This essay argues that Ligon’s History represents Barbados as a space where the ontological blending of organisms and mechanisms is a fundamental aspect of the natural world, and it suggests that the recognition of this fact would lead to a more productive and ethical commonwealth. On the one hand, Ligon’s description of the sugar mills characterizes the plantation laborers as an extension of the mills, seemingly reducing their identities to a mere mechanical function and inscribing their status as objectified commodities. Yet, on the other hand, he writes about both enslaved Africans and Indians as fundamental to the island, not just due to their labor power but to their ingenium as well—the essential human capacity that enables them to rationally engage with the natural world and drives them to create both art and knowledge. Despite the seeming contradiction of those views, this essay demonstrates that these two readings are not incompatible when they are considered as a consequence of an early modern worldview that imagined society as the product of an intersection between nature and artifice.


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pp. 95-122
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