Kristen Block examines the entangled histories of Spain and
England in the Caribbean during the long seventeenth century,
focusing on colonialism's two main goals: the search for profit and
the call to Christian dominance.
Using the stories of ordinary people, Block illustrates how
engaging with the powerful rhetoric and rituals of Christianity was
central to survival. Isobel Criolla was a runaway slave in
Cartagena who successfully lobbied the Spanish governor not to
return her to an abusive mistress. Nicolas Burundel was a French
Calvinist who served as henchman to the Spanish governor of Jamaica
before his arrest by the Inquisition for heresy. Henry Whistler was
an English sailor sent to the Caribbean under Oliver Cromwell's
plan for holy war against Catholic Spain. Yaff and Nell were slaves
who served a Quaker plantation owner, Lewis Morris, in Barbados.
Seen from their on-the-ground perspective, the development of
modern capitalism, race, and Christianity emerges as a story of
negotiation, contingency, humanity, and the quest for
Ordinary Lives in the Early Caribbean works in both a
comparative and an integrative Atlantic world frame, drawing on
archival sources from Spain, England, Barbados, Colombia, and the
United States. It pushes the boundaries of how historians read
silences in the archive, asking difficult questions about how
self-censorship, anxiety, and shame have shaped the historical
record. The book also encourages readers to expand their concept of
religious history beyond a focus on theology, ideals, and pious
exemplars to examine the communal efforts of pirates, smugglers,
slaves, and adventurers who together shaped the Caribbean's
emerging moral economy.
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