restricted access Domesticating Labor: An Illicit Slave Trade to The British Straits Settlements, 1811–1845
Abstract

Abstract:

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the EIC and the British government were only marginally concerned with abolishing slavery in its eastern territories; their attentions were securely focused on the brutal inhumanity of the Atlantic system. This essay highlights the indifference of most officials to the illegal traffic of women and girls, whom they often labeled as debtors, coming into the Straits of Malacca. The incredible gender disparity within the British Straits Settlements, created by the floods of laboring, unattached men, and lack of immigrating women, was overwhelming motivation to begin refining legal terms, and turn a blind eye to what was clearly a thriving trade in non-European slaves. This case study demonstrates that strongly held beliefs about class, gender, domesticity, and "native" sexuality fundamentally shaped what officials believed was (and was not) slavery within the Straits and how they reacted to what they encountered.


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