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Beyond Sugar: Rethinking Caribbean Plantation Landscapes

Author(s): Jane Seiter

Year: 2014

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Much has been written about the ‘sugar revolution’ sweeping the islands of the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th centuries. Recent work by archaeologists, however, has challenged this overarching narrative. On the island of St. Lucia, a program of landscape survey joined with a close analysis of maps and census records has revealed a surprisingly different pattern of landscape development. Building on a legacy of subsistence agriculture inherited from the Amerindians, early European settlers on St. Lucia developed a patchwork of small estates growing a diverse number of crops, including cotton, cocoa, coffee, tobacco, ginger, cassava, indigo, and bananas. The comparative absence of large sugar plantations allowed people without much capital to purchase and develop land, resulting in a large percentage of landowners being free people of color, a pattern that significantly influenced later historical events throughout the greater Caribbean region.

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Beyond Sugar: Rethinking Caribbean Plantation Landscapes. Jane Seiter. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436602)

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-6,10

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America