Frontiers of servitude

Slavery in narratives of the early French Atlantic

By Michael Harrigan

Frontiers of servitude


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-2226-1
  • Pages: 344
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: April 2018
  • BIC Category: Early Modern History, History, History & Archaeology, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Colonialism & Post-Colonialism, HISTORY / Europe / France, Humanities / Slavery & abolition of slavery, Humanities / European history, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, Humanities / Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700
  • Series: Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Studies


Frontiers of servitude explores the fundamental ideas behind early French thinking about Atlantic slavery in little-examined printed and archival sources, focusing on what 'made' a slave, what was unique about Caribbean labour, and what strategic approaches meant in interacting with slaves. From c. 1620 -1750, authoritative discourses were confronted with new social realities, and servitude was accompanied by continuing moral uncertainties. Slavery gave the ownership of labour and even time, but slaves were a troubling presence. Colonists were wary of what slaves knew, and were aware of how imperfect the strategies used to control them were. Commentators were conscious of the fragility of colonial society, with its social and ecological frontiers, its renegade slaves, and its population born to free fathers and slave mothers. This book will interest specialists and more general readers interested in the history and literature of the Atlantic and Caribbean.


'This extremely important book provides a nuanced analysis and wealth of information that demands the attention of scholars from a range of fields. It brings to light a crucial historical context and textual corpus that should advance urgent conversations in early modern French studies.'
H-France Review


1. Narrative and servitude
2. Slave economies
3. The labouring body
4. Spheres of knowledge
5. Tensions, order, and the body
6. Society and slaves


Michael Harrigan is a specialist in the history and literature of early modern European initiatives in the Americas, Africa and Asia. His publications include Veiled Encounters: Representing the Orient in 17th-Century French Travel Literature (2008)

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