Protestantism in the Origins of Seventeenth-Century Barbadian Servitude and Slavery
Seventeenth-century Barbados drew on centuries of Christian tradition to help develop its reliance on plantation slavery and servitude. The majority of its indentured servants were “cordially loathed” Irish Roman Catholics, but, in the early 1640s they were surpassed by enslaved Africans. To a large degree, the English based their rationale of slavery on Protestant tradition which drew from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scriptural interpretation suggesting that enslavement were possible if the enslaved were infidels. Officials in the English metropole and Barbados created legal distinctions grounded in Christian tradition that maintained African enslavement was biblically sanctioned and, therefore, legitimate. Barbadian colonists prevented Africans from joining the church to protect slavery and plantation industry, and they strongly resisted those who baptized, catechized, or proselytized Africans. Protestant Christian tradition was inextricably linked to the seventeenth-century development of plantation slavery and servitude in the English Caribbean.