Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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pp. vi-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-xii

I have been fortunate to receive a great deal of encouragement and helpful criticism from a number of individuals and institutions. Philip Morgan and Joyce Chaplin offered support for this project at a very early stage in its development. Their critiques and suggestions on repeated drafts of the manuscript have made this a much better book than it would have been otherwise. Both ...

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Introduction: Melancholy and Fatal Calamities

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pp. 1-9

The storm began about 6:00 A.M. on September 11, 1751. On the previous evening the sky had been “a very livid color, horrible to behold,” alarming Jamaican colonists, who feared a major hurricane. The early morning confirmed their worst fears, as the “hard squalls of wind” gave way to stronger and more continuous gusts. The storm grew in intensity throughout the morning, ...

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1 Encountering Hurricanes

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pp. 10-32

In early 1624 a small group of colonists led by Sir Thomas Warner landed on St. Christopher, one of the Leeward Islands in the northeastern Caribbean. They immediately set about securing their possession, and over the next several months they erected a small fort, built a few rudimentary dwellings, and planted some tobacco and provision crops. Their initial efforts at colony ...

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2 “A Conspiracy of the Winds”

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pp. 33-64

The presence of hurricanes made colonists question their ability to transform the hostile environment of the Greater Caribbean, and by extension their ability to establish successful and stable societies there. But hurricanes raised other questions as well: What caused them? What forces gave rise to such powerful and dangerous storms? Colonists who struggled to make sense of hurricanes ...

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3 Weathering the Storms

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pp. 65-93

Henry Laurens had high hopes for his economic prospects in September 1772. The wealthy South Carolina planter and merchant was in London at the time, but all reports from his plantations said the rice and indigo crops were flourishing. Nevertheless, Laurens warned that such reports should be treated with caution. “For my own part,” he wrote to one correspondent, “I never draw...

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4 Chaotic and Scarce Times

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pp. 94-116

The weather on the morning of August 27, 1681, began clear, but it soon turned “overcast and proved a rayney blustering day,” Christopher Jeaffreson, a St. Kitts planter, wrote in a letter to his sister. The blustery day gave way to an even more tempestuous evening, and the winds steadily increased and began to blow “vehemently hard.” As the storm intensified, Jeaffreson’s slaves sought...

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5 Building for Disaster

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pp. 117-140

In his 1740 New and Exact Account of Jamaica, Charles Leslie warned readers and potential travelers to the island that “one is not to look for the Beauties of Architecture here.” The island’s public buildings “are neat, but not fine,” Leslie wrote, while the “the Gentlemens Houses are generally built low, of one Story.” In Jamaica’s towns, there were “several Houses which are two Stories, but that...

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6 Sympathy in Distress

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pp. 141-164

“The dreadful effects of the hurricane which happened here on Monday, the 31st of August, 1772, will be so long felt by the unfortunate inhabitants of this country, that they must make the deepest impression upon every sensible mind,” reported the St. Christopher Caribbean and General Gazette a few days after the major storm had passed through the Leeward Island chain. “However...

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7 The Politics of Public Relief

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pp. 165-188

The two hurricanes that struck Jamaica on October 3 and Barbados on October 10, 1780, rank among the worst disasters ever to hit the West Indies. The first, the Savanna-la-Mar hurricane, was the lesser of the two storms. It struck the western parishes of Jamaica, causing severe damage throughout Westmoreland and Hanover parishes and in parts of St. James’s and St. Elizabeth’s...

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Conclusion: Beyond 1783

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pp. 189-194

On October 20, 1786, Thomas Thistlewood awoke to a dark and cloudy day. In his weather journal he recorded that “hard gales with frequent squalls of wind” blew all morning from the north and northeast. Near 11:00 A.M. the wind began blowing “excessive hard” and shifted to the east. By early afternoon the hurricane reached peak intensity, and it continued to pound western Jamaica ...

Appendix

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pp. 195-200

Notes

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pp. 201-242

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Essay on Sources

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pp. 243-250

Accounts and descriptions of hurricanes in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries come from myriad sources. The best place to begin searching for information about the storms (and other disasters) in the British colonies is the Calendar of State Papers,Colonial: America and the West Indies, which contains detailed summaries of correspondence between the colonies and London officials. Although it was not available...

Index

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pp. 251-257