A thorough and compelling study of an obscure legal case that changed the face of slavery in the British Empire.
The story follows Arthur Hodge–a plantation owner and member of the societal elite both in the West Indies and in England–who was tried and hanged for the murder of one of his slaves. Hodge had ordered punishment by flogging, and the slave died from the subsequent lack of care and festering wounds. This seemingly small case carried monumental repercussions that set a legal precedent and allowed for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Andrew skillfully weaves the many characters’ stories together, and delves into all the relevant factors, creating a rich, nuanced portrait of the milieu before and during the trial. He also provides valuable insight into the daily lives of the slaves on the island: the physically demanding and dangerous jobs they were forced to perform, how they spent their little leisure time, their spiritual and religious involvements and how they were (mis)treated by their owners. He presents the trial nearly verbatim, recounting in vivid detail the horrible tortures Hodge inflicted upon his slaves. In addition, his writing is clear and concise and his descriptions lyrical. Following the names of all the councilors, lawyers and state-appointed governing officers involved in the trial may confuse readers–a list detailing everyone’s involvement would have proved helpful. However, Andrew does include informative inserts such as a map, pictures and relevant documents, as well as a bibliography and over 40 pages of notes.
A well researched and absorbing account of a case that still resonates.