Although the Greater Caribbean does not loom large in the historical imaginations of many Americans, it was the wealthy center of Britain’s Atlantic economy. Large-scale plantation slavery first emerged in Barbados, then spread throughout the sugar islands and the southeastern mainland colonies, allowing planters to acquire fortunes and influence unmatched elsewhere—including the tobacco colonies of Maryland and Virginia.
Hubs of Empire begins in the sixteenth century by providing readers with a broad overview of Native American life in the region and early pirate and privateer incursions. Mulcahy examines the development of settler colonies during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, explores diverse groups of European colonists, and surveys political, economic, and military issues in the decades before the Seven Years War.
The plantation system achieved its fullest and harshest manifestation in the Greater Caribbean. The number of slaves and the scale of the slave trade meant that enslaved Africans outnumbered Europeans in all of the affiliated colonies, often by enormous ratios. This enabled Africans to maintain more of their traditions, practices, and languages than in other parts of British America, resulting in distinct, creole cultures. This volume is an ideal introduction to the complex and fascinating history of colonies too often neglected in standard textbook accounts.-- David Barry Gaspar
Dangerous Economies is a history of New York culture and commerce in the first two thirds of the eighteenth century, when Britain was just beginning to catch up with its imperial rivals, France and Spain. In that sparsely populated city on the fringe of an empire, enslaved Africans rubbed elbows with white indentured servants while the elite strove to maintain ties with European genteel culture. The transience of the city's people, goods, and fortunes created a notably fluid society in which establishing one's own status or verifying another's was a challenge. New York's shifting imperial identity created new avenues for success but also made success harder to define and demonstrate socially.
Such a mobile urban milieu was the ideal breeding ground for crime and conspiracy, which became all too evident in 1741, when thirty slaves were executed and more than seventy other people were deported after being found guilty—on dubious evidence—of plotting a revolt. This sort of violent outburst was the unforeseen but unsurprising result of the seething culture that existed at the margins of the British Empire.
This critical period in American history is particularly suited to the alternative history approach: The population of the colonies was small, so the import of individual actions, or of singular events, was proportionately large. If the English had lost one battle to the Swedes, the United States might have been a Swedish colony. If James, Duke of York, had died of the plague in 1654, the U.S. and French revolutions might not have happened.
In Empire at the Periphery, Christian J. Koot examines the networks that connected British settlers in New York and the Caribbean and Dutch traders in the Netherlands and in the Dutch colonies in North America and the Caribbean, demonstrating that these interimperial relationships formed a core part of commercial activity in the early Atlantic World, operating alongside British trade. Koot provides unique consideration of how local circumstances shaped imperial development, reminding us that empires consisted not only of elites dictating imperial growth from world capitals, but also of ordinary settlers in far-flung colonial outposts, who often had more in common with—and a greater reliance on—people from foreign empires who shared their experiences of living at the edge of a fragile, transitional world.
Part of the series Early American Places