« Back to all events

The West Indian web. Improvising colonial survival in Essequibo and Demerara, 1750-1800

Dates:
  • Wed 22 Feb 2017 17.00 - 19.00
  Add to Calendar 2017-02-22 17:00 2017-02-22 19:00 Europe/Paris The West Indian web. Improvising colonial survival in Essequibo and Demerara, 1750-1800

Recent historiography has redrawn the early modern Atlantic as a networked world, where inter-imperial contacts were much more common than previously thought. Nevertheless, historians are still working through the implications of these findings. This thesis investigates the case of Essequibo and Demerara (Dutch—later British—Guiana) to contribute to these discussions. It argues that an Atlantic approach necessitates a decentred view of empire building. Rather than focusing on the metropolis, this thesis looks at the colonial level to demonstrate the improvised and Atlantic nature of empire building in these two colonies. Improvisation was central to the survival and expansion of the two colonies as the governing body—the West India Company¬—was too far away, too cash-strapped and too inefficient to administer the colonies. As a result, the colonists looked beyond imperial borders to devise solutions to local problems like securing provisions and maintaining the plantation slavery regime. Consequently, the colonists formed alliances and connections throughout the Atlantic, facilitated by the arrival of many foreign planters. The local Amerindian population was central to quashing rebellions and preventing enslaved Africans from seeking refuge in the nearby Spanish borderland. Additionally, British and US planters brought in large sums of capital, while also—illegally—importing enslaved Africans and exporting cash crops. Local officials condoned this pervasive smuggling to secure vital imports; the Atlantic network could provide what the Dutch network could not. Through such myriad interactions, then, these local actors created a West-Indian web, which centred around Essequibo and Demerara and radiated outwards to incorporate the rest of the Atlantic. Analysing the role of this improvised web gives us a better understanding of how empire building worked in practice.

Sala del Camino - Villa Salviati- Castle DD/MM/YYYY
  Sala del Camino - Villa Salviati- Castle

Recent historiography has redrawn the early modern Atlantic as a networked world, where inter-imperial contacts were much more common than previously thought. Nevertheless, historians are still working through the implications of these findings. This thesis investigates the case of Essequibo and Demerara (Dutch—later British—Guiana) to contribute to these discussions. It argues that an Atlantic approach necessitates a decentred view of empire building. Rather than focusing on the metropolis, this thesis looks at the colonial level to demonstrate the improvised and Atlantic nature of empire building in these two colonies. Improvisation was central to the survival and expansion of the two colonies as the governing body—the West India Company¬—was too far away, too cash-strapped and too inefficient to administer the colonies. As a result, the colonists looked beyond imperial borders to devise solutions to local problems like securing provisions and maintaining the plantation slavery regime. Consequently, the colonists formed alliances and connections throughout the Atlantic, facilitated by the arrival of many foreign planters. The local Amerindian population was central to quashing rebellions and preventing enslaved Africans from seeking refuge in the nearby Spanish borderland. Additionally, British and US planters brought in large sums of capital, while also—illegally—importing enslaved Africans and exporting cash crops. Local officials condoned this pervasive smuggling to secure vital imports; the Atlantic network could provide what the Dutch network could not. Through such myriad interactions, then, these local actors created a West-Indian web, which centred around Essequibo and Demerara and radiated outwards to incorporate the rest of the Atlantic. Analysing the role of this improvised web gives us a better understanding of how empire building worked in practice.


Location:
Sala del Camino - Villa Salviati- Castle

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Supervisor:
Jorge Flores (European University Institute)

Defendant:
Bram Michael Hoonhout (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)

Contact:
Miriam Felicia Curci - Send a mail

Examiner:
Regina Grafe
Cátia Antunes (University of Leiden)
Prof. Gert Oostindie (KITLV, Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies)

Similar events

 

Page last updated on 18 August 2017