After the British abolition of slavery on 1 August 1834 most British colonies imposed an apprenticeship system that required former slaves to work for their masters without compensation for up to six years. Apprentices across the Caribbean refused to work, often provoking severe retaliation and imprisonment.
Here James Williams, aged ‘about eighteen years old’, recounts his experiences as an apprentice in Jamaica. He argues that life became worse under apprenticeship due to the increased role of magistrates and police in meting out punishment, such as the use of treadmills. The illustration at the start of the book depicts men and women being punished in a ‘Jamaica house of correction’. Williams’ account was instrumental in bringing apprenticeship to an end in 1838 – two years earlier than planned.