1st Edition

Slavery and Emotions in the Atlantic World

Edited By Beth R. Wilson, Emily West Copyright 2025
    198 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book explores the history of slavery in the Atlantic World through the lens of emotion. Combining methods from the history of emotions with those from slavery studies often for the first time, this collection provides new and important perspectives on the role that emotion played in various slave societies across the Atlantic World.

    Exploring slavery in Cuba, the United States, and British and French colonies, this book reveals how emotions were central to enslavers’ creation, justification, and perpetuation of the system of slavery. Simultaneously, chapters also evidence the ways in which the enslaved utilised emotion as a form of refusal, resistance, and survival. Finally, the book considers the legacies and afterlives of slavery, including how emotion can inform our understanding of slavery’s longer-term implications.

    Taken together, the studies in this collection highlight the importance of placing emotions firmly at the centre of the study of Atlantic Slavery. This book was originally published as a special issue of the journal Slavery & Abolition.

    Beth R. Wilson and Emily West

    Part I: Slavery’s Emotional Politics, Regimes, and Refuges 


    1. The Poison Pen: Slavery, Poison and Fear in the Antebellum Press
    Erin Austin Dwyer


    2. “Convince them that you are a tyrant [because] the negro must fear:” The Performance and Appearance of Confidence Among the Enslavers of South Carolina and Cuba.
    Liana Beatrice Valerio


    3. ‘Happiness in Havana? Dia de Reyes as an Emotional Refuge in Colonial Cuba
    Will Perez


    Part II: Enslaved Relationships and Affective Ties in the U.S.


    4. “Horrible enough to stir a man’s soul”: Enslaved Men, Emotions, and Heterosexual Intimacy in the Antebellum US South

    Kaisha Esty


    5. “Her Work of Love”: Forced Separations, Maternal Grief, and Enslaved Mothers’ Emotional Practices in the Antebellum US South

    Beth R. Wilson


    6. “She died from grief”: Trauma and Emotion in Information Wanted Advertisements
    Katherine Burns


    Part III: Enslaved People’s Emotional Vocabularies and Expressions


    7. Trials of Enslavers in Former French Colonies in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: Testimonies of the Enslaved between Gratitude and Fear
    Teresa Göltl

    8. Enslavement, Emotions and Oppositional Insolence in the Slave Society of British Guiana

    Gordon Gill


    Part IV: Emotions and the Afterlives of Slavery


    9.Memory, Trauma and ‘Affective Autonomy’: Displaying Emotion and Trauma at the International Slavery Museum
    Matthew Jones


    10. ‘Whose Emotions?’

    Hannah Cusworth



    Beth Wilson is BA funded Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Reading, UK, specialising in the history of slavery in the US South and the history of emotions.

    Emily West is Professor of American history at the University of Reading, UK, specialising in the history of slavery, gender, and women in the antebellum US South.