Everyday Life in the Early English Caribbean

Irish, Africans, and the Construction of Difference

Title Details

Pages: 280

Illustrations: 18 b&w photos

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 11/15/2013

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4662-5

List Price: $34.95


Pub Date: 11/15/2013

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4505-5

List Price: $120.95


Pub Date: 11/15/2013

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4634-2

List Price: $120.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Everyday Life in the Early English Caribbean

Irish, Africans, and the Construction of Difference

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  • Description
  • Reviews
Set along both the physical and social margins of the British Empire in the second half of the seventeenth century, Everyday Life in the Early English Caribbean explores the construction of difference through the everyday life of colonial subjects. Jenny Shaw examines how marginalized colonial subjects—Irish and Africans—contributed to these processes. Although their lives are obscured by sources constructed by elites, Shaw overcomes these constraints by pushing methodological boundaries to fill in the gaps, silences, and absences that dominate the historical record and uncovering perspectives that would otherwise remain obscured. Shaw makes clear that each group persisted in its own cultural practices; Irish and Africans also worked within—and challenged—the limits of the colonial regime. Shaw’s research demonstrates the extent to which hierarchies were in flux in the early modern Caribbean, allowing even an outcast servant to rise to the position of island planter, and underscores the fallacy that racial categories of black and white were the sole arbiters of difference in the early English Caribbean.

Jenny Shaw’s nuanced study illuminates how divisions originating in Europe— especially those that distinguished Irish Catholic servants from their English Protestant masters—shaped colonial society and ultimately the hierarchies of race that came to be the most important markers of difference. Shaw profitably lingers over the early period, when the early English Caribbean was in the process of becoming, and as a result she demonstrates that race and colonialism were negotiated, not preordained.

—Carla Gardina Pestana, author of Protestant Empire: Religion and the Making of the British Atlantic World

A nuanced and fascinating account of how Irish Catholics shaped the emergence of racial hierarchy in the English Caribbean. With meticulous attention to the constraints and possibilities of everyday life, Shaw explores the way that early settlers marked and ranked social difference, finding that status distinctions were surprisingly malleable, even in a society overwhelmingly organized by slavery and race. Offering close readings of fresh sources, this is both an important study and an impressive feat of the informed imagination.

—Vincent Brown, author of The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery

About the Author/Editor

JENNY SHAW is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama.