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Bernard Bailyn, Director
HARVARD UNIVERSITY

 
 

2005: SOUNDINGS: THE TENTH-ANNIVERSARY CONFERENCE

Paper Abstracts    

 

The following list of abstracts describes the papers presented at the August 2005 meeting of the Atlantic History Seminar, “Soundings: The Tenth-Anniversary Conference. ” A copy of the program, where paper titles may be viewed in the context of the sessions, is also available. Links from each author's name on the program pages will return the reader to the appropriate abstract here.

 

Jennifer L. Anderson. "Better Judges of the Situation: Environmental Realities and Problems of Imperial Authority in the Bay of Honduras"

In 1786, England and Spain concluded the Convention of London renewing permission for English woodcutters to cut timber in the Bay of Honduras; in exchange, England affirmed once again Spain’s sovereignty over this valuable section of the Central American coast. As a revision of earlier treaties, this new agreement differed in that it articulated specific boundaries limiting where the English woodcutters (or Baymen) could harvest timber and took decisive steps to restrict their establishment of a permanent settlement. While the two nations hailed the agreement as a welcome bilateral solution to a long-standing conflict over access to the region’s coveted timber resources, the Baymen refused to honor it. This paper argues that the Baymen’s unusual position as British subjects living on Spanish territory shaped their expedient attitudes both towards the region’s natural resources and towards the imposition of boundaries and other emblems of imperial authority. The Baymen’s recalcitrance precipitated clashes between the imperial powers, undermined England’s official efforts at diplomacy, and defied its ability to assert its authority over its ostensible subjects. For both England and Spain, the resulting disconnect between the metropolitan centers of empire and their remote subjects exacerbated conflicts among governmental appointees charged with enforcing official policies, self-interested Europeans on the colonizing vanguard, and the indigenous people and enslaved persons drawn into their economic sphere. These tensions were intensified by the one-dimensional nature of the region’s extractive economy and the worrisome depletion of the all important timber reserves. Ultimately, the exhaustion of mahogany trees within the treaty area forced a change in policy as the imperial powers had to reassess their strategies in the face of ungovernable environmental realities.

 

David Armitage. "The Contagion of Sovereignty: Declarations of Independence in the Atlantic World and Beyond"

This paper argues that the American Revolution was the first outbreak of a contagion of sovereignty that swept the world in the centuries after 1776. Its influence spread first to the Low Countries and then to the Caribbean, Spanish America, the Balkans, Africa and Central Europe in the decades up to 1848. The infection then lay dormant until after the First World War when another major outbreak began in Central Europe. The next pandemic sprang up in Asia after the Second World War before spreading again to Africa. Other outbreaks around the Baltic, in Central Asia and in the Balkans after 1989 have been followed by a period of general remission which continues to this day. Declarations of independence were the primary symptoms of this contagion of sovereignty. As documents that announced the emergence of new states—or, in some cases, the re-emergence of older polities—they marked precisely the transition from empires to states wherever they appeared. The American Declaration of 1776 was the first in world history to identify sovereignty with independence: that equation would be as lastingly influential as the very form of the Declaration itself, which provided the template for an enduring genre of political writing.

 

R. Jovita Baber. "The Changing Geography of the Political Community: The Negotiation of Land, Livestock, Law and Citizenship in Tlaxcala, New Spain, 1540-1580"

In pursuing laws to regulate grazing and ranches, and in bringing lawsuits against settlers and neighbors, the Indian cabildo of Tlaxcala, New Spain transformed its community from a confederacy of dispersed noble houses and villages to a bounded and contiguous municipality. Coinciding with the geographical transformation of Tlaxcala, Spaniards settled the uncultivated lands between and around Tlaxcalan settlements. Being unclaimed, these lands were considered Crown baldíos by Spaniards and, therefore, available to the “public”. Although Spaniards settled amicably alongside Tlaxcalan settlements and at the margins of the confederacy at the beginning of the sixteenth century, as the political geography of the community shifted, conflicts arose; notions of “public” and “private,” and the boundaries of the political community were challenged. Rather than being a dichotomized struggle between resistant or victimized native people and aggressive settlers, this paper shows that inter-communal conflict elucidates a process of negotiating cultural difference and individual ambitions. The resolution of such conflicts redefined the political community, and created new formal and informal rules to govern the emergent pluralist society. In studying the changes to the political geography of Tlaxcala and the ensuing conflicts, this paper suggests a new approach to understanding pluralist colonial societies.

 

D. M. Barros. "'Papera': The Use of Written Portuguese as Part of the Policy for the “língua geral” in Colonial Amazonia"

The aim of this paper is to present the results of a socio-linguistics study into bureaucratic routines in Portuguese as part of the lives of Indians in the Amazon in colonial times. These bureaucratic routines in Portuguese will be analyzed as part of the policy for the língua geral. The focus will be on the use of list and register book as a means of controlling the indigenous population and the use of personal letter and letter patent in the negotiations with Indians. Finally we will observe the form of translation of concepts related to literacy into Tupi in colonial dictionaries, particularly the introduction of the loanword  papera, coming from the Portuguese word papel (paper), to substitute the use of the Tupi morpheme cotia (paint , sculpt). 

 

Rosalind Beiler. "Communication Networks and the Dynamics of Migration, 1660-1730"

This paper explores a series of intersecting and overlapping Mennonite, Quaker, and Pietist communication networks in the period from 1660 to 1730.  Each group developed communication channels that crossed political and cultural lines in their attempts to promote religious toleration.  Each also sought contact with people from other religious groups interested in reforming society through personal piety and, in the process, established relationships that crossed religious boundaries as well.  Participants in these religious networks perceived the potential of colonization for achieving their goals and, thus, extended their connections across the Atlantic.  Religious leaders negotiated for religious toleration with European heads of state seeking people to rebuild regions devastated by wars.  British officials also solicited dissenters in their efforts to people the American colonies.  Colonial promoters funneled literature and information through these same transnational, ecumenical communication channels to recruit immigrants.  The religious information networks that evolved in the second half of the seventeenth century played a key role in the shifting sources of migration to the British colonies away from England at the end of the seventeenth century.  Scholars have noted this shift and the push and pull factors that created it. The dynamics of this transition, however, remain elusive.  By examining the relationships that linked people participating in religious conversations across cultural and political boundaries, this paper broadens our understanding of the forces re-orienting early modern migration flows.

 

Nikolaus Böttcher. "Slave Traders, Contraband, and the Inquisition in the Caribbean,
1610-1650"

During the first half of the seventeenth century the transatlantic slave trade was organized by Portuguese merchants. The main ports of arrival for the slave ships that sailed to the Spanish empire were Cartagena de Indias, Veracruz and later Havana. The paper deals with both the legal and illegal methods of the Portuguese slave traders in Cartagena. Since most of them were New-Christians of Jewish origin, the Inquisition was installed in Cartagena in 1610. During the 1630s the Inquisition discovered a group of Portuguese traders who had introduced slaves illicitly to the Spanish possessions. The inquisitorial officers also found out that these merchants had bribed the local administration. It has to be stressed that we know about the importance of smuggling within the Spanish Empire, but detailed information of individual cases is very scarce. The case files of the Inquisition shed a new light on the methods of informal economies. Furthermore, soon after the inquisitorial investigation the Holy Office began persecuting the Portuguese as heretics and confiscated their belongings. As a result of these proceedings, the Portuguese mercantile communities in Spanish America ceased to exist by 1650.

 

Douglas Bradburn. "Free Seas, Free States, Free Citizens:  Atlantic Continuities in the Dutch Revolt and the American Revolution"

This speculative paper emphasized the similarities between the Dutch Revolt and the American Revolution as a way to think about the fitful history of freedom in the early modern Atlantic world.  Both revolts began with attempts to defend traditional “liberties” but ultimately create new states that re-imagine the limits and possibilities of freedom. Internally, both republics formed federated Unions, based upon expansive notions of popular sovereignty.  Externally both republics attempted to refashion the laws of nature and nations to secure their economic and legal existence.  There is no precise beginning or ending to the problem of freedom in the Atlantic, but seminal moments of creative conflict shaped the contours and continuities of the story.  These two revolutions, so similar in their rise, progress, and conclusion, but so distinct in their direct connections, help clarify the fits and starts attendant to the Atlantic creation of modern freedom.  Rather than being a unique aspect of the Atlantic world “such Quarrells” occurred and re-occurred on numerous scales in the Atlantic world, further clarifying, challenging, and enlarging the possibilities and meanings of freedom. 

 

Scott Breuninger. "'Social Gravity' and the Translatio Tradition in Early American Theories of Empire: The Case of Thomas Pownall"

Throughout his career as a writer, statesman, and historian, Thomas Pownall was deeply enmeshed in questions concerning the relationship between Britain and the colonies.  In each of these guises, he sought to apply a vision of “natural” society to the political questions of the day, paying particular attention to the role of commerce in these affairs.  His analyses of the formation and bonds governing the emergent British Empire were deeply rooted not only his understanding of historical development, but also in more recent efforts to describe scientifically the “mechanisms” governing human interaction.  In this paper, I show how three discursive strands—the idea of “social gravity,” the notion of a translatio imperii, and the valorization of the civilizing power of commerce—support each other within Pownall’s plan for the creation of a “grand marine dominion,” taking care to note how his thoughts on these matters changed through the successive editions of his seminal text.

