This website presents information about selected trials for religious crimes held in the Caribbean between the 1760s and the 1980s. Most of the trials relate to obeah, but some are for transgressions of the Trinidadian Shouters Prohibition Law, while others are for breaches of medical licencing laws and vagrancy laws. The material was collected as part of the the research process for Diana Paton's book The Cultural Politics of Obeah: Religion, Modernity, and Colonialism in the Caribbean World. The researchers who collected the material were Diana Paton, Maarit Forde, Suzie Thomas, Helen McKee, and Jennifer Kain. Some of it was cited in that book, or used as evidence for quantitative claims, but much more data was collected than could be used there. This website, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, makes that material available to anyone who would like to use it. The original research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust, and Newcastle University.
This site contains details of about 800 cases can be viewed, mostly from Jamaica, with a significant number from Trinidad as well. Cases were collected from newspapers, especially the digitised version of The Gleaner and the microfilmed Port of Spain Gazette, from the Colonial Office files of the UK National Archives, and from many other sources. Details of the search technique are described in The Cultural Politics of Obeah. Further cases will be added as resources permit.
Most of the cases as presented here include quotations from the original sources, but they are mainly summaries rather than full transcripts. While we have done our best to ensure accuracy in quotation and summary, we cannot vouch for these. We strongly recommend that users who want to be sure of the details of specific cases check them against the original sources, which are indicated on the site. If you find mistakes, please let us know and we will correct them.
Cases can be viewed by clicking the 'search' tab, which by default displays all the cases. Cases can then be filtered by keyword and/or date or, by clicking on 'advanced filters' or 'categories', by a series of more specific variables. Further details of the cases found can be viewed by clicking 'select' to the right of the case. Scroll down to the 'sources' section to see summaries or transcripts of the sources, or click on the defendant's name to see more details about them.
If you cite a source found on this website please include the site information in your reference or bibliography, noting the URL. For example:
'Cases brought before the County Courts', Gleaner 30 June 1916, via Caribbean Religious Trials https://www.caribbeanreligioustrials.org/CaseSource/Details/1056, accesed 24 July 2018.
This site was made as part of a project funded by the AHRC, 'Freedom to Believe: A Theatre in Education Project Exploring Caribbean Social and Religious History'. For more information on that project, including resources for teachers and other educators, please visit the Freedom to Believe website.
The site editors can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are writing about a particular case, please include its case number or the relevant URL so that we can identify it.