Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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pp. vii-xiv

I first visited Jamaica in the fall of 1972 to plan a joint three-week interdisciplinary research exercise between the relatively new Atlantic History and Culture Program, which I was then organizing and directing at Johns Hopkins University, and the Department of History at the University of the West Indies, Mona. But my interest in the island’s colonial past went back almost two decades earlier to the academic year 1952–53, which I had spent in London doing research for my dissertation on the comparative development of representative government in the four royal North American plantation colonies of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. In the course of that research, I read all of the published contemporary histories and chorographies about those four places that I...

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Prologue

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pp. 15-24

Conquered from the Spanish in 1655, Jamaica was by far the largest British colony in the West Indies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Almost twenty-six times the size of Barbados, the largest of the British colonies in the Lesser Antilles before the acquisition of the Ceded Islands in 1763, Jamaica was one of the four Greater Antilles, and, with the brief exception of Cuba in the early 1760s, the only one of them to come under British control. The Spanish island of Puerto Rico was only three quarters the size of Jamaica, but Cuba, also Spanish, was about ten times its size, and Española, after 1690 divided between the Spanish and the French, almost seven times larger.1 Despite its size, Jamaica, threatened or beset by war with neighboring Spanish and French colonies and with an internal Maroon population of escaped slaves, was slow to develop as an agricultural colony....

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1 Jamaica at Midcentury: A Social and Economic Profile

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pp. 25-52

Mid-eighteenth-century analysts of Jamaica demonstrated a powerful impulse to compile, assess, and present hard information on the colony’s economic and social achievements. Building on local and metropolitan records and experience-informed estimates, they supplied many useful calculations on the extent and distribution of Jamaica’s accumulated wealth and annual produce; its exports, imports, and shipping; its trade balances with its major commercial partners; its contribution to the metropolitan British economy; the size of the colony’s domestic economy; and provincial revenues. Two contemporary works are particularly interesting in this regard. An anonymous tract, An Inquiry Concerning the Trade, Commerce, and Policy of Jamaica, first published in 1757 but written in 1750–51, provides the most systematic and fullest examination of these subjects;1 but the...

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2 Patterns of Landholding

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pp. 53-64

Charles Knowles arrived in Jamaica in 1752 with a commission to assume the royal governorship and a mandate from the Board of Trade in London to compile a report on the state of the island. As part of this effort, he ordered the clerks in the receiver general’s office in Spanish Town to compile from the island’s quit rent books a list of Jamaican landholders.1 The result was “A List of Landholders in the Island of Jamaica together with the number of Acres each Person Possesses, taken from the Quit Rent Books in the Year 1754.” On December 31, 1754, nearly sixteen months after his arrival, Knowles sent this quit rent roll to the Board of Trade in London, where it is now filed in the Colonial Office Papers in the National Archives.2 Providing a rough alphabetical list of landholders and indicating...

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3 Distribution of Economic Settlements

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pp. 65-85

Two sets of documents from the 1750s provide some sense of what Jamaican landholders did with their lands. The first of these is a series of three detailed maps, one for each of the three counties into which the legislature divided Jamaica in 1758. Prepared by the engineer Thomas Craskell, builder of King’s House in Spanish Town, “from a great Number of Actual Surveys” performed by the surveyor James Simpson, these maps were not published until the early 1760s, but the surveys they were based upon were done earlier, between 1756 and 1761. Showing anchorages for both large and small vessels, roads, and parish boundaries, these maps also pinpointed the locations of various types of settlements, including sugar plantations, ginger, cotton, coffee, and pimento plantations, livestock...

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4 St. Andrew: Patterns of Land Use and Production in a Core Parish

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pp. 86-112

When Charles Knowles took over the governorship of Jamaica in 1752, he not only took steps to obtain the quit rent roll used as the foundation for the analysis of landholding patterns in chapter 2 but also, as a further step toward the preparation of his projected “perfect State of this Island” for submission to the Board of Trade, devised “a Form... for coming at a knowledge of the Cultivated Lands &c.” in each parish. When, not long after his arrival, he made a tour of the island, he distributed a copy of this form to the custos, or chief magistrate, of each of Jamaica’s nineteen parishes, directing them to fill in the necessary information. This form asked for the names of both plantations and landholders and the number of acres in each landholding. In additon, for each property it asked...