 

James Taylor Carson. "When Is an Ocean Not an Ocean? Geographies of the Atlantic World"

The paper questions the notion that the Atlantic World is a natural fact. Drawing upon research in the colonial South the author argues that different cultural constructions of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Atlantic World must be taken into account in order to understand the rivalry, interplay, and novelty of the contact experience and its effects on the South’s different founding peoples. Drawing on recent literature in epistemology, environmental history, and geography, that author explores the assumptions that go in to declaring such facts. Indeed, to call the ocean that lies at the center of the Atlantic World a fact is to assert historiographically the primacy of one way of thinking about the ocean over another. Such an assertion obscures different historical ways of understanding space to the detriment of our efforts to comprehend the multicultural roots of the Atlantic World. While few would discount the importance of understanding the different cultures that inhabited the Atlantic World, we need to also bear in mind that each culture had a different understanding of what that world, or that ocean, was.

 

Douglas B. Chambers. "Writing the Black Atlantic: Theory, Method, Practice"

Since the 1990s scholars have been exploring new ways to connect American and
African histories in the era of the transatlantic slave trade by redefining the African
Diaspora as the 'Black Atlantic'. As a result of several 'turns' in the study of the
early modern world we have now reached a point where it is possible to recount the
historiographical construction of the Black Atlantic as a subject of study. This
paper synthesizes these new approaches into a statement of theory, method, and
practice in writing the Black Atlantic.

 

Guy Chet. "Frontier Violence in the North Atlantic:  The Campaign Against Piracy and the Quest for Governmental Legitimacy in the Modern State"

The decline of Atlantic piracy has been used to gauge Britain’s increasing commercial, naval and diplomatic control in the Atlantic World.   Naval historians have suggested that by the mid-eighteenth century, naval, imperial and colonial officials had eradicated Atlantic piracy, thanks to effective policing of the high seas and New World coastlines.  The evidence, however, indicates that transporting cargoes in the Atlantic remained risky well into the nineteenth century, indicating that Britain’s command of the region was not nearly as thorough as some have suggested.  Moreover, rather than confronting pirates, British officials dealt with the problem of piracy through accommodation and negotiation.   The key factors in the demise of piracy were logistical and administrative, rather than tactical.   Piracy was eventually ushered out of the Atlantic indirectly, by eliminating its markets, rather than through direct confrontation. The chronological discrepancy regarding the passing of piracy and the resultant misconception regarding Britain’s control of the Atlantic are a product of a selective and modern definition of piracy.  Most scholars of piracy assume an essential difference between piracy and privateering, claiming that the close of the seventeenth century saw a passage from the age of piracy to an age of privateering.   In fact, however, the eighteenth-century distinction between piracy and privateering was a semantic novelty that did not enjoy universal acceptance in Britain or in foreign courts.   Moreover, privateering commissions attracted more individuals to commerce raiding and made Atlantic shipping more risky.  Thus, modern scholars’ acceptance of the dichotomy between legitimate and illegitimate commerce raiding obscures the continued presence and activity of pirates in the Atlantic during the “long eighteenth century.”   Moreover, it implicitly gives credence (from a twentieth-century vantage point) to the presumptions of eighteenth-century governments to monopolize the use of force. 

 

Emma Christoper. "Black Maritime Workers in Britain and the Fight for Freedom"

This article addresses new scholarship on racial constructions in Britain at the end of the eighteenth century to explore anew the circumstances of black sailors who found themselves in London in that era.  From there it follows their journeys around the globe: as settlers to Sierra Leone, as convicts transported to Australia and as seamen whose work England depended upon.  It argues that a more nuanced understanding of race in Britain, and how it differed from the Americas, is timely and adds greatly to our understanding of black seamen’s lives in this era.  Ultimately, however, the vehemence with which black seamen fought for equality and an end to slavery suggests that their focus often remained the injustices of slavery in the plantation colonies they had fled.

 

John C. Coombs. "Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake–West Indian Commerce and the Coastwise Trade in Slaves"

Based on a survey of shipping returns for Virginia, Maryland, and the various English island colonies, this paper examines Chesapeake-West Indian exchange in the seventeenth century and its relationship to the early growth of slavery along the tobacco coast. The paper attempts to outline the full dimensions of trade between the two regions, exploring the content and scale of their commercial ties over the course of the period and the patterns of vessel traffic moving between them.  Drawing on this information, new estimates on the number of slaves shipped from the islands in the decades before 1700 are offered which show that the size of this important black immigration was likely much larger than previously thought. Finally, using information contained in Virginia county court records and other sources, the paper explores how the structure of coastwise trade influenced the distribution of black laborers after their arrival in the Chesapeake. The paper concludes by contending that instead of being widely disbursed, limitations on the ability of ordinary planters to produce provisioning goods for export ensured that most slaves arriving from the Caribbean ended up on the plantations of wealthier, merchant- planters.      

 

Mariana L. R. Dantas. "Runaway Slaves and the Shaping of Black Urban Life in the Eighteenth-Century American South"

Through the study of eighteenth-century runaway slave advertisements, this paper proposes to examine how persons of African origin and descent contributed to urban development in the American South. It argues that the choices and actions of runaway slaves helped shape and reinforce the economic and social practices that would characterize and define urban life in general, and black urban life in particular, in the American South. Also, the hopes and expectations runaway slaves projected onto towns and cities helped ascribe meaning to the urban space that influenced the manner by which slaves and free persons of African origin and descent interacted with and conceived of the urban environment. While a window into the general pattern of behavior of slaves and free blacks in urban environments, runaway slave advertisements also prove an important source of information for the study of these individuals' role as agents of urbanization.

 

Stewart Davenport. "Das Adam-Smith Problem in the Antebellum North and Two Protestant Attempts at a Solution"

This paper addresses the question of what happened when das Adam-Smith problem of industrializing Europe met the faculty psychology of antebellum America.  Although it was not called das Adam-Smith problem until the late nineteenth-century, the fact that Smith wrote two books instead of one has always posed difficulties for those seeking integrity between the ethical and the economical. For two groups of antebellum Protestants—the “clerical economists” and the “economic moralists”—this is where faculty psychology came in.  Employing the tripartite scheme of conscience, prudence and passions, both of these groups nevertheless sought a moral order that was binary.  In other words, they wanted to understand the world in terms of good and evil—of what kind of commercial behavior was permissible and what was not.  The difference, unsurprisingly, was over what each group thought about prudence, the faculty that occupied the middle position.  For their part, the clerical economists lumped prudence in with conscience as allies in the noble republican struggle to keep the passions of men in check.  The two were not the same, but they were close enough to serve this same good, utilitarian purpose.  The economic moralists, on the other hand, wanted to divide faculty psychology’s tripartite scheme in half.  In their collective understanding, prudence could go in either direction.  The economic moralists therefore sought the point at which an individual’s healthy and natural self-interest crossed the line and, as one of them put it, passed “without heeding it, the boundary which separates virtue from vice.” 

 

Beatriz Dávilo. "The Rio de la Plata in the Atlantic scenery. The import of social habits, cultural patterns and political values from the Anglosaxon world (1810-1827)"

The political and cultural transformations generated in Hispanic America by the revolutionary process of the beginning of nineteenth century have often induced historian to think that the local élites bore in mind theoretically elaborated projects to build a new order. However, in the Rio de la Plata the changes produced from the revolution onwards were not –or at least not mainly- a question of philosophical or theoretical influences, but the effect of the manifold Atlantic intercourse held with the Anglo-Saxon world. The images of a new society that Buenos Aires élite summoned up were the result of the contact with British and –to a lesser extent- North American traders, the widespread circulation of newspapers from those countries and the need to get acquainted with foreign institutional models to face a novel situation: the installation of an independent government. The Atlantic intercourse, then, promoted a wide range of commercial, social, cultural and political exchanges that showed Buenos Aires élite how British and North American people lived, acted, enjoyed, obeyed and made political decisions.

 

Beatriz Helena Domingues. "The Amazon and the Uraguay in the Dispute of the New World"

This article analyzes the work of the Portuguese Jesuit João Daniel, Tesouro Descoberto no Máximo Rio Amazonas and that of Basílio da Gama, The Uraguay, in the context of the European, Portuguese and Brazilian Enlightenment. It argues in favor of the insertion of the writings of the expelled Jesuits from the Americas, in general, and João Daniel in particular, side by side with those written by members of the Brazilian literary academies, particularly Basílio da Gama, in the “Climate of Opinion” of Enlightenment. Their involvement with the century of lights was expressed mainly, but not only, by their connection with American themes that had been debated in the “Dispute of the New World”, a time in which a large variety of Jesuit writings, ennobling different American regions, from where they had been expelled, was produced, mostly in reaction to European enlighten theses on the inferiority of the American continent.  This coincides with the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Iberian countries and their colonies, which contributes to the expelled Jesuits’ willingness to write treatises on natural history, stories and simply memories of the “nation” they were forced to abandon. Even if Basilio da Gama, a former Jesuit, is a strong critic of the Jesuit enterprise, he converges with João Daniel and other Ignatius’s fellows when eulogizing the nature and the Indians of Brazil against the prejudices of Europe.  The writings of these two authors are taken as soundings coming from the European side of the Atlantic – Portugal (where Daniel was imprisoned and Basilio being a successful poet), but approaching the other side – Brazil, approached from the perspective of the intellectual history.

