Rum, Oaths, and Slave Uprisings in the Age of Revolution

Age of Revolutions

By Frederick H. Smith

Alcohol is an important prism through which to view the Atlantic world during Age of Revolution. Scholars have documented the political economic structure of the rum trade, its role in sparking the American Revolution, and the spectacular levels of alcohol consumption by European and American soldiers across revolutionary arenas. Alcohol use among enslaved peoples in revolutionary contexts, however, has been largely overlooked. This post explores how enslaved peoples in the Caribbean integrated rum into the many slave uprisings and conspiracies inspired by political upheaval during the Age of Revolution.[1]

Rum distilling emerged in the British and French Caribbean in the 1640s and rum was central to the economic development of Barbados, Jamaica, St. Domingue, and other Caribbean sugar islands. As a result, rum was readily available to enslaved peoples who lived and worked on Caribbean sugar estates. Planters doled out rum as part of weekly rations, for…

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