Presentations by JCB Fellows Michael Becker and Felice Physioc

October 17, 2018 - 4:00pm

Michael Becker (Duke University), Paul W. McQuillen Fellow

"Against Their Owner": Enslaved People In Their Own Defense and Jamaica's Councils of Protection

In June 1831, Catherine Whitfield and Ann King, an enslaved mother and her daughter, sought the intervention of local magistrates against their owners, the Jackson family, headed by John Rawleigh Jackson, lead custos of the parish of Port Royal. For daring to speak back to orders and defend each other, Whitfield and King had been confined nightly to the stocks for nearly a year, brutally whipped, and otherwise maltreated. In this presentation, Michael Becker describes and analyzes the complex consequences when enslaved women tried to hold the most powerful family in the parish to account. Further, he situates the Jackson case within a long and complex history of enslaved people in the British Caribbean turning to the law to protect themselves against owners and overseers. He suggests how this history complicates our understanding of enslaved people's engagement with the colonial state. Becker also unpacks the work these stories do in a trans-Atlantic battle about the possibility of constructing "a more humane" slavery, the defensibility of gradual abolitionism, or the imperative to immediately end slavery by any means necessary.

Felice Physioc (Princeton University), Maury A. Bromsen Memorial Fellow

Print in Practice: The Press as a Bureaucratic Tool in Río de la Plata, 1780-1800

The historiography of early print culture in Río de la Plata has been inexorably tied to the independence movements that broke out in the first decades of the nineteenth century. Was it the explosion of the printing press in the late eighteenth century that helped pave the road to revolution? While this debate has produced important discoveries for the history of the printing press in the Spanish Americas, it has limited our understanding of print, ascribing it as a catalyst for revolution, and whose political character shaped the public sphere. In this talk, Felice Physioc instead pauses to refocus the discussion by examining the practices and uses of the printing press in the Spanish Americas. Using Río de la Plata as a case study, she links the printing press to a constellation of institutions within Spanish imperial bureaucracy. Using bibliographic sources found within the JCB, she examines the printing press within this locality first and foremost as a tool for bureaucracy during a time of reform and reorganization.


The reading room will close to researchers at 3:30pm.