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The University of Southampton
HistoryPart of Humanities

Research project: The Fall of the Planter Class in the British Atlantic World

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Dr Christer Petley (History) is working on a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, exploring the dramatic decline in the wealth and power of planters in the British empire at the end of the eighteenth century.

The planters were a truly trans-Atlantic group. They owned huge sugar plantations in the Caribbean, raising export staples for European markets, and relying on the transatlantic slave trade for the essential labour that allowed their uniquely profitable system to operate.
These British slaveholders were pioneers of economic globalisation: one of the richest and most mobile and powerful groups in an Atlantic empire that connected places like Bristol, Benin, Barbados, and Boston into a single, complex system.
After 1783, planter power began to wane. The British government sought new ways to organise the empire, following the American Revolution. And the rise of popular antislavery in Britain helped show that the profitable business practices of the planters were also deeply damaging and shameful, placing them at the heart of an empire-wide scandal that ended with the abolition of the slave trade (1807) and the ending of colonial slavery (1838).

"A Planter in his Morning Dress”. Courtesy of the Hartley Library Special Collections, University of Southampton.
Surinam Planter
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