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w hile the seven years’ war raged across the Atlantic world, a motley collection of British speculators,financiers,merchants, and other hopefuls bided their time.With the ink on the Treaty of Paris of 1763 barely dry,they fell over themselves to divide the spoils from defeated France. Bringing great fortunes and even greater credit to bear, they inundated the British government with proposals, suggestions, and advice in order to secure a share in the new prosperity.¹ Provinces in India, the whole of explored Canada, the Floridas, and four brand-new colonies in the Caribbean: the Seven Years’War had been good for Britain, and the metropolitan moneymen could barely contain themselves. With the East India Company ruling its share of the subcontinent jealously , popular attention turned to Atlantic gains.² Most eyes were on the Caribbean. In the age of King Sugar, it was an easy choice to make. Over the next fifty years slavery would loom even larger in the account books of empire, and slave-grown produce throughout the world would almost double, but the 1760s were the planters’ golden age and a nadir for humanity .³ Fine ladies took their well-dressed chattel for walks through fashionable London, and hardy sea captains in Liverpool and Lancaster counted out the body spaces on newly minted slave ships. If they thought about it at all, few could even conceive of a world without slaves or the things slaves labored to grow.And if anyone did stand up and say something,there were over fifty mps in the British Parliament—the West India lobby—who would tell them to sit down again.⁴ By far, the most sought-after new land therefore was to be found in the windward Caribbean territories of Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, and Tobago, which became known as the ceded islands. The Lords Commissioners for New Lands was set up partly in response to the rush, while new governors in the region complained of the workload and the effort that The Free Colored Moment war and revolution in a brave new world chapter one 16 ~ chapter one went along with these new conquests. From his base on Grenada, Robert Melvill,⁵ the ceded islands’ first governor, went so far as to “ease the expense ” of settling newcomers by using his own money, while his subordinates on lesser islands, like St. Vincent and Dominica, struggled to prevent the new arrivals from encroaching on Indian land.The collective history of these colonies forms the Caribbean backbone of our story of women. The imperial gains of 1763 began the second phase of British expansion in the Caribbean, pushing the power base out from colonies like Jamaica, Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis, and St. Kitts in the north and Barbados in the south and filling much of the space in between. By the end of the eighteenth century, under external pressures from war, revolution, and migration , this second phase of Caribbean growth led to a third and final phase, when the frontier colonies of Trinidad and Demerara, at the very bottom of the archipelago, were conquered and occupied in the 1790s.⁶ For the most part, these ceded islands were comparatively undeveloped frontier spaces that had experienced isolation and a lack of investment prior to the British arrival.⁷ In contrast to the deteriorating soils and oversubscription of the older colonies, however, the opportunities they represented seemed boundless. Domestic British broadsheets and magazines— particularly in Scotland—were full of descriptions of the potential of this new territory. An article in Scots Magazine waxed lyrical about the “abundant fertility of the soils,” which,the magazine argued,would “raise genteel fortunes” for anyone who went there.⁸ In Ireland a young Edmund Burke was incredulous that anyone could disparage such a fruitful settlement, the glorious product of “English valour.”⁹ Unsurprisingly,after 1763,offers of land in the ceded islands were eagerly taken up.Concerned that just a few magnates would buy up too much land, a limit of three hundred acres for every application was imposed to help diversify the people who would come to the new territories.¹⁰ On Grenada , legislation was even proposed to financially assist poorer newcomers to partake in the Caribbean bounty.¹¹ New planters were so rapacious on St. Vincent that within two years of formal British control, settlers acting without the sanction of the London government had forcibly seized three thousand acres of land previously designated as Indian space.¹² Free people of color also found this region attractive, and they flocked to the Windward...


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MARC Record
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