Review: Browne, Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean

Browne, Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of  Pennsylvania, 2017)

Surviving Slavery (Randy M. Browne

In the early Americanist community’s conception of #VastEarlyAmerica we constantly attempt to push the boundaries of what and where early America is. Randy M. Browne’s Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean will appeal to proponents of a vaster early America in part because it pushes the geographical limits of early America. Browne’s study of slavery in Berbice (present-day Guyana), takes his readers to one of the most understudied slave societies in the Americas, to understand how enslaved Berbicians attempted to survive their bondage from the beginning of the nineteenth century in the Dutch period, to 1834 when British slavery ended. This is an important distinction from other studies of slavery which focused on understanding and fighting against notions of “agency” and “resistance” such as Marisa Fuentes’ prize-winning Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive, and Vincent Brown’s  2009 American Historical Review article “Social Death and Political Life in the Study of Slavery,” among others [1]. By contrast, instead of highlighting the voices of those in open rebellion, Browne focuses on those whom attempted to better their situation despite remaining under the yoke of bondage. Browne does this by accessing one of the most bountiful, yet underutilized, archival records of the voices of enslaved people [2]. Browne mines information about how enslaved Berbicians attempted to survive and carve out lives in one of the most oppressive slave regimes in the Americas. Whether describing the use of obeah as a spiritual defense mechanism to sustain themselves through the institution of slavery, the use of Black slave drivers, or how enslaved women and men attempted to sort out marital and partner discourses, Browne adeptly traces how enslaved Berbicians attempted to live, and most importantly, to survive, slavery. Continue reading

Review: Adelman, Revolutionary Networks

Cover of Revolutionary Networks by Joseph M. AdelmanJoseph M. Adelman, Revolutionary Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763–1789 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019).

Historians often rely on a pair of archetypes to think about early American newspaper printers. First, in colonial British North America, printers evaded regulators by pretending to be “meer mechanics” who simply passed along information as it came to them. When he published the Pennsylvania Gazette in the early eighteenth century, for example, Benjamin Franklin famously protested that “Printers naturally acquire a vast Unconcernedness as to the right or wrong Opinions contain’d in what they print.” Second, historians of the American Revolution and the early U.S. republic often valorize printers as ideologically-driven leaders whose presses pushed forward political causes. Beginning with Isaiah Thomas’s history of printing and David Ramsey’s history of the American Revolution, scholars have often been inclined to treat printers as central heroes of the revolutionary era. Continue reading

Review: Parisot, How America Became Capitalist

James Parisot, How America Became Capitalist: Imperial Expansion and the Conquest of the West (London: Pluto Press, 2019).

parisot_coverIn just under 200 pages, Parisot traces the intertwined expansion of white settler colonialism in British North America and the transition to capitalism from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. A historical sociologist, Parisot synthesizes a great deal of historical scholarship in order to offer a framework for “how a society with capitalism became a capitalist society” while embracing “multi-linear complexity” (2, 6). He argues that both capitalist and “not-so-capitalist” relations drove American Indian dispossession and westward imperial expansion. Inspired by the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, Parisot’s framework seeks to take race and gender into account “to explain capitalism, imperialism, and empire as processes reaching down into daily life and stretching back to broad historical structures which they in turn co-shape” (16). Continue reading

Review: Christopher M. Parsons, A Not-So-New World

Christopher M. Parsons, A Not-So-New World: Empire and Environment in French Colonial North America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). 

parsons

Today, Carla Cevasco reviews A Not-So-New World: Empire and Environment in French Colonial North America by Christopher M. Parsons, Assistant Professor of History at Northeastern University. Tomorrow, the author will discuss the book in a Q&A with Rachel Herrmann.

When the French first invaded northeastern North America in the seventeenth century, they aspired to make wine from the indigenous grapes of the region. By the eighteenth century, however, they faced the disappointing reality that wine produced with French techniques from these grapes was acrid and viscous, and, moreover, that wine grapes native to France did not necessarily thrive in such a cold climate. The dream of Canadian wine proved a failure to early French colonists.[1]

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Q&A with Rebecca Brannon and Joseph S. Moore, editors of The Consequences of Loyalism

Following on from Emily Yankowitz’s review of The Consequences of Loyalism: Essays in Honor of Robert M. Calhoon (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2019), we continue our Review/Q&A format with an interview with the editors, Rebecca Brannon and Joseph S. Moore. Brannon is associate professor of history at James Madison University and the author of From Revolution to Reunion: The Reintegration of the South Carolina Loyalists (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2016), which was reviewed on The Junto in 2017. Moore is associate professor of history and department chair at Gardner-Webb University. He is the author of Founding Sins: How a Group of Antislavery Radicals Fought to Put Christ into the Constitution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). Continue reading

Q&A with Katharine Gerbner, author of Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World

Today the Junto features a Q&A with Assistant Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, Katherine Gerbner conducted by Kristen Beales. Gerbner teaches courses on Atlantic History, History of Religions, Magic & Medicine, and The Early Modern Archive. Her work has been featured in Atlantic Studies, New England Studies, and Early American Studies. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 2013 and received fellowships and awards from the University of Minnesota, the American Philosophical Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Haverford College, and the John Carter Brown Library.

Kristen Beales is a PhD Candidate at the College of William and Mary finishing a dissertation titled “Thy Will Be Done: Merchants and Religion in Early America, 1720-1815,” which explores how merchants from different Protestant backgrounds in Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston navigated economic debates between 1720 and 1815. Her project is structured around four case studies: reactions to the South Sea Bubble in 1720, discussions about the relationship between religion and business practice prompted by the revivals of the so-called “Great Awakening” between 1739 and 1746, debates over nonimportation and nonconsumption between 1765 and 1776, and the controversy surrounding the Embargo Act of 1807. Kristen’s research has been supported by a number of institutions, including grants and fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the American Philosophical Society, the Clements Library, the David Library of the American Revolution, Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections, the Huntington Library, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Library Company of Philadelphia. Continue reading

Review: Katharine Gerbner, Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World

On the heels of its recent release in paperback, today The Junto features a review of Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). Stay tuned tomorrow for an interview with the author, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, Katharine Gerbner.

Scholarship on the Anglo-Caribbean has tended to minimize the role of the Anglican Church in Caribbean society through an emphasis on the greed and irreligiosity of the English colonists who profited from the exploitation of enslaved labor. This tendency is especially striking when compared to the historical work on Catholic institutions in neighboring French and Spanish territories. In the Anglo-Atlantic, missionary work among free and enslaved Africans and Afro-Caribbean people tends to be equated with antislavery thought and activism. Katharine Gerbner’s new book, Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World, challenges these historiographic tendencies and presents a welcome reinterpretation of the relationship between race, religion, and slavery in the Protestant Atlantic. Continue reading

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