The Army and Slavery in the British Caribbean: Creating The West India Regiments 1795-1820

November 27, 2017 @ Noon

Tim Lockley, “The Army and Slavery in the British Caribbean: Creating The West India Regiments 1795-1820”

Tim Lockley, Professor of History and Director of the Humanities Research Centre at the University of Warwick, UK, and Associate Editor of Slavery & Abolition is currently engaged in a research project on the West India Regiments: black soldiers recruited to fight in the British Army in the Caribbean. His particular angle is about medicine and race, and how military surgeons helped to fashion a discourse about black bodies.

The British Army in the West Indies was faced with a crisis in the mid-1790s, disease was wiping out regiments within months of arrival from Europe. Britain risked losing valuable sugar islands such as Jamaica and Barbados to France. The solution was the formation of new regiments of black soldiers, some of whom came from Caribbean islands, but most were purchased direct from slave ships coming from Africa. Medical theories about race were crucial to the decision to create regiments of black soldiers, particularly the understanding that Africans were resistant to tropical diseases.

For more:

Africa’s Sons Under Arms uses the British West India Regiments to explore the relationships between the arming of people of African descent and the changing nature of racial thought from the late 18th to early 20th centuries.

West India Regiment at the British Library presents articles, images, and teaching resources.


C.L. Brown & P. Morgan, ed. Arming Slaves From Classical Times to the Modern Age (Yale University Press, 2006)

Roger Buckley, Slaves in Red Coats (Yale University Press, 1979)

James E. Caulfeild, One hundred years’ history of the 2nd batt. West India regiment from date of raising 1795 to 1898 (London, 1899)

A. B. Ellis, The History of the First West India Regiment (London 1885)

David Geggus, Slavery, war and Revolution: The British Occupation of Saint Domingue, 1793-1798 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982)



Photographs and prints of the West India Regiments