This book report seeks to examine John Campbell’s Beyond Massa - Sugar Management in the British Caribbean, 1770-1834, published in 2012 by Calaloux Publications. Researching information about the author, I found that “John F. Campbell, Ph.D., Lecturer in the Department of History, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and his Masters of Philosophy at The UWI, St. Augustine, majoring in History. He received his second Masters of Philosophy as well as his Ph.D. from Cambridge University, England. Since 2001, John has lectured at The UWI where he specializes on aspects of contemporary Caribbean civilisation and culture.” (The UWI, St. Augustine). From this information, it is clear that the author is well qualified to write a book on such a multi-dimensional topic, and knowing about the author raises the expectations of quality and content even before reading the book.
It can be said that Beyond Massa is an intelligently written piece of literature that strikes a balance on being both engaging and informative as it gives a revisionist perspective of chattel slavery and plantation life from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century. The book’s main source of evidence to tell the tale of the business and social relationships between the enslaved and their European masters are correspondences between plantation manager Simon Taylor, and his boss, Chaloner Arcedekne, the absentee owner of the Golden Grove plantation, located in the British-controlled island of Jamaica.
There is a popular quote that reads “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Yet, by virtue of human nature, most of us do. Judging ‘Beyond Massa’ by its cover, I thought that the picture on the front cover inaccurately depicted jubilant slaves. I wondered what they were so happy about. Then as I panned to the right side of the picture, I saw a lady holding up broken shackles, which then allowed me to believe that I was looking at an illustration of freed slaves. I thought that the slave...