Monday, January 12, 2009

The Bilboes




One method of restraint was known as the Bilboes, which consisted of a long iron bar attached to the floor. Free to slide along the bar were a number of hinged iron rings which were riveted about the ankles of the prisoners, forcing them to sit or lie down until the restraint was released. The word is a corruption of the Spanish town Bilbao, for when the Armada was defeated in 1588, chests of these shackles were found in the galleons, reputedly to pinion English captives. In actual fact similar devices were widely used for naval prisoners on board ship and the Royal Navy was equipped with them until the eighteenth century.


Eventually they found their way to the West Indies, where they were used during the slave trade era. Ten or more slaves would be secured in bilboes, being released each day before being taken to work in the plantations.

4 comments:

  1. I write a blog called Lexicolatry covering interesting words from the OED. I'm covering 'bilboes' on the 20th June, and wanted to ask if I could use this picture to illustrate them. I will of course link back to and credit you, as it's the best picture I would fine. Many thanks. Ed

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your inquiry, however, I do not own this image. This is an educational blog, without advertisements or sponsors, I simply supply the images to help the reader understand the text more completely.

      For years, I incorrectly called this torture devise "shackles." As my research into the topic of slavery, it seems important to correctly identify various torture implements by their correct name.

      Thanks again for your comments.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

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  2. I published my article on bilboes today with a link to this post as a reference on their use in the slave trade. This is a fascinating (if harrowing) blog and I shall follow it with interest. Best regards.

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    Replies
    1. I like your word choice, "harrowing."

      A few months ago, I unveiled this site to one of my older aunts ans she shook as she shrieked, "Oh, Lord! Jesus, what have you done" We didn't even look beyond the homepage, and I thought I was going to have to administer either smelling salts or CPR.

      I said to my aunt, "Hey auntie, we haven't even seen the rotting corpses, dismembered body parts, decapitated heads, or bloated bodies swinging in the wind."

      It broke my heart when she started to cry. But, I knew that her strong emotions were in part from being blindsided by a history that has been whitewashed and sanitized. History is not clean and tidy. No, it's messy, gritty, brutal, contested and positively riveting. The institution of slavery by its nature is merciless and cruel. It personifies man's inhumanity to man in the most viciously heartless manner. Since, it's disingenuous to put a smiley face on enslavement, this blog just shines a little light in the dark corners that our collective historic memory tries to forget.

      BTW, I like your blog.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

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