From Discovering Bristol "Apprenticeship: slavery by another name?": Slavery had existed for about 200 years in British colonies, such as the island of Jamaica in the Caribbean. The system of slavery was ended in 1838. The campaign which played a part in bringing this about was called ‘Abolition’. Abolition meant that the actual buying and selling of slaves was made illegal. The next stage was for the emancipation of the slaves, to make them free. Slave owners fought hard against the emancipation of their slaves. When the Emancipation Act was finally passed in 1833, it did not automatically give the slaves their freedom. This was because it was felt that the slaves were not used to being independent.
Instead it was thought that they needed help and training to be free men and women. Slaves therefore became ‘apprentices’ and continued to work for low wages under their old masters. Supposedly, they were being trained to be free. Because of the way that this system worked, the end of slavery did not really mean freedom for the slaves. Apprenticeship was seen by many as another form of slavery. True freedom came in 1838, when the apprenticeship system was abolished. But even then, many of the freed slaves had no option but to continue working for their old masters for low wages.
Description: One side of a commemorative medallion, celebrating the abolition of slavery, 1834. Copyright: Copyright BCC Museum; Object ID:0.4259
Several medallions were issued to mark the Emancipation Act of 1834. They all show freed slaves celebrating their new freedom. In fact, the Emancipation Act (or law) of 1834 did not come into effect immediately. The slaves were made apprentices, which many abolitionists considered was simply slavery under a different name.
The Emancipation Act of 1833 came into effect on 1 August 1834. It was the final law to be made in the campaign to end slavery in British territories . The new law freed immediately those slaves under the age of six years old. Older slaves were to be ‘apprenticed’ for up to eight years. Traditionally, an apprentice is someone who is taken on, for four to seven years, by another person to be taught a trade. The apprentice usually receives board and lodging in return for the work they do whilst learning. The term apprenticeship was applied to the stage between slavery and freedom. The idea was that the slaves were ‘learning’ how to be free. They worked as before for their former owner, for three-quarters of their time, and could work for others for the rest of the week and receive a small wage. This period was supposed to get the ex-slaves prepared for their freedom in eight years time at the end of the apprenticeship. The situation was little changed from slavery.
Girls On Cocoa Plantation : Trinidad (British West Indies). Read more: http://chestofbooks.com/food/ingredients/Cocoa/Chapter-XII-Cocoa-In-Ashanti.html#ixzz1idvALlTI
In the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Bermuda the plantation owners realised that it was cheaper to pay a daily wage than to feed and house their apprentices (ex-slaves). The plantation owners therefore freed their slaves at once.
Fermenting Cocoa: Grenada (British West Indies)
The anti-slavery movement had not quite won the battle to end slavery, as the ex-slaves were not much better off under the new system. A campaign began against ‘apprenticeship’. Petitions, as advertised in this banner, were popular ways of showing support, and attracted the working class as well as the middle-class liberals. This banner would have been hung from a window or balcony to publicise the petition being circulated.
Description: Commemorative medallion for the extinction of colonial slavery, 1834. The inscription reads: ‘This is the work of the Lord, it is marvellous in our eyes’, a quote from the Bible, Psalm 118. Copyright: Copyright BCC Museum. Object ID:O.4119
The campaigners’ pressure finally won. Parliament voted for complete emancipation (freedom without apprenticeship) to take effect from 1 August 1838. 750,000 people were freed. If slaves wanted to, they could work as wage earning employees on the plantations. But the dream of the freed slaves was to own their own land and work for themselves. In Jamaica, many abandoned the plantations in search of their own land to cultivate, taking over waste land in the island. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, where there was no empty land to cultivate, many had no option but to continue working on plantations for their former owner for low wages.(source: Discovering Bristol)
Slavery Studies - Professor Kenneth Morgan (Brunel University)