 

John Donoghue. "The Western Design and Radical Republicanism"

This paper explores aspects of the trans-Atlantic history of the short-lived English Republic.  It focuses on how the Republic’s expansion in the Caribbean highlighted the emerging empire’s most acute economic problem: labor scarcity.  This situation led to innovations in labor exploitation (military, naval, and plantation) that were in turn resisted by working-class people in England and across the Atlantic.  This resistance shaped the social and political history of the English working-class in ways that the historiography of the English Revolution, with the exception of the work of Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, has yet to address.  Edmund S. Morgan showed us a long time ago that slavery in the empire provided a foundation for the conceptualization of republican freedom. Building on but moving beyond Morgan’s thesis, I contend that far from embracing the freedom/slavery dialectic of masters, merchants, and traders, radical republicans of the Seventeenth Century rejected the dialectic and articulated an important yet understudied strain of what we might call abolitionist thought. 

 

Laurent Dubois. "An Enslaved Enlightenment: Re-Thinking the Intellectual History of the French Atlantic"

This paper proposes an approach to constructing an intellectual history of the enslaved in the eighteenth century Atlantic world.  It does so by first analyzing several works about the French Enlightenment’s engagement with questions of race and slavery, and then turning to another zone of intellectual production that I argue was as important in crafting ideas of rights during the period: the plantation colonies of the Caribbean.  Focusing on the intellectual and political contributions of enslaved insurgents during the Haitian Revolution, I argue that we should understand the Atlantic during this period as an integrated space of debate over rights, universalism, and governance and empire in which the enslaved were central actors.  Through such an approach, I suggest, we might finally understand more about the complex and contradictory inheritances of the Enlightenment when we come to understand that it was crafted not only in Europe but also in the Caribbean.    

 

Marie Christine Duggan. "The Rise and Fall of the Religious Economy in Latin American California, 1769-1840."

Spain ceased to finance her California colony in 1810, diverting the resources to quell rebellion in Mexico.  This study first defines the California economy before the financial crisis, and then traces the institutional adaptation to loss of government funding between 1810 and 1820.  The actual decline of the mission economy between 1820 and 1830 despite the apparent boom of the hide and tallow trade is then explored.  This paper concludes with the transition to private sector control between 1830 and 1840.  This economic context illuminates the evolution of political tensions between the military, the Franciscans, Christian Indians and non-Christian Indians during the Latin American period. The widespread view of California missions as exploiting Indians should be revised.  Missions served as a buffer limiting private-sector exploitation.  Profit-seekers abolished missions, opening the path to exploitation of Indian land and labor without constraint.

 

Jordana Dym. Conceiving Central America:   Public, Patria and Nation in the Gazeta de Guatemala, 1797-1807

What identities did elites deploy in the decades preceding independence to develop a public political identity that might plausibly be expected to smooth the transition from colony to republic?  The question is one asked repeatedly of thinkers, writers and proto-politicians located in British, French and Spanish American colonies in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  For Spanish Americans, at least, the historiography emphasizes the growth of an “American” or “creole” identity used to protest the supposed monopolizing of power of “Spaniards” or “Europeans.”  Without denying the importance of such conceptualizations, in the Captaincy-General of Guatemala (present-day Central America) we can see that elites within specific colonies also developed theoretical arguments for a more unique society which could be turned to local rather than continental political ends. This paper explores the political thought of the progressive elite of the capital of colonial Central America through their discourse  from 1797 to1807 in the colony’s first and only colonial newspaper, the Gazeta de Guatemala, and what this discourse indicated about the level of political identity that existed prior to, as well as found expression in, the newspaper. This paper looks first at the impact of establishing a creole public sphere on conceiving a Central American identity, capable of mobilizing people for political and economic ends, not in Spanish institutions but a newspaper which united a trans-isthmian “public” that, especially on economic issues, included Central America’s Indian and mixed-race majority. The paper concludes by discussing how an emphasis on local history, geography and Spanish language, when read in the context of the developing association with a Guatemalan homeland (patria), provided a basis for Central American independence-era ideologies.

 

S. Max Edelson. "Aftershock: The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 and the Fate of Empire in the Atlantic World"

Striking on November 1, All Saint’s Day, the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 killed tens of thousands.  Europe’s worst natural disaster of the eighteenth century also became one of the most notorious events of the early modern period, generating an outpouring of texts and images that represented the disaster to a global audience.  British and Anglo-American writings on the earthquake from the 1750s and 1760s focused on three Atlantic themes.  First, religious writers identified intensifying British commitments to commerce as a symptom of worldliness that might make London the next Lisbon.  Second, initial reactions to Lisbon revealed the endurance, and the limits, of the so-called “black legend” to structure British perceptions of the history and prospects of rival powers abroad.  The start of the Seven Years’ War called for a new Protestant vision of empire in which France, not Spain or Portugal, was the primary target of reproach.  Finally, writers and readers were drawn to the Lisbon earthquake because it centered attention on the rise and especially the fall of the Portuguese empire at the very moment when Britain mobilized and deployed its maritime strength to extend its own seaborne empire.  Scholars have long noted how the earthquake stimulated debates among Enlightenment intellectuals about the nature of evil.  But Lisbon’s ordeal was not the exclusive possession of philosophes.  Just as Americans from Boston to Barbados claimed that they could feel the tremors that emanated from Portugal, the earthquake captured the attention and reflected the concerns of a broader, transatlantic, audience. 

 

Victor Enthoven. "The Dutch Revolt and the Atlantic World: Free States, Free Seas, Free Citizens"

The aim of this paper is to argue how free Dutch citizenship profoundly influenced the seventeenth-century Atlantic world. The paper is divided in to three sections. The first part starts with an overview of the developments of the Dutch rebellion; how the States repudiated Habsburg rule in the Low Countries, and how a new state emerged: the Dutch Republic. It concludes with the main political thoughts of the Dutch Revolt: freedom of conscience and liberty for its citizens. Next I will examine how the fruits of the Dutch Revolt influenced the Atlantic world. The second section shows how the Atlantic was a free sea for Dutch entrepreneurs with free trade and navigation. Dutch merchants became the carriers of the Western Hemisphere and they re-invented the joint stock company. With a limited liability of the shareholders and transferable shares the Dutch West India Company became the largest privately funded enterprise in the Atlantic. The last part examines the Jewish Diaspora in the Dutch Atlantic world. As free citizens they settled in New Holland, New Amsterdam, Curaçao and Suriname.

 

Roquinaldo Ferreira. "Biography and Mobility: Merchants, Slaves, and Free Africans in the Atlantic World (Angola and Brazil, 1650-1850)"

My paper begins by reconstructing individual mobility of merchants and free and enslaved Africans in the Atlantic. I intentionally attempt to break away from macro-analysis and highlight the individual dimension of the commercial and social networks that underpinned the commercial ties between Angola and Brazil. By relying on biographical information on merchants and free and enslaved Africans, I seek to unearth personal, educational and commercial links between individuals in Angola and Brazil. My emphasis on using merchants’ names is inspired by micro-history techniques that emphasize the micro-level and reduction of scale as key social history tools. 

Finally, I single out the Angolan city of Benguela – a slave port from where over 500,000 Africans where shipped to the Americas, primarily to Rio de Janeiro, from the early eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. I use biographical information on merchants to reconstruct and tease out Benguela merchants’ commercial strategies, cultural integration into local communities and close commercial links with Rio de Janeiro. The paper devotes significant attention to Benguela as a way of redressing a well-established imbalance on the scholarship of the Angolan trade, which tends to focus on Luanda.

 

Aaron Fogleman. "The Atlantic World, 1492-1860s: Definition, Theory, and Boundaries"

Recently Anglo-American and black Atlantic historians have provided much of the creative energy and ideas in the study of the Atlantic World, but definition, theory, and integration in their work needs further development, and this essay suggests some possibilities that may be useful.  The Atlantic World was the world made by contacts between Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans.  It began with Columbus, who initiated permanent contact between Europe/Africa and the Americas.  There was an Atlantic world before 1492, as it is clear that Europeans and perhaps Africans reached the Americas before Columbus, but what followed was much different, characterized by massive forced and free migrations of Africans and Europeans to the Americas, the “Columbian exchange,” transatlantic processes of creolization and syncretic religious development, forms of political thought that emphasized the interdependent nature of “freedom” and slavery, and the explosion of merchant capitalism.  Three developments from the late 18th to the mid-19th century led to the decline and transformation of that world: 1) revolution and colonial independence, 2) the end of the Atlantic slave trade followed by abolition, and 3) the shift from merchant to industrial capitalism.  Thereafter a radically different Atlantic world developed, with new relationships between Atlantic peoples and continents.  Native Americans were largely marginalized in most areas, Europeans lost the Americas but began moving into Africa, and Atlantic migrations shifted from forced to free, from African to European, and from south to north in the Americas.

