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Ransom, escape and debt repayment in the Sulu Zone, 1750–1898

Warren, J.F.ORCID: 0000-0003-0055-6730 (2014) Ransom, escape and debt repayment in the Sulu Zone, 1750–1898. In: Campbell, G. and Stanziani, A., (eds.) Bonded Labour and Debt in the Indian Ocean World. Pickering & Chatto, London, England, pp. 87-102.


In this essay, I examine the origin and relationship of debt and emancipation within the context of a flourishing captive exchange economy in the Sulu Zone. In the process of exchange and emancipation, former slaves or captives invariably accrued a level of indebtedness. This debt implied a shift in ‘master’ from the Sultanate to colonial officials, ships' captains or land owners who had arranged their redemption. In this context, Muslim and Spanish colonial traditions of servitude and forced labour meshed with the framework of emancipation as a direct consequence of either the act of ransom or escape. A system of transportation and de facto servitude was formed whereby the emancipated slave or former captive became part of a dependent colonial workforce. The indebted former slave then performed services for their new masters and produced material goods until the debt for the granting of their freedom and/or transportation was repaid. Slave trading and the acts of ransom and manumission provided labour resources, redistributed wealth and fostered kinship connections that helped to integrate seemingly antagonistic groups – despite these practices further encouraging cycles of violence and slave raiding. Set against this background, debt repayment, as a consequence of ransom, escape and/or transportation must be viewed as one of the corrosive effects of the slave trade on the inter-connected nature of Muslim and colonial societies in the Philippines.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Publisher: Pickering & Chatto
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