5 St. Andrew: Patterns of Labor Distribution and Production in a Core Parish

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pp. 113-123

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6 Spanish Town: An Urban Profile of Property, Wealth, and Population

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pp. 124-152

In the parish of St. Catherine just west of the parish of St. Andrew, the subject of the previous two chapters, was Jamaica’s second largest urban center, St. Jago de la Vega or, as Jamaicans usually called it, Spanish Town.1 It had been Jamaica’s seat of government ever since the island’s conquest from its Spanish settlers in 1655 and longer, for it had been the Spanish capital since 1534. One of just three capital towns in colonial British America that was not also a seaport (the others being Williamsburg, Virginia, and Hartford, Connecticut), Spanish Town was principally an administrative, judicial, and political center—site of government offices, depository for public records, official residence of the royal governor, and venue for sessions of the legislature and the provincial as well as the local precinct courts. Equally important, Spanish Town was what historians of urban Britain...

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7 Spanish Town: An Urban Profile of Structures of Office Holding and Occupations

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pp. 153-166

If Spanish Town was the urban resort of planters from neighboring parishes, its function as Jamaica’s capital also made it a magnet for people concerned with the public affairs of the colony. As the residence of the royal governor, the site of the principal executive offices, the place of meeting of the legislature and the higher courts, and the depository for public records, it was the home, not just of almost all of the colony’s public executive and judicial officials but of many long-term legislators who found it convenient and agreeable to keep a house, or reside most of the time, in Spanish Town. So also did an array of lawyers of various types whose practices required them to be near the public records and the courts. Together, resident planters, public officials, and the colony’s legal establishment created a demand for the social and economic services required to support a substantial...

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8 Kingston: An Urban Profile of Property and Wealth

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pp. 167-190

In 1753, Kingston was the largest urban center in Jamaica. Founded in 1693 after the earthquake of 1692 had devastated Port Royal, Kingston was across the bay from Port Royal and was situated at the bottom of the rich Liguanea Plain on a spot that, as the historian Edward Long later remarked, “appeared the most convenient port for trade.” Like several other colonial English American urban places founded during the last decades of the seventeenth century, including Philadelphia and Annapolis, Maryland, Kingston was carefully designed. It was, remarked Long, “a parallelogram, one mile in length by a half mile in breadth, regularly traversed by streets and lanes, alternately crossing each other at right angles, except in the upper part of town, where a large square is left.” As Jamaica’s principal port, it grew steadily throughout the eighteenth century in terms...

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9 St. James: Property, Families, and Households in a Peripheral Parish

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pp. 191-208

Among the major sugar-producing parishes in the peripheries of Jamaica, St. James Parish seems to be the only one for which a serial list survives from the early 1750s of the kind that provided a basis for previous chapters. From the material presented in the first three chapters, we already have substantial information about St. James. As was shown in chapter 1, in the early 1750s, St. James was already well into a robust period of economic growth. Among all of Jamaica’s nineteen parishes, it registered through the middle decades of the eighteenth century the highest increase in the number of slaves, a jump of 846.8% between 1734 and 1768. Over the same period, St. James also showed an extraordinary rise in the number of cattle of 1,277.3%. In 1768, it was Jamaica’s wealthiest parish, based on total taxes. It had far and away the most slaves, 21,749, 84.2% of whom were involved in sugar culture....

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Epilogue

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pp. 209-236

The lists, map, and other documents and published works upon which the fore-going social portrait of settler Jamaica in the 1750s is based have permitted a detailed examination of many aspects of the free portions of society in a colony of settlement at a particularly important point in its development. This epilogue will not recapitulate nor attempt to summarize the findings presented in this book. Rather, it will examine four related subjects. First, it will consider generally some of the main features of the social portrait that emerges from the data in the volume’s substantive chapters and how those features relate to both contemporary and historical understandings of mid-eighteenth-century Jamaica. Second, it will provide a brief description of the political context behind the construction of the lists from which the data used in this study were drawn. Third, it will examine the question of how contemporaries understood the world that those lists reveal. Fourth, it will briefly attempt to contextualize 1750s Jamaica in space and time....

Appendixes

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pp. 237-276

Notes

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pp. 277-292

Index

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pp. 293-304