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Accounting, coercion and social control during apprenticeship: Converting slave workers to wage workers in the British West Indies, c.1834-1838

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Thomas Tyson, Professor David McCollum-Oldroyd, Professor Richard Fleischman


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The paper describes the nature and role of accounting during apprenticeship – the transition period from slavery to waged labor in the British West Indies. Planters, colonial legislators, and Parliamentary leaders all feared that freed slaves would flee to open lands unless they were bound to plantations. Thus, rather than relying entirely on economic incentives to maintain viable plantations, the Abolition Act and subsequent local ordinances embodied a complex synthesis of paternalism, categorization, penalties, punishments, and social controls that were collectively intended to create a class of willing waged laborers. The primary role of accounting within this structure was to police work arrangements rather than to induce apprentices to become willing workers. This post-emancipation, pre-industrial formalization of punishment, valuation, and task systems furnish powerful insights into the extent of accountancy’s role in sustaining Caribbean slave regimes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tyson T, Oldroyd D, Fleischman RK

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Accounting Historians Journal

Year: 2005

Volume: 32

Issue: 2

Pages: 201-231

ISSN (print): 0148-4184

Publisher: Academy of Accounting Historians


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