générale des nègres et gens de couleur’’ of December 1783.

Indeed, by comparing the two enactments and their incentives, we notice, on one hand, the nature and magnitude of the economic practices already identified by historians (such as G. Bebien, J. Fallope, A. Perotin-Dumon, F. Régent, C. Oudin-Bastide). On the other hand, we also uncover the modalities with which colonial authorities have tried to supervise and regulate these economic practices since the 17th century, with varying success.

All of this confirms the overall pattern of a highly complex colonial society where each group of social actors (different social categories of slaves and owner-inhabitants, central State, as well as different types of local colonial authorities) defends its own economic interests in the context of a common strategy of avoidance and circumvention of the law - which led to the recurrent reaffirmation of the legal norm - to its solidification and adaptation nearly proportional to its degree of practical inefficiency.



Back to top