Jamaican inventories

An important addition to the LBS database and website is the inclusion of Jamaican inventories. These can be accessed here (or simply by clicking on the Inventories tab at the top of the page). These have been given to us through the generosity of Professor Trevor Burnard, the recently-appointed new Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull.

The original inventories are in the Jamaican Archives. Over many years Trevor Burnard has transcribed over 10,000 of them from the period 1674-1784. (Almost 60% of them are in the period 1740-1779.) They are an invaluable record of wealth in Jamaica, not least because they help to establish the range and extent of slave-holding in the late C17th and C18th centuries. Professor Burnard has drawn on them extensively in his book, Planters, Merchants, and Slaves. Plantation Societies in British America, 1650-1820 (Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 2015) and has discussed the nature of the source and the strengths and limitations of them in an appendix in that book.

Users of the inventories on this website are very strongly recommended to read that, which you can do here.

You should also consult the descriptions of the information in the inventory records which can be accessed here: Inventories: fields of information..

Where we have identified a person in the inventories who is also in our main database the listing shows this by including their ID number in [ ] following the name. Clicking on the number will take you to the main biographical entry for the person. So too, if you are looking at a person's biographical entry and there is a link on the right-hand side of the page to Inventories, clicking that will take you to the inventory details for them. Identifying those with existing LBS entries is a work in progress: as we find more connections the inventories listing will be updated.

The inventories can be used for many purposes. While this is not the place for a detailed discussion it's worth noting that they can be used, for example, for charting ownership of enslaved men, women and children though it should be noted that not everyone for whom there is an inventory was an owner of enslaved people. Almost 2,500 of the listed individuals owned no enslaved people; on the other hand, over 7,700 did. There are many who owned large numbers of enslaved, like Peter Beckford (1673-1735) whose ownership of 1,669 enslaved men, women and children was valued at £33,510 while his whole estate was valued at £145,749. On the other hand, there were even more who owned small numbers of the enslaved, such as Ralph Adams, a carpenter, who owned 1 male enslaved person valued at £37, with his whole estate worth £551. Many women owned relatively small numbers of the enslaved. For example, Agnes James owned 3 male and 5 female enslaved in 1772 with a total value of £243 in an estate worth £275.