Damned Notions of Liberty: Slavery, Culture and Power in Colonial Mexico, 1640-1769

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Prior to 1640, when the regular slave trade to New Spain ended, colonial Mexico was the second largest slaveholding society in the New World. Even so, slaves of African descent in Mexico were surrounded by a much larger indigenous majority, and by the second half of the seventeenth century there were more free Afromexicans than slaves in the colony. While it seems logical to assume that these unique demographic conditions may have created a situation ripe for slaves to challenge their oppression, Proctor's study reexamines those assumptions. Damned Notions of Liberty explores the lived experience of slavery from the perspective of slaves themselves to reveal how the enslaved may have conceptualized and contested their subordinated social positions in New Spain's middle colonial period (roughly 1630 1760s). Relying heavily on trials from civil, ecclesiastical, and Inquisitorial courts, the study offers a detailed examination of some of the central issues to the culture of slavery labor, family, cultural community, individual and collective agency, and access to liberation to provide a more integrated picture of slavery in colonial Mexico.