Abstract

abstract:

Starting in the 1620s, Englishmen, enslaved Africans, and Indigenous people from the greater Caribbean lived and labored on the Caribbean island of Barbados. Through free and forced migrations, they carried unique understandings of how to make and consume alcohol with them. Once on Barbados, American, African, and European ideas and technologies coexisted and sometimes intersected. By the 1640s, rum emerged from this maelstrom—it was an invention of the Atlantic world. A close examination of the alcohols that early inhabitants made and consumed complicates assumptions that ideas and innovations from one region could conquer the Atlantic world. It unveils how the colonization of Barbados and attendant enslavement of African and Indigenous people unleashed the creative collisions of skilled practitioners, agricultural products, technologies, and ideas surrounding consumption. Initially designed to satisfy local tastes, tracing the processes of invention surrounding rum and other alcoholic beverages demonstrates how experimentation and the development of taste preceded commodification. Understanding how rum became the "native produce" of Barbados shows us how cross-cultural interactions in the early modern Caribbean—which tied together the broader Atlantic world—created new worlds for all.

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