 

Maximilian C. Forte. "Extinction: The Historical Trope of Anti-Indigeneity in the Caribbean"

Several Caribbean territories have long been identified in the scholarly literature as unlikely to have retained any indigenous demographic or cultural presence stemming from either pre-colonial or early colonial times. These “unlikely places”, marked as they came to be for suffering from an absence of the autochthonous, included areas of the Greater Antilles such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and as far south as Trinidad and Tobago. On the other hand, concerted ethnohistoric, archaeological and ethnographic research conducted by several scholars over the past two decades has shown that the picture of the colonial and modern Caribbean presented by European scholars and chroniclers who became influential, was far from complete or accurate. Reflecting on the problems and questions raised by new historical interpretations provides the basis for this paper as I explore the implications of this increasingly contentious debate. I take a survey approach, reviewing some of the more noteworthy findings from the research of both colleagues and myself, spanning the territories mentioned above. Having provided an overview, I will argue that “extinction” was not much more than a trope used by colonialist historiographers (and its modern successors), a standard and routine motif that has been assigned and attached to indigeneity not just in the Caribbean, but across the Americas. Extinction is the concomitant of an assimilationist discourse that posits a universal path of progress and development, where tradition and its tribal upholders would be left behind in the wake of the advance of science, reason, and material prosperity. Aside from the symbolic advantage conferred by the narrative of extinction, concrete political economic and material advantages were also to be had.

 

Ignacio Gallup-Díaz. "Early Modern Panamá’s Rebellious Slaves in Atlantic Context"

This paper investigates the contemporary descriptions of a sixteenth century slave uprising in Panama, with the goal of illuminating how an agreed-upon understanding of the rebellion became the standard account.  Several chroniclers writing in the period between 1580 and 1620 embedded a narrative of Bayano’s uprising in their regional histories of the Indies: Juan de Castellanos devoted several lines of his massive heroic poem Elegías de varones ilustres de Indias to it; Toribio de Ortiguera described the event in his Jornada del Rio Marañón; Pedro de Aguado devoted several chapters of his Recopilación Historial to the War; and Garcilaso de la Vega (known as “El Inca”) wrote of Bayano in his Historia General del Perú. The chroniclers described the defeat of the rebellion in triumphalist terms, and this interpretation has also become standard amongst present-day scholars.   As they embedded the event within their broader narratives of Spanish conquest, the chroniclers minimized Bayano’s central role in the action, and described the uprising as a self-contained event that came to a close with the effective neutralization of its leader.  However, a broader examination of colonial instability in early modern Panama makes clear that rather than a self-contained event, Bayano’s rebellion initiated a long-term process of Afro-Spanish antagonism, warfare, and frontier diplomacy.

 

Margarita Gascón. "Environment, Natural Catastrophe, and Imperial Expansion into the Southernmost Borderlands: Seventeenth-Century Patagonia and Arauco"

Early in the seventeenth century, the Atlantic expansion into the southernmost areas of South America came to a halt. In 1598-99, the Great Araucanian rebellion truncated the pace of evolution, for its evacuation deprived Spaniards from their main source of native manpower and natural resources. At the same time, the Crown decided to send a professional army whose needs would be filled by a situado. Compared to Arauco, on the other side of the Andes, Patagonia remained a neglected periphery. We will explain two inter-related elements for the understanding of the different evolution of the two southernmost regions of the Americas. On the one hand, we will underline the Austrias´ concerns and framework for the defense of the empire, and on the other hand, we will incorporate the environment as an explanation, in terms of availability of resources and the impact of massive natural catastrophes on colonial life.

 

Sheryllynne Haggerty. “'Miss Fan can tun her han!' Women, Work, and Income Opportunities in Eighteenth-Century British-American Atlantic Port Cities"

This paper investigates the nature of women’s work in three British-Atlantic port cities: Philadelphia, Charleston and Kingston, Jamaica. It challenges the male-dominated view of ports in the historiography by examining the work and income opportunities open to women did in the mid-eighteenth century under the three main headings of trade, services and ‘ways and means of making shift’. It argues that the specific circumstances of the inception of each colony had a significant influence on the economic base of each city, which in turn effected immigration and therefore population structure in terms of gender and race. These three factors, in conjunction with the nature of the port economy itself shaped and constrained opportunities open to women, both black and white. At the same time however, the commercial nature of ports meant that there were many entrepreneurial opportunities available to women, which they used to their best advantage. In doing so, they made a significant contribution to the economies of these port cities.

 

Emma Hart. “'Odious characters': Urban Middling Sorts in the British Atlantic World"

On his visit to Charleston in 1773, Bostonian Josiah Quincy proclaimed that the town’s “middling order” were “odious characters,” easily distinguishable from South Carolina’s “yeomanry and husbandmen,” who were themselves “a very different figure from those of New England.”   Quincy’s observations of the low country’s social structure emphasized characteristics appreciated by earlier commentators. Benjamin Franklin, writing in the late 1740s, saw in Philadelphia a town partly composed of “those Great and rich Men, Merchants and others,” but also made up of “middling People, the Farmers, Shopkeepers, and Tradesmen.” Early American urban society could no longer be characterized simply as composed of rich and poor, black and white, dependent or independent; rapidly growing towns now encompassed upper, middling, and lower people as well.  In spite of these multiple observations of the existence of a “middling sort,” a “middle order” or of “middling people” – usually in early America’s towns - the character of this group has not been the subject of sustained historical investigation in the decades before the Declaration of Independence.  Often the origins of an American middle class are presumed to reside within the Revolutionary process itself.  Taking examples from Charleston, South Carolina, and from other cities across the English-speaking world, this essay charts the emergence of a coherent and influential middling sort from the 1740s onwards, thus locating the source of colonial American social change firmly within a dynamic, British Atlantic urban environment.

 

Monica Henry. "Joel Roberts Poinsett, a North American Diplomat in Spanish America, 1811-1829"

During the Spanish American revolutions the United States kept a watchful eye on the unfolding of this major crisis. Washington sent agents to the rebellious colonies to gather information on the state of affairs in the Spanish empire. The most experienced and longest serving of these agents was Joel Roberts Poinsett. History remembers Poinsett as chiefly an untactful diplomat. Yet in this paper it is argued that Poinsett’s diplomatic “blunders” should not be ascribed exclusively to personal faults as some historians have done. Poinsett, on the contrary, found himself serving a hesitant, changing—sometimes timid, sometimes ambitious—United States foreign policy vis-à-vis Spanish America. And Poinsett often worked in an environment hostile to the United States. Thus, through the examination of Joel Poinsett’s diplomatic career, this paper shows how the priorities and goals of the foreign policy of the Monroe and Adams administration evolved at the same time as revolutions spread throughout Spanish America. Ultimately, the United States emerged as a strong competitor of Great Britain in the Atlantic and a powerful nation in the American Hemisphere.

 

Katherine Hermes. "Captain Cook and Cultural Relativism: The American Indian in the Atlantic and Pacific Worlds"

Captain James Cook, through the published writings by his crew and him, left an indelible impression of the Pacific on the popular mind that continues to this day. Many academics in history, anthropology, and the sciences have used Cook’s observations as a basis for their own work, often accepting certain first impressions as objective if not always accurate. Recent books on Cook have emphasized that he was a cultural relativist more than most explorers, one who accepted native customs as just that, not as signs of inferiority. A quotation selected from his journals in which he bemoans the fact that the American Indian was no better off because of his contact with Europeans is often cited as evidence that Cook was sympathetic to natives and aware of the “fatal impact” his voyages could have. Yet the remark about American Indians is telling for other reasons. Before Cook sailed the Pacific and became famous, he charted the coastline of North American along Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. He came into contact with Beothuck Indians and other native North Americans, and he had firm impressions of them. He was also familiar with travel narratives of earlier North American explorers. Cook went to the Pacific prepared with an idea of “natives,” copper-skinned and armed with “tomahawks,” susceptible to alcohol and disease. They were tragic figures who had once occupied a paradise, brought by civilization to a state of poverty and despair. They became the baseline for his observations of people in eastern and southern South America on the Atlantic, and the Polynesians and Melanesians in the Pacific. Every group was measured against what he knew of natives (“Indians”) and even though he learned Polynesian words and saw new worlds, the American “Indian” went with Cook on his global journeys. Even as late as the third Pacific voyage, Cook took with him a man from Connecticut who had lived among the Micmac, because he had experience dealing with natives. This paper explores how the idea of the American Indian, as delivered by Cook, had an impact on the treatment and observations of the other natives Cook met on his journeys. 

 

Daniel J. Hulsebosch. "Writs to Rights: The “Common Law” in the Age of Revolution"

This paper is a prospectus for a book that will explore the making of a new trans-jurisdictional conception of the “common law” in the two generations after the American Revolution.  During those decades, people vigorously debated the function and meaning of the common law.  These debates raised many issues, but running through them all was a shift from thinking of the common law as the craft wisdom of experts operating in a single jurisdiction, with its own distinctive structures and procedures, to conceiving of the common law as a body of rules not limited to any one court system.  In the eighteenth century, Anglo-Americans viewed the common law as offering a limited number of causes of action that gave specific remedies for specific injuries, as well as for other wrongs squeezed into the actions by legal fictions.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, people on both sides of the Atlantic increasingly saw the common law as a system of rights in which remedies followed automatically upon proof of infringement of those rights.  Lawyers and ordinary people reconfigured their legal culture so that legal reasoning, which once centered on English writs, became oriented around abstract rights.  The immediate purpose of this transformation in the United States was to control state judges.  There was no federal common law court; each state court was supreme in its jurisdiction.  Instead of centralized review, as existed in the English common law system, those who desired uniform outcomes in like cases throughout the Union had to rely instead on uniform doctrine.  In this way, leading common lawyers contributed to the unification of the states and to a national identity, while also helping to persuade European nations to recognize the United States as member of the “civilized” nations.

