Seminar: Plantations, Capitalism, Environmental Change, and Enslaved Resistance in the Caribbean, 1640-1791

Join the University of Western Australia’s Classics and History Research Forum on Monday, 4th December, at 3:30pm in Room G01 to hear from Professor Trevor Burnard from the University of Hull. All are welcome (though the seminar is in-person).

Professor Burnard will give a seminar on Plantations, Capitalism, Environmental Change, and Enslaved Resistance in the Caribbean, 1640-1791.

Abstract: The large integrated plantation system, as developed first in Barbados in the 1640s and then exported, fitfully, to other colonies in the French and British Greater Caribbean in the late seventeenth century, and developed further in places like Jamaica and St Domingue in the eighteenth century, initiated a significant agricultural revolution more transformative of people and environment than agricultural change in Britain and France. It brought wealth to Britain and France and riches to planters and merchants in the Caribbean, Europe and Africa in ways that facilitated early modern capitalism as the plantation machine was `modern’ and capitalist from its origins. It also brought immense misery to the African-heritage enslaved people caught up in the plantation machine, who were forced to work under the reality of extreme violence in ways that were different from and appreciably harder than peasant labour in Africa or Europe. The plantation machine depended on massive environmental transformations of the Caribbean landscape. This paper evaluates these environmental transformations in respect to the establishment of plantation work and discipline in the seventeenth and eighteenth century French and British Caribbean, assesses what these environmental transformations and new methods of managing `human capital’ meant for capitalist development, and examines how enslaved people adapted to and often resisted, sometimes successfully, the dehumanization and extreme work demands that went along with this agricultural revolution in European empires in the Caribbean.