Trevor Burnard (The University of Melbourne, Australia)

June 26, 2017, 6 p.m., Fakultätssaal (Philosophicum)

Jamaica and Saint Domingue were two wildly successful but socially monstrous slave societies. In the years between 1748 and 1788 these societies—based upon a plantation complex in which African labourers were brought to the Caribbean to produce luxury commodities originally developed in Asia for a European market—reached an apogee of sorts in the Greater Antilles. Jamaica and Saint Domingue came close to perfecting a form of economic organisation that operated on a global scale that provided the owners of capital (human and otherwise) with vast amounts of money and considerable geopolitical clout. These were regions that exempli ed the complex forces of early modern imperialism, forces that helped make colonialism a truly global phenomenon.

This talk explores these two socities at the height of their powers. It looks at how their plantation systems developed and at the social and cultural forms that the plantation complex in its most developed and modern form spawned. In particular, it looks at how these societies created new forms of belonging based on race and on shared values in their elites of “whiteness.” White colonial residents of Jamaica and Saint Domingue established individualistic behaviours that might be considered egalitarian if these societies had not been so dependent upon enslaved labourers for their wealth.

Trevor Burnard is Head of School and Professor of History at the School of Historical & Philosophical Studies (SHAPS) at The University of Melbourne, Australia.