 

Evelyn Powell Jennings. "Slavery as an Instrument of Empire in Colonial Havana, 1763-1840"

The British occupation Havana in 1762 presented the Spanish state with the necessity of employing the labor of slaves and of manipulating the slave trade to defend and develop the island of Cuba.  The confluence of historical forces and interests made slavery a peculiarly effective tool of empire in the 1760s.  By the 1790s Havana was both well fortified and poised for the sugar revolution of the early nineteenth century; the state’s defense and development goals had essentially been fulfilled. The urban renewal projects and the building of the first railroad in Cuba of the 1830s show some marked differences in the state’s ability to use slavery as a tool of empire.  The sugar boom gave Cuban creoles control of state institutions and revenues that rivaled those of peninsular officials on the island.  But all branches of the Spanish state were forced to accommodate themselves to the realities of British abolitionism by finding alternative kinds of coerced laborers for public projects rather than purchasing slaves.  Slavery was certainly “the cornerstone of the Spanish colonial system” and the source of great wealth in Cuba by the nineteenth century, but it was no longer a tool that the state could exploit for its own labor needs.  Instead state officials manipulated the fringes of the system to their benefit while planters used state resources and power to further the development of the plantation economy. 

 

Daniel Kilbride. "Race, National Characters, and American Responses to European Revolutions, 1789-1848"

Between 1789 and 1848, Americans confronted a series of revolutions in Europe.  They followed these developments closely.   Employing concepts of national character, Americans judged whether revolutionaries were likely to topple established regimes and establish free institutions.  National characters – bundles of traits that distinguished the peoples of one nation from others – were widely accepted throughout the European Atlantic as legitimate tools for understanding foreign peoples.  During the first half of the nineteenth century, understandings of national characters became increasingly inflexible as they became associated with emerging concepts of race.  Instead of being the product of environmental conditions, national character came to be seen as fixed and hereditary.  Coinciding with the spread of racial Anglo-Saxonism in the United States, this new concept of national character prompted Americans to distance themselves from revolutionary movements in the Old World.  The peoples of France, Italy, and even Germany were intrinsically unfit for free institutions, it was argued.  The pervasiveness of this racial understanding of national character should not be exaggerated.  There was significant resistance to applying racial divisions to European peoples.  These debates indicate the extent to which concepts of whiteness and Anglo-Saxon identity were hotly debated in the early nineteenth-century United States.

 

Ulrike Kirchberger. "The British Clergy’s Perception of American Indians in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World"

The paper will deal with the members of three British organizations that were involved in missionary work among the Indians in the 18th century. It will examine the ways Indians were perceived by the clergy of the Nonconformist “New England Company” (NEC), the Presbyterian “Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge” (SSPCK), and the Anglican “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts” (SPG). The clergy’s perception will be examined in an Atlantic perspective. Both the images and stereotypes that were shaped by the clergy in Britain and the perception of the missionaries on the spot will be analyzed and compared with each other. The chronological development of the clergy’s perception will be dealt with by looking at the continuities and breaks that were caused by the colonial wars in the eighteenth century. The clergy’s view of the Indians will be seen in the context of the Indians’ ethnic self-definition as it was conveyed to the missionaries in conversations on the spot. Thus the paper will contribute to the current discussion about ethnicity in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world.

 

Wim Klooster. "Between Virginia’s Eastern Shore and the Maas Estuary: Natives and Strangers in the Atlantic Tobacco Business, 1620-1650"

In the first decades of the seventeenth century, Dutch merchants forged close ties with English planters in the New World, exporting large amounts of tobacco to the United Provinces from Virginia, Barbados, and St. Christopher. Seen from the New World, Dutch trade with the English colonies thrived. From a Dutch perspective, however, a different picture emerges. The role of native Dutchmen in tobacco imports was relatively limited. This becomes apparent when we take a close look at Rotterdam, probably the leading importer of Virginia tobacco. There was certainly no lack of Dutch merchants active in the tobacco business, but in the tobacco business, they were eclipsed by resident English merchants. Englishmen, often discharged soldiers, were also important in the Dutch tobacco pipe industry. By the third decade of the seventeenth century, when they were found in all quarters of the Dutch Republic, the number of English pipe-makers in the Netherlands rivaled that of England. While the Dutch in Virginia assimilated, the English in Rotterdam remained a nation apart. They ultimately paid a price for their lack of assimilation, as restrictions favoring native sons were introduced when the foreign innovators were no longer needed. Imperial interests also prevailed in Virginia, mostly because metropolitan Dutch merchants, faced with the Navigation Acts, gradually preferred other, less risky trades. 

 

M. Kittiya Lee. "Speaking by the Sea:  Interlingual Coastal Trade in Brazil, 1500-1550s"

This essay examines the Tupi-Guarani languages as the major interlanguage of trade between Indians and Europeans during the first half of the sixteenth century in coastal Brazil.  Research for this essay, based on ethnographies, histories and vocabularies of terms used in trade and barter written by European eye-witnesses in the first half of the sixteenth century, suggest that what was being spoken in inter-ethnic relations drew wholly from the speech of Tupi-Guarani speaking Indians who had been inhabiting the Atlantic shores.  Where itinerant traders and sailors arriving in ships from the Old World may have acquired and employed a string of key phrases and words in Tupi-Guarani to strike commercial business deals, Europeans who lived near to or among Indian villages came to acquire, probably with varying degrees of fluency, the languages of their neighbors and adopted kin.  Three principal discussions will guide this essay’s focus on the Tupi-Guarani languages.  First, the linguistic diversity and historical antecedents of Tupi-Guarani- and Romance-speaking trading communities will be summarized.  Second, the individuals involved in the principal trade during the first half century of the 1500s, the trade in brazilwood, introduces the major inter-ethnic commercial activity negotiated by the Tupi-Guarani languages.  And third, examination of European-authored vocabularies of the Tupi-Guarani trade pidgin and observations of linguistic exchanges between Indian and white will round on the discussion on the major lingua franca.

 

José Gabriel Martínez-Serna. "Jesuit Frontiers and Indian Ethnogenesis in Seventeenth-Century Spanish America"

The seventeenth century represents the apex of what is commonly called the Jesuit Baroque enterprise.  During this time, Spain entered in decline, yet her American empire continued to expand until well into the eighteenth century.  This expansion was due in large part to the efforts of missionaries.  The Jesuits in particular took the lead in spreading Christianity (and Spain’s dominion) by setting up missions in the periphery of Spain’s empire in the Americas.  In these frontier areas, Indians were non-sedentary societies with varying levels of sophistication.  Yet they were often clumped together as indios bárbaros, indios gentiles, or indios bravos (“wild Indians”).  This paper analyzes the role of the Jesuit order in the ethnogenesis of two these non-sedentary Indian nations in opposite parts of Spain’s American empire.

 

Matthew Mason. "Slavery, Servitude, and British Representations of Colonial North America"

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, British literature’s ambivalent conception of America tilted decidedly towards the negative.  It was a place to which only scoundrels or the desperate would willingly go.  Compounding this picture was the perception that few people did go willingly.  Indeed, for metropolitan observers, a basic reason the colonies were so loathsome and fearsome was their exploitative labor systems, from indentured servitude and convict labor to chattel slavery.   Contemporary literary works confirmed this picture of the colonies.  It emerged in the writings of prominent novelists such as Aphra Behn and Daniel Defoe as well as more obscure writers, from hack poets to former indentured servants relating their travails.  Even Edward Kimber, who actually traveled to the New World, upheld this standard vision of it.  In 1754, this British adventurer, compiler, and novelist published The History of the Life and Adventures of Mr. Anderson.  This remarkable novel, set largely in Maryland, depicts planters pejoratively and in other ways typifies the genre.  But Kimber went this formula one better when he had a slave insurrection save the day in his melodramatic plot’s climax.  It would be hard to call this literature – even Kimber’s – antislavery, but it shed light on the relationship between colonial America’s systems of bondage and metropolitan Britons’ disdain for the inhabitants of their colonies in the century preceding the American Revolution.

 

R. Darrell Meadows. "Refugee Planters and Revolutionary Legislators: Welfare, Exile and the Haitian Counter-Revolution, 1794-1802"

Year II of the French Revolution, the high point of the Jacobin Republic, also coincided with the arrival of boatloads of displaced planters from Saint-Domingue.  Through a series of welfare laws, exiled planters were entitled to state assistance, intended to sustain them until their return to the colonies could be realized.  In their exile, and with the support of the French state, planters in the metropole thus carried out what might be called the Haitian Counter-Revolution.  This paper, which is based on a close textual analysis of more than 1,000 petitions for assistance by plantation-owning men, women and children from Saint-Domingue, as well as pertinent legislative debates, explores how exiled planters used their entitlement to public assistance to shape French colonial policy in the late 1790s.  Narrative strategies not only enabled the exiled planters to survive the Revolution, but likely informed Napoleon’s decision to re-institute slavery in 1802.  Further study of metropolitan support for the planters is needed, it is suggested, to illuminate the conservative forces that—in the midst of Revolution—helped to postpone a definitive slave emancipation until 1848.

