Derby’s Dose was a form of torture used in Jamaica to punish slaves who attempted to escape or committed other offenses like stealing food.
The punishment was invented by slave overseer Thomas Thistlewood, and was named after the slave, Derby, who was made to undergo this punishment when he was caught eating young sugar cane stalks in the field on May 25, 1756.
According to Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book Outliers, “The runaway would be beaten, and salt pickle, lime juice, and bird pepper would be rubbed into his or her open wounds. Another slave would defecate into the mouth of the miscreant, who would then be gagged for four to five hours.”
Thistlewood was by no means uneducated. He was a prolific book buyer and reader. He also practiced medicine on his slaves and was something of an expert in botany and horticulture.
On November 18, 2013, Derby’s Dose came to prominence when British television host Martin Bashir discredited a comparison made by U.S. politician Sarah Palin between the United States’ debt to China and slavery.