Accounting, coercion and social control during Apprenticeship: Converting slave workers to wage workers in the British West Indies

  1. Lookup NU author(s)
  2. Professor Thomas Tyson
  3. Professor David McCollum-Oldroyd
Author(s)Tyson T, Oldroyd D, Fleischman D
Publication type Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)
Conference NameAmerican Accounting Association
Conference LocationOrlando, Florida, USA
Year of Conference2004
Legacy Date8-11 August 2004
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The paper describes the nature and role of accounting during the period of transition from slavery to waged labor in the British West Indies. Planters, colonial legislators, and Parliamentary leaders all feared that freed slaves would flee plantations for open lands. Thus, the Abolition Act and subsequent local ordinances embodied a complex synthesis of paternalism, categorization, penalties, punishments, and social controls that were collectively intended to create a class of willing waged laborers. The primary role of accounting was to police the arrangements rather than to induce behavioral change. In the context of BWI apprenticeship, accounting was not simply an objective, unbiased calculative technique. It was a component of a complex social structure sustaining the vestiges of an inherently immoral society. Furthermore, the post-emancipation formalization of punishment, valuation, and task systems furnish powerful insights into the extent of accountancy’s role in supporting Caribbean slave regimes.