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The Creole Archipelago
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The Creole Archipelago
Race and Borders in the Colonial Caribbean

Tessa Murphy

352 pages | 6 x 9 | 9 halftones; 7 maps
Cloth Oct 2021 | ISBN 9780812253382 | $45.00s | Outside the Americas £36.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Early American Studies
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"The transimperial and multiracial historical geographies of the seventeenth and eighteenth-century Lesser Antilles come to life in page after page of this exquisitely crafted and richly researched study. The Creole Archipelago places the eastern Caribbean's Indigenous people, enslaved Africans and Afro-creoles, free people of colour and French and British colonists at the center of epic hemispheric struggles over enslavement, freedom and the plantation complex."—Melanie Newton, University of Toronto

"In this exceptionally rich and persuasive book, Tessa Murphy transforms our understanding of the early modern Caribbean. Murphy looks beyond the major sugar islands and uncovers a complex social world connecting Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and Dominica. Linked by Indigenous travel and settlement centuries before Europeans arrived, these islands remained entwined throughout the eighteenth century as they became home to thousands of rogue settlers of European and African descent. Shaped by persistent Kalinago influence, and existing on the margins of competing European empires, Murphy's 'Creole Archipelago' reveals both the limits and the destructive influence of colonialism."—Brett Rushforth, University of Oregon

"Tessa Murphy's ambitious and exciting book draws our attention to the eastern Caribbean, an overlooked region she imaginatively reframes as the Creole Archipelago. Murphy's persuasive analysis shows how this string of islands challenged European colonial efforts in ways that require us to question commonplace assertions about European activity in the Caribbean. Murphy integrates unusual sources and overlooked populations in an innovative approach that emphasizes geography and maritime connections. Historians of early America, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic will be reckoning with Murphy's riveting analysis, argument and methods for years to come."—Alison Games, Georgetown University

In The Creole Archipelago, Tessa Murphy traces how generations of Indigenous Kalinagos, free and enslaved Africans, and settlers from a variety of European nations used maritime routes to forge social, economic, and informal political connections that spanned the eastern Caribbean. Focusing on a chain of volcanic islands, each one visible from the next, whose societies developed outside the sphere of European rule until the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, Murphy argues that the imperial frameworks typically used to analyze the early colonial Caribbean are at odds with the geographic realities that shaped daily life in the region.

Through use of wide-ranging sources including historical maps, parish records, an Indigenous-language dictionary, and colonial correspondence housed in the Caribbean, France, England, and the United States, Murphy shows how this watery borderland became a center of broader imperial experimentation, contestation, and reform. British and French officials dispatched to Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Tobago after 1763 encountered a creolized society that repeatedly frustrated their attempts to transform the islands into productive plantation colonies. By centering the stories of Kalinagos who asserted continued claims to land, French Catholics who demanded the privileges of British subjects, and free people of African descent who insisted on their right to own land and enslaved people, Murphy offers a vivid counterpoint to larger Caribbean plantation societies like Jamaica and Barbados.

By looking outward from the eastern Caribbean chain, The Creole Archipelago resituates small islands as microcosms of broader historical processes central to understanding early American and Atlantic history, including European usurpation of Indigenous lands, the rise of slavery and plantation production, and the creation and codification of racial difference.

Tessa Murphy is Assistant Professor of History at Syracuse University.

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