 

Jeremy Ravi Mumford. "Native Litigants in the Courts of the Conquerors: Indigenous Lawsuits of Spanish America, in Comparative Perspective"

This paper examines litigation by Native Americans in early Spanish America, in comparison with British, French and Portuguese colonies. It asks several questions: Why was there so much more native litigation in the Spanish colonies? Did native litigation allow indigenous law to express itself within the colonial system? Finally, did it offer a tool for challenging colonialism itself?  I argue that the main reason for the higher incidence of native litigation in the Spanish empire was the nature of colonial society in Mexico and Peru. These were the only state-organized, tribute-paying peasant societies which Europeans conquered in America. In these colonies, as in Europe, peasant communities both sustained the state and sued frequently. (The one non-Spanish area where I have found significant native litigation was in New England “praying towns,” which resembled Mexico and Peru in that native communities, controlling their own lands, were integrated into colonial society after the model of European farming communities.) Native litigation occasionally brought indigenous conceptions of property and rights into colonial government, and allowed peasants to challenge the worst abuses of colonialism. But it was above all a vehicle to socialize and incorporate New World peasants into the same complex, reciprocal relationship which European states had with taxpaying peasants at home.

 

Matt O'Hara. "An Eighteenth-Century “Great Debate”: Indians and Religious Vocations"

In 1753 Indian community leaders in central New Spain petitioned the Spanish Crown to create a seminary for Indian priests.   In their proposal, which demanded a seminary run by Indians for Indians, these men envisioned a new spiritual environment that amplified the element of religious practice that many Spanish reformers of the period hoped to mute—namely, “Indianness.”  In the end social realities intervened and the proposal remained on paper, an unfulfilled testament to a radical idea.  In contrast, however, a number of convents were founded for indigenous women during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Like the seminary, the convents received the strong support of Indian community leaders from throughout New Spain.  As brokers between their communities and colonial authorities, the Indian supporters of all such projects represented themselves as “pure Indians,” free from any mixture with non-Indians.  By promoting the concept of Indian purity, both the seminary and convent proposals buttressed the elite status of certain colonial subjects (indios principales or caciques) and reinforced social hierarchies within Indian communities.  In so doing, native elite leveraged the category of Indian to create institutions that redirected the Bourbon religious reforms of the eighteenth century, offering a counter-theology to that espoused by most of the hierarchy.  But the role of Indianness in these projects was complex.  In the case of the seminary, Indianness impeded its founding, since key Spanish officials questioned the spiritual and political abilities of Indian men.  The convents, on the other hand, succeeded in large measure because Indian women were thought to possess qualities that naturally suited them for the rigors of conventual life.  The unique outcomes of these projects demonstrate the limits that were placed on Indian participation in public life and the gendering of Indian identity in the late colonial period.  In public discourse Indianness was feminized and the feminization of Indian men precluded their acceptance, in large numbers, into the public life of the priesthood.

 

William O'Reilly. "Voyagers to the East:  The Atlantic Reconquest of Europe"

The aim of this paper is to examine the plans established by Charles III, king of Spain and later Emperor Charles VI, between 1705 and 1740, to govern a united Habsburg Empire from Madrid and Vienna which would stretch from the Americas to Russia, with the Atlantic as it’s focus. These plans shed light on the attempts of a king and emperor to follow in the footsteps of Charles V in the sixteenth century in creating a universal, catholic empire and also on the idea of empire prevalent in Habsburg Europe in the eighteenth century. It emerges that ideas and understandings of race and multi-ethnic government, developed in the Atlantic World, would come to have real and significant impact on Central and Eastern Europe, perhaps to the present day. The ambitious project to manage a united empire based round a “mildly centripetal agglutination of bewilderingly heterogeneous elements” in Europe, together with complex colonies in the Americas, was an Atlantic reconquest of Europe, which would allow methods and means of government developed in the Atlantic World to permeate continental Europe and be used in the management of subject nations and religious minorities. Specifically, this paper considers Habsburg claims to the crown of Spain in 1700 and the resulting debate about the feasibility of governing a trans-Atlantic and trans-continental empire. Those reforms instituted by Archduke Charles Habsburg from 1705, in his role as King Charles III of Spain, which would later be built upon as the Bourbon reforms, are also considered. Following Charles’ translation to Vienna in 1711, these reforms were continued in Central Europe by the new Emperor, at a particularly acquisitive time for the Habsburgs in their campaigns against the Ottoman Empire; this paper examines how “Atlantic” methods of government were used to reform and administer Central Europe. Finally, it is suggested that Atlantic methods of multi-racial administration and government continued to be used in varying forms and to varying degrees in Central Europe until the twentieth century.

 

Erika Pani. "When Independence Wars Are Civil Wars:  Reconstructing the Body Politic"

This paper attempts to analyze, from a comparative perspective, the process through which political communities were reconfigured in the thirteen British American colonies and in New Spain, as the imperial crises of the second half of the Eighteenth century degenerated into war. In both British and Spanish America, the issue of independence divided colonial society, and this translated itself into a series of challenges, for the men who attempted to shore up the old order as much as for the ones who hoped to construct a new one: could the old “community of allegiance” be kept together? As it became fractured, what would be the foundations of a new one? How could community be rebuilt? The paper focuses on the “invention” of an American identity and the mechanisms for its diffusion, on how resistance to perceived aggressive metropolitan policies was orchestrated, and on the ways–both material and ideological—in which a “new” body politic was created.

 

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe. "Concepts and Constitutions:  Federalism Crosses the Atlantic"

In 1787 Pennsylvanians, who lived daily with diversity and faced the decision to turn the many American republics into one federal nation, successfully integrated Euro-American political concepts while drafting their own definitions of pluralism.  Pennsylvanian politicians shared a vocabulary but disputed a definition.  To Antifederalists, the proposed Federation threatened to steal the sovereignty and corrupt the virtue of their fragile new republic. If the Pennsylvanian Federalists were to reconcile virtuous Republics with commercial Federations, they needed to shift public attention away from the question of where sovereignty lay to that of what community meant.  James Wilson took the lead among Federalists in reworking European definitions of community and nation for a heterogeneous society.  The immigrant focused on the ability of an individual to be a member of many communities and to form many contracts, each governing a different aspect of his life.  Even Hume’s fearsome factions became  constituent communities in a new nation defined by its diversity.  Wilson proposed an American identity derived from shared experiences instead of a shared past and a multifaceted government for a multifaceted people.  This virtuous Federal Republic would not threaten other cultural allegiances; it was a nation presupposing pluralism.

 

James G. Patterson. "Politicization and Agrarianism in the West of Ireland, 1791-1803"

On 22 August 1798, the United Irishmen’s long-term endeavors to obtain French support finally came to fruition with the appearance of three frigates in Killala Bay on the coast of Mayo. Unfortunately for the Irish Republican movement, their allies were late for the Great Rebellion of 1798 had been suppressed several weeks earlier. Nonetheless, this belated and undersized army was joined by thousands of Irish volunteers prior to being overwhelmed at Ballynamuck in County Longford on 8 September. The Republic of Connacht survived barely a month. In the succeeding 200 years, historians have failed to satisfactorily explain what drove as many as 10,000 supposedly complacent, Irish peasants (in reality artisans, farmers, laborers and shopkeepers) to partake in such an apparently ill-conceived endeavor. This paper argues that such views oversimplify a highly complex situation.  In reality, the west had experienced a period of prior politicization by the Defenders and United Irishmen, which in turn was shaped by pre-existing, regionally specific socio-economic and cultural factors. More precisely, the existence of an underground Catholic gentry with long-term connections to the continent and the interrelated presence of a pervasive smuggling culture, coupled with traditional agrarian discontent, had produced a deeply rooted, albeit unfocused, anti-state mentalité into which the radical organizations tapped.

 

Gustavo L. Paz. "Reporting Atlantic News: Newspapers and the Rise of the Public in Late Colonial Argentina"

There is no doubt that public papers are education for those who do not have one and literature for those who do not read anything. For, what kind of an education does the Captain of an English ship have, still you see him arriving here loaded with Gazettes and speaking about political and commercial affairs in such a manner that nobody can respond? And, what kind of an education does a French barber have and still he speaks for hours and hours about revolution, war, or the Arts, while you remain silent and mystified?...Be aware that they have neither learned all this in Books but in Public Papers, nor in Academies but in Coffeehouses and Taverns.

 

Sandra Rebok. "Transatlantic Communication by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander von Humboldt: The Personal Relationship and Ideological Link betweenTwo Exponents of the Enlightenment"

This paper examines the relationship between these two prominent exponents of the Enlightenment and contextualizes it in its broader significance for the transatlantic political and scientific dialogue. Starting with a personal encounter that took place in 1804, an intensive exchange of ideas developed between these two figures over the following twenty years through letters and forwarded publications. This research project analyzes parallels and differences in their actions and thoughts, taking into account that the perceptions and convictions of these two individuals must be examined in the particular personal, as well as historical and political, context that shaped their views. Finally, I will demonstrate to what extent the differences seen in the writings of these two personalities represent the broader differences between the European and the American Enlightenment.

