Barbadian Adventurers and Market Frontiers: Barbados and the Atlantic's Commercial Geography, 1627-1700

Beissel, Noah, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Edelson, S. Max, University of Virginia
Dierksheide, Christa, University of Virginia

During the seventeenth century, vessels from Africa, Bermuda, England, the Chesapeake, New England, and other places anchored in Barbados’s port of Bridgetown to exchange commodities, ferry migrants, and purchase rum, sugar, and slaves. With ships on Barbados’s shores, and an increasing amount of wealth invested in its plantation enterprise, Barbadian merchants and planters became well-connected individuals with an ear to market conditions and armed with capital and credit. Heedless of the human toll of their actions, these Barbadians pursued further commercial opportunities. Beginning in the 1650s, a group of opportunistic Barbadian adventurers seized undeveloped frontiers with the intent to enlarge their fortunes and England’s mercantile realm. Adventurers led by Sir Thomas Modyford, Francis Lord Willoughby, Sir John Colleton, and Sir John Yeamans moved in diaspora from Barbados and across the Atlantic world. Barbadians engaged in business and planting in Antigua and Surinