Planters, Merchants, And Slaves: Plantation Societies In British America, 1650-1820

Hardcover | October 27, 2015

byTrevor Burnard

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As with any enterprise involving violence and lots of money, running a plantation in early British America was a serious and brutal enterprise. Beyond resources and weapons, a plantation required a significant force of cruel and rapacious men—men who, as Trevor Burnard sees it, lacked any better options for making money. In the contentious Planters, Merchants, and Slaves, Burnard argues that white men did not choose to develop and maintain the plantation system out of virulent racism or sadism, but rather out of economic logic because—to speak bluntly—it worked.

These economically successful and ethically monstrous plantations required racial divisions to exist, but their successes were always measured in gold, rather than skin or blood. Burnard argues that the best example of plantations functioning as intended is not those found in the fractious and poor North American colonies, but those in their booming and integrated commercial hub, Jamaica. Sure to be controversial, this book is a major intervention in the scholarship on slavery, economic development, and political power in early British America, mounting a powerful and original argument that boldly challenges historical orthodoxy.

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As with any enterprise involving violence and lots of money, running a plantation in early British America was a serious and brutal enterprise. Beyond resources and weapons, a plantation required a significant force of cruel and rapacious men—men who, as Trevor Burnard sees it, lacked any better options for making money. In the content...

Trevor Burnard is professor in and head of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Mastery, Tyranny, and Desire and Creole Gentlemen, as well as coeditor of The Routledge History of Slavery.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:360 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.2 inPublished:October 27, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022628610X

ISBN - 13:9780226286105

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

List of Abbreviations

Introduction: Plantation Worlds

1          The Rise of the Large Integrated Plantation
2          Violence, White Solidarity, and the Rise of Planter Elites
3          The Wealth of the Plantations
4          “A Prodigious Mine”: Jamaica
5          The American Revolution and Plantation America

Epilogue: Slaves and Planters

Appendix: An Essay on Sources

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Given Burnard’s extensive experience writing about and researching slavery in various sites across this vast region—Maryland, Jamaica, and Demerara, most notably—it is hard to imagine a guide better positioned to lead an excursion through this vast historiography. And indeed, the book ably draws examples and insights from the whole region, with attention to both commonalities and contrasts. No simple Caribbean-versus-North America binary emerges. Instead, plantation colonies shared broad profitability rooted in their common reliance on violence. Nonetheless, various colonies and regions remained distinct from each other due to variations of crop, size, time of development, geography, internal politics, and degree of economic diversity. It is a tremendous challenge for a work of synthesis to avoid flattening out the picture of the places it covers, and Burnard succeeds in summarizing while keeping local variation in focus.”