 

Ty M. Reese. "Rum and Romauls: The Consequences of Consumption at Cape Coast, 1750-1807"

This work explores the consequences of the trans-Atlantic slave trade upon the Gold Coast enclave of Cape Coast that served as the administrative center for England’s Company of Merchants Trading to Africa. It accomplishes this not by focusing on the exportation of slaves but rather on the importation of a global assortment of luxury commodities. The article begins by examining how the sorting system allowed for the importation of commodities before moving to the issue of access. It ends by briefly exploring some of the consequences of this system especially how the Cape Coast people effectively developed a broker society that both protected and expanded their interests.

 

James Robertson. "'sufficient on our bare word (as we know not the meaning of an oath)':  ventriloquising Jamaica’s slaves and the early politics of anti-slavery."

Why would a proposal to ease slavery in Jamaica prompt a white physician to adopt a slave's voice in writing to an Assemblyman?  A bill to recognize slaves' testimony before Jamaican courts was recommended as a measure to defend slaves from maltreatment.  The measure passed its first reading but then aroused opposition and failed.  A reform proposed in Jamaica in 1748 prompts a reconsideration of the early chronology of anti-slavery.  Examining what a contentious colonial scheme proposed, along with the arguments invoked in this letter, illuminates the rationales for slave-holding among the island's white residents which remained key issues that further refoms had to by-pass or avoid.

 

L. H. Roper. "Parliaments and American Politics:  Charles I and Virginia, 1638"

This paper probes several related issues respecting empire, government, politics and colonial development that arose during the reign of Charles I of England by discussing the efforts of the king and his ministers to bring the political factions that governed Virginia to heel, to clamp down on smuggling by the Dutch, and to regulate the cultivation of tobacco in a Virginia “parliament” called early in 1638.  The paper analyzes the motivations of Charles I in summoning the Virginia “representatives of the people,” as well as the response of the burgesses to the king’s commands, and the replies, in turn, of the royal agents who tried, with indifferent success, to enforce the will of their master.  It then reconsiders the degree of “absolutism”’ in Charles I’s government, as well as the perspective and agendas of leading Virginians, and the character of what passed for imperial oversight in the English Empire at this time.  This analysis, in turn, offers insights on the degree of distinctiveness—and the nature of that distinctiveness—that this Anglo-American society had.  It also sheds brighter light on the position of the House of Burgesses in the colonial and imperial governmental structures, on the relationship between early modern English governments and societies generally prior to the Civil Wars, and, thus, on the nature of the English-speaking Atlantic World.  We learn here that contemporaries on the make on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1630s regarded the successful pursuit of patronage connections, both local and transatlantic, as vital for advancing personal and political goals and even for creating successful government.  Institutions such as Virginia’s ‘parliament’ may have provided a public stage upon which the historical actors could conduct their activities—and so they could take on a life of their own—but they concentrated their attentions on ‘behind-the-scenes’ maneuvering.

 

Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss. "'The young female destined to live and die in the colonies': Elite White Efforts to Control Martinique’s White Women, 1802-1830"

For the past forty-odd years, the historiography of nineteenth-century  Martinique in the French Atlantic has been dominated by studies that depict monolithic enslaved, free colored, and white populations. Recent studies of colonial societies in other parts of the globe, however, and in particular of white colonial communities, suggest that Martinique’s nineteenth-century colonial society was much more complex than previously imagined. This paper follows in the footsteps of these recent historians of empire by examining elite white Creole (born in the colonies) and French European efforts to define and police white identity in Martinique between 1802 and 1825. Drawing on, among other things, personal and official correspondence of early nineteenth-century Martinicans, the proceedings of Martinique’s extra-judicial special council, local census records, as well as colonial decrees and ordinances published in the island’s Code de la Martinique, this paper explores the vigorous campaign of boundary management and deviance control that Martinique’s elite whites undertook in an effort to maintain white hegemony. After the island’s return to French control in 1802 after nearly six years of British rule, Martinique’s elite whites faced not only a decline in the island’s white population but also growing divisions between local white Creoles and French Europeans as well as an increasingly dissatisfied free colored population. In addition to their efforts to reassert control over the island’s enslaved and free colored population, elite whites increasingly turned their attention to managing Martinique’s so-called petits blancs (little whites) population and the island’s growing white female population. Through, among other things, the establishment of charity bureaus, whites-only foundling homes and hospices for indigent women and girls, and extra-judicial special councils authorized to deport undesirables, elite white Creoles and French European officials worked hard to control those whites who they believed failed to meet the ideals of what both a white and a Frenchman should be. Such efforts to enforce a race- and class-specific definition of whiteness and Frenchness had important consequences not only for Martinique’s local population but also for metropolitan Frenchmen across the Atlantic who were engaged in their own battle over who and what could truly be considered part of the French nation.

 

Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall. "Atlantic Amnesia: Memory and the Haitian Revolution in the United States and France"

The Haitian Revolution horrified whites throughout the Atlantic world.  For slaveowners and their allies, the world was turned upside down; for enslaved peoples around the Atlantic, the Haitian Revolution had a different meaning:  it served as a flicker of inspiration and hope as they imagined a world in which the scourge of slavery could be eradicated.  The Revolution also had more concrete effects in the Atlantic world, from strengthening slavery in the United States to shattering the colonial economy of France.  It would not be an overstatement to call the Haitian Revolution’s international effects cataclysmic.  Despite the event’s importance, its memory has not been well preserved, in either the United States or in France.  In this essay, I present a brief comparison of American and French historiographies on the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution, touching upon both popular and scholarly memories of the event.  I note especially the greater attention by Americans to studying the impact of the Haitian Revolution in their country, before analyzing why this disparity exists. Through my analysis, I hope to offer insights on the interplay between history, memory and ideas of race, for Americans as well as for the French.  I argue in particular that the growing concern in American historiography with Saint-Domingue stems from Americans’ acute consciousness about race – whereas in France, the very concept is seen as scandalous. The higher level of interest in Haiti in American academia also stems from the popularity of the “Atlantic history” paradigm, as well as from the special place of Haiti in French history.  I consider, however, recent developments in France, from the 2001 law on slavery to the current CAPES/Agrégation national history competition; I ask whether they might foster greater interest in Atlantic topics, thereby reversing Haitian-related amnesia.

 

Gunvor Simonsen. "Conjugality, Conjugal Conflicts, and Afro-Caribbean Patriarchy: Exploring Violence and Adultery in the Danish West Indian Courts"

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century a small number of enslaved men were charged with murder of or assault on their common law wives or their former wives’ new partners in the lower courts of the Danish West Indies. Through the trials of these men, the paper sets out to explore how enslaved Africans and Afro-Caribbeans narrated their conjugal life, in particular how they made sense of adultery. There were, at least, two traditions present in the Danish West Indies that enslaved Africans could draw on to make sense of marital infidelity. Moravian missionaries introduced slaves to the notion that adultery was a crime against God’s Law, but enslaved Africans and Afro-Caribbeans could also rely on vibrant memories of the punitive measures used against adultery in their West African homelands when they had to plead their case in court. In court, Africans and Afro-Caribbeans employed a language of conjugality in which domestic duties, emotional bonding and access to their partner’s hut marked formal relationships. Whereas colonial judges presented slaves’ conjugal violence as caused by a lack of institutional formality, defendants underlined that their violence was caused by their partner’s breach of a formal union. Pointing to their partner’s adulterous behaviour was thus a way for defendants to explain, excuse and legitimize their violence.

 

Rosalie Smith McCrea. "The Caribbean in the Metropolitan Imagination or Atlantic Republicanism and Creole Beckford"

This paper returns to the discourse of ‘Atlantic Republicanism’ known as civic humanism or classical republicanism by modern and contemporary historians. Revived in the Florentine Renaissance, the debate has had a great interest for a recent generation of historians who have investigated archives pertaining to its British, American and Italian variants. Atlantic Republicanism was concerned with the relationship between the civic view of morality and the moral value of wealth. My paper presents two opposing interpretations of the current debate and foregrounds the life, values and actions of William Beckford (1744-99), an Anglo-Jamaican Creole plantation owner and historian, against the conflicted rhetoric of Atlantic Republicanism. Using the small body of records at my disposal, the paper probes into the connections between Atlantic Republican notions of ‘civic virtue’ and ‘commerce’ as these categories defined or, marked the personhood of Beckford.

 

Denise A. Spellberg. "Could a Muslim Be President of the United States? The Atlantic View of Islam"

The paper investigates how a single day’s debate over ratification of the Constitution in North Carolina in 1788 presented an alternative to the dominant European constructions of the day, as captured in an argument over the possibility of a Muslim president of the United States. Such a future scenario was provoked by a reading of Article VI, section 3, which, in part, states “… no religious tests shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The intent of this investigation is to complicate the concept of Muslims as a mere monolith in the minds of the Founders, and to situate the multiplicity of these observations within a specific dialogue between Federalist and Anti-Federalists. In this exchange, despite the dominant, inherited European and American prejudices of the day, a discursive space was opened by supporters of the Constitution for individual Muslims as citizens and potential presidents.

