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Title:A negotiated possession: law, race, and subjecthood in the Ceded Islands, 1763-1797
Author(s):Freund Carter, Heather
Director of Research:Rabin, Dana
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Rabin, Dana
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Burton, Antionette; Crowston, Clare; Koslofsky, Craig; Morrissey, Robert
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Caribbean history
British Empire
French Empire
Atlantic World
Abstract:“A Negotiated Possession: Law, Race, and Subjecthood in the Ceded Islands,” begins in 1763 when the British Empire became much larger and more diverse because of territorial gains at the end of the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) and concludes with indigenous dispossession and removal and the exile of scores of subjects. Historians often discuss what happened during wars and the terms of treaties, but seldom do they explore the real-world ramifications of those treaties. My work asks what this exchange of colonial territories meant for the people who suddenly found themselves the subjects of a different monarch and how colonial policies were adapted to the changes in the empire. I use a legal frame through which to examine how the incorporation of the Ceded Islands of Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, and Tobago into the British Empire provoked constitutional and humanitarian debates in the colonies and the metropole. I analyze how the British used the law to impose racial, class, and religious hierarchies on the population of the Ceded Islands, which was mostly composed of Francophone whites and free non-whites, enslaved Africans, and indigenous Caribs (known today as the Kalinago). I argue that these inhabitants negotiated the nature of their British subjecthood with officials in the colonies and in the metropole, with sometimes remarkable concessions. The Ceded Islands have been largely overlooked in the historiography of the Caribbean and the British Empire. Scholars often focus on the institution of slavery, the white planter class, or free people of color in one island. My multi-sited study examines multiple groups and asserts that the Ceded Islands must be understood in a trans-imperial context, as demonstrated by their mobile subjects. I demonstrate how the multi-ethnic and multi-national population affected arguments relating to subjecthood for non-Britons, including Catholics and non-white subjects, both in the Ceded Islands and the empire. I am joining a conversation about the integration of new territories and subjects into the British Empire and the relationship between law and empire discussed by scholars such as Lauren Benton and Eliga Gould. I am also adding to Caribbean histories scholarship exploring trans-imperial transfers of territories such as that of James Epstein, and Randy Browne. The Ceded Islands were surrounded by French and Spanish islands and had a rapidly expanding enslaved population, so accommodations were necessary to maintain a resident white population and to protect the islands from slave revolt and foreign invasion. It was in the best interest of British officials to allow French residents to retain their property and even vote and be elected to the legislature, even though Catholics in England could do none of these things and these moves were highly controversial both in the islands and in Britain. The First Carib War (1772-1773) sparked a debate in Parliament over the humanity of waging a war against an indigenous population in order to expand sugar and slavery in St. Vincent—the Caribs fought the British to a draw and retained their lands until 1796. In the 1790s, taking advantage of upheaval caused by French revolutionaries in Guadeloupe, anti-British rebellions that crossed racial, gender, religious, and class lines broke out in Dominica, Grenada, and St. Vincent. The non-British population accused of being among the rebels was exiled or executed after trials of dubious legality. After the ethnic cleansing was complete, the British could say they fully possessed the islands, but it had come at a steep cost financially, militarily, and in terms of human lives. Far from being traditional sugar islands like Barbados, the Ceded Islands were a laboratory of race and identity in the early modern world.
Issue Date:2021-07-15
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Heather Freund Carter
Date Available in IDEALS:2022-01-12
Date Deposited:2021-08

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