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At the Margins of the Plantation: An Archaeology of the ‘Poor Whites’ of Barbados

Author(s): Matthew Reilly

Year: 2014

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Plantation studies continue to be a mainstay of historical archaeological scholarship, particularly in the Caribbean where, for centuries, the plantation system dominated political, economic, and social life. In Barbados, the advent of this system engendered a ‘poor white’ underclass on the island that would survive on the margins of the plantation landscape. Archaeological investigations of a ‘poor white’ tenantry village, abandoned since the 1960s, are revealing a web of relationships involving village inhabitants, an unstable environment prone to rock slides, poverty, the island plantocracy, and enslaved Africans and Afro-Barbadians. The village and villagers of Below Cliff, literally situated under a cliff on the island’s east coast, represent an anomaly of sorts. Cast as an idle, backward, alcoholic, and racially arrogant demographic, the ‘poor whites’ threatened the established race and class based hierarchies that defined plantation life. An archaeological approach to this demographic raises significant new questions about the plantation landscape and the lived realities of the ‘poor whites’ within plantation society.

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At the Margins of the Plantation: An Archaeology of the ‘Poor Whites’ of Barbados. Matthew Reilly. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436610)

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-6,18

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