Sugar And Slaves By Richard Dunn

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Lydia Phillips
Dr. Hill HIST 300SS
Sugar Societies in the West Indies
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the sugar islands played a very important role for the British government. They saw these colonies as an extremely beneficial mercantile society that could gross them a great deal of wealth. However, for the colonists living on these islands it was an intense struggle between enormous fortune and a premature death. Richard Dunn, author of Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713, decided to shed light on these seldom mentioned groups of settlers, who chose the Caribbean islands over mainland America. The first settlers of the islands being buccaneers, along with their short lifespan, coupled with the monoculture of the islands and a severe disparity between the rich and poor, created a distinct culture, in what Dunn describes as a “classically proportioned sugar society” (Dunn 165).
Dunn begins his book in 1624, with the English gaining a foothold on the tiny island of St. Christopher in the Caribbean. From that solitary outpost emerged a "cohesive and potent master class" of tobacco and sugar planters that spread throughout the Caribbean (46), especially in Barbados and Jamaica. Dunn refers to this society as a “classically proportioned sugar society” (165). What this means is that there were few very wealthy sugar planters who owned and managed large masses of slaves. Big planters, at their height, were

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