 

Miranda Spieler. "Slaves, Freed People, and the Revolutionary Rights Tradition,
1789-c. 1799"

This paper examines the efforts of French Revolutionaries to define the colonial empire in relation to the domestic legal order that developed in the 1790s. It traces the efforts of legislators to manipulate the constitutional status of the colonies so as to bracket slaves and newly freed people from the rights-bearing community. The work of the Weimar jurist Carl Schmitt on states of emergency provides a theoretical point of departure for this investigation of space, law, violence, and the margins of Revolutionary society. The various devices that served to bracket the empire as an extra-constitutional zone and to estrange its residents from the domestic citizenry had permanent effects on French imperial rule as it crystallized at the turn of the nineteenth century. I suggest that the experience of the 1790s would transform the empire in a lasting way into a zone of legal exception.

 

Linda L. Sturtz. "'White' African Jamaican? A Tale of Two Roses"

David Brion Davis has challenged historians from across the Americas to consider by what means did people “at one time regarded as barbarous and even subhuman, become ‘white’?” and “how important has [race] been as a means of unification?”  In eighteenth-century Jamaica, planter law and society sought ways to manage the boundaries among racialized categories of people.  One means to accomplish this was to legislate certain individuals into a category of people who would share in some of the legal privileges “as if” they had been born of English parents. Little documentation by these Jamaicans remains. One exception is the collection of letters of Mary Rose.  Her letters reveal the opportunities that a well-connected, skilled, woman of colour could enjoy as well as the oppressive legal and cultural structures she faced in mid-eighteenth-century Jamaica.

 

Bertrand Van Ruymbeke. "Refugees or Émigrés? The Huguenot, Royalist, and Saint-Domingue Migrations to America"  

A century apart, at the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1680-1720) and the French (1789-1815) and Haitian Revolutions (1791-1804), two major migration outbreaks sent Francophone refugees and émigrés throughout Northern Europe and parts of the Atlantic basin. The two largest streams of voluntary French-speaking immigrants—as opposed to the Acadian deportees—into the United States until the arrival of the Québécois in the late nineteenth century originated in these dispersals. This paper seeks to compare the historical context, size, and nature of these two Francophone migrations and discuss their respective places in history and memory notably through the various and heavily connoted use of the terms refugee and émigré. 

 

Cécile Vidal. "The Reluctance of French Historians to Address Atlantic History

After having recorded the weak reception of the new Atlantic history in France, this paper will seek to explain the intellectual, institutional, political, and cultural reasons behind the French academic reticence towards the new historiographical current which is, in contrast, quite popular in British and American universities.  It will point out two main factors: the crisis faced by the “French historical school” which has remained very hexagonal and the non-integration of colonization and slavery into French collective history and memory.  Then, it will demonstrate how they particularly affect the colonial history of the early modern period.

 

Elvira Vilches. "Atlantic Crossings and Valuation in Early New World Historiography"

For early modern Hispanic culture the common routes of transatlantic trade and the gridded representations of the Atlantic in maps and globes coexisted with an understanding of the ocean as an abstract place without shape or points of reference only tangible as a mesh of reoccurring obstacles, boundaries, and rewards.  The understanding of the Atlantic space in the early historiography of the New World is what occupies me in this piece on the Hispanic cultural discourse of the Atlantic in the sixteenth century.  The writings on exploration by Christopher Columbus, Las Casas, Ferdinand Columbus, and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo grasp the extension and materiality of the remoter Atlantic by stressing the role of the Azores as a point of reference that rather than confirming the separation between the Portuguese and Castilian zones of control, convey the notion that the western Atlantic was a domain of contingencies lacking any inherent solidity.  These narratives conceived of Atlantic crossings as an itinerary whereby 100 leagues west of the Azores marked a threshold of reversal where the measurements of distance and direction became fluid values.  The variation of what Spaniards considered the accurate values of things at sea unveiled in land different organizations of value whereby the evaluation and valorization of money, price, and treasure, and even gender seem to not exist.  This realm of non-value conjoined ocean and islands into one entity that not only questioned the western mode of symbolizing value through gold, but also defined the Atlantic as an interstice beyond the proper indices of estimation and judgment. 

 

Peter Vogt. “'Every where at Home': The Eighteenth-Century Moravian Movement as a Transatlantic Religious Community"

Beginning in the 1730s, the Moravians established their presence as a religious renewal and missionary movement in the Atlantic World.  Operating with a global vision, the founded congregations and societies throughout Europe and established numerous settlements and mission stations in North America and South America and on the West coast of the African continent.  The played an important role in the development of evangelical awakenings during the 1740s in Germany, England, and Pennsylvania.  At the same time, they developed their own unique form of religious culture and social organization, based on their self-understanding as an trans-national and trans-confessional theocratic community.  The goal of this paper is twofold: first to describe the presence of the Moravian movement in the Eighteenth Century Atlantic world in terms of its historical developments and its geographical scope.  And second, to explore the religious ideals and practices that (a) governed the expansion of the Moravian movement and that (b) provided the movement with a sense of unity and internal cohesion.  It will be argued that there were numerous factors that contributed to the cohesion of the movement, including a strong central leadership, an effective network of communication, a spiritual self-understanding that emphasized community, and uniform system of belief and worship. These factors created a transatlantic community structure that was surprisingly stable throughout the Eighteenth Century and that enabled its members to feel, as one source put it, “every where at Home”.  

 

Stephen A. Wilson. "Anglo-French Platonism and Religious Conceptions of Civic Life in Colonial New England"

A flexible discourse connects an unlikely assemblage of Anglican, Calvinist and Roman Catholic philosopher-theologians in England, the American colonies, and France: John Norris (1657-1711), Ralph Cudworth (1617-1688), Henry More (1614-1687), Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), Samuel Johnson (1696-1772), and Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715). At its core is the Christian Platonist description of human sensibilities, values and institutions as instantiations of divine archetypal truth. Philosophically, these figures line up as “intellectualists” against, e.g., Hobbsian “voluntarism.” Theologically, they were engaged in a two-sided polemic against “enthusiasm” and Deism. Politically, they straddle the midpoint between an unconstrained authoritarianism and a proto-populist insistence on freedom of conscience and self-sustaining public virtue. The result is a conceptualization of civic life in which a diverse array of religious and non-religious motives can contribute to a common good (at different levels of a moral hierarchy) while retaining their intentional opposition. The Puritan and Deist contributions to early American religious toleration and church-state separation have been studied extensively. Making the latter Enlightenment’s intrinsic telos, however, effaces the interwoven pattern of liberal theology, moderate political values and conservative social values that is also etched into the Enlightenment’s stamp on the modern public sphere. This paper is devoted mainly to extracting a converging religious worldview from a long paper trail of primary sources. But it is also hoped that, once extracted, this worldview can enhance the background for enlightenment-religion interfaces studied in the “conservative enlightenment,” in the tradition of “rational dissent,” and in the coalition-building that went on between various colonial groups in and around the American Revolution.

 

Bradford J. Wood. "Finding the Atlantic World: James Murray in North Carolina"

Scholars have often asserted that the influence of the Atlantic World extended out of the Atlantic littoral and into the interior of the North American continent, but until we know more about what happened in the relative absence of the Atlantic, it will be difficult for us to fully understand the presence of the Atlantic and the world it created.  This essay offers a preliminary case study of the relevance of an Atlanticist approach to the history of the British colony of North Carolina, a place notable for its lack of access to the Atlantic Ocean.  One particular source, James Murray’s letters, provides unique and invaluable insight into the role of the Atlantic in this colony and forms the core of this study.  Murray’s letters enable a careful look at Scottish immigration to North Carolina, Atlantic ties between North Carolina and other colonies, and the enslavement of Africans in the colony.  All three of these topics demonstrates that North Carolina’s limited access to the Atlantic encouraged a more complicated, and in some ways more limited, connection to other Atlantic World places.  Seemingly isolated local perspectives and more transatlantic outlooks could co-exist, and Atlantic World connections could influence British North Carolina through their absence as well as through their presence, but they did so in ways that were often indirect, complex, and uneven.

 

Nuala Zahedieh. "New World Resources and the Expansion of England’s Merchant Marine, 1660-1775"

Kenneth Pomeranz has recently argued that the ‘extraordinary ecological bounty’ provided by New World resources was ‘vital’ in allowing Europe to escape Malthusian constraints and deserves to be ranked with England’s turn to coal as a crucial factor in placing the country on a path to self-sustained growth. England did indeed obtain large quantities of raw materials from its New World territories but, as understood by the authors of the Navigation Acts, it was necessary to control their transport and distribution if others were not to benefit at England’s expense. The expansion of shipping supply, in turn, rested on forest reserves but England’s woodlands were much depleted and unlikely to be replaced unless the timber price rose to a level where it could bid land away from agriculture.  Northern Europe could go some way to fill the gap but the quality of the timber, high transport costs, difficulties in settling the trade account and, above all, limited political influence, meant it could not offer a full solution. America’s virgin forests provided an abundant and secure supply of shipbuilding materials, but imports into England were limited by the very heavy transport burden. A more efficient solution to the timber problem was provided by the growth of the colonial shipbuilding industry: timber was wrought into ships near source and exported to England carrying full freight. By 1770 around one third of England’s merchant marine was colonial built. America’s forest resources enabled England to expand its merchant marine and provide shipping services at a competitive rate which, in turn, allowed it to maintain a fairly well-sealed commercial system and maximise the benefits of the ‘extraordinary ecological bounty’ provided by its New World territories.

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
     
  © 2009 by The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Created January 16, 1998; last revised February 24, 2011.