“Consider the readings you have done in Brown and Berlin…Where do these historians agree and disagree on the

development of colonial slavery, particularly in the Chesapeake region?” In Berlin’s analysis of the African-American slavery Generations of Captivity, he divides the history of slavery into “generations”, overlapping groups of slave families and individuals that are not necessarily descended from one another but inheriting alike the yoke of bondage. Berlin’s analysis is thorough in his description of each “generation” and how they differed from one another and his “generational” approach to the history of slavery is as didactic as it is dramatic. However, Berlin does little in his book to explain how the race-based system of slavery came to exist in colonial America and how, if at all, the “generations” model explains its development. In Brown’s Good Wives, Nasty Wenches & Anxious Patriarchs, on the other hand, her original analysis of the development of slavery in colonial Virginia is very thorough, if at times difficult to untangle. According to Brown, race-based slavery could not have developed in colonial Virginia without having its base in traditional English gender ideology. In this view, women occupied a subordinate position to men in the “natural order” and, hence, their subordinate position in society was deemed appropriate and “natural”. As the English began to venture outside of their own domain they encountered culures whose gender-ways differed radically from their own and even appeared to be an inversion of English gender-ways, where men were like women and women were like men. These first encounters on the “gender frontier” gave the English a verbal and symbolic discourse with which to define themselves as Englishmen. The racial basis of slavery was solidified through the application of this legal and political discourse of femininity to describe black slaves (a process ongoing since the early 17th century, but

intensified after Bacon’s Rebellion), thereby by linking their subordination to that of women and, likewise, “naturalizing” it. Brown’s explanation of the existence, early on in the development of slavery, of free blacks is that they had managed to appropriate the trappings of “masculinity” as the English defined it, linking themselves with the ruling class and securing their status as freedmen. In this Berlin seems to agree. His “charter generation” of “Atlantic creoles" came into slavery equipped with the cultural know-how to regain their freedom and through the use of patronage and ingratiating themselves to their owners they achieved just that. However, Brown’s and Berlin’s explanations of the consolidation of race-based slavery in the late 17th century differ considerably. Brown’s analysis centers on the social and political consequences of Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676, in which a white “alliance” between slave-owners and poor whites was formed based on the exclusion of women and non-whites. This alliance was the final stage in the process of ensuring slave-owner’s legal power over slaves by the exclusive definition of “black” as “slave” and “white” as “free”. According to Berlin, who called these slaves the “plantation generation”, it was not the English colonial’s quest for a masculine identity that doomed them to a life of servitude but, rather, the slaves’ own inability to ingratiate themselves to a white patron and lift themselves up out of their condition, as had their predecessors the Atlantic creoles. While Berlin does concede that (only after Bacon’s Rebellion) racial difference “became the basis of allegiance” between the elites and poor whites and “the foundation upon which the social order rested” (59), his analysis of the rise of the plantation economy in the Chesapeake seems not to go beyond a few sentences about the planter’s insatiable appetite for more land and profits and the increasing weight of laws

discriminating against blacks. He even seems to imply that the racialization of slavery was a by-product of the rise of the plantation economy (the transformation from a “society with slaves” to a “slave society”), an event precipitated solely by the planters and the power they wielded as elites (54). As a result, his interpretation of the development of slavery leaves much to be said and reveals his “generations” model as an inadequate interpretive device. Where Brown’s analysis is a carefully executed narration of the causes of slavery’s rise in colonial Virginia, Berlin’s analysis rests more in the functional differences between the “charter” and “plantation generations” of slaves than in any causal explanation of their evolution or their relation to the American system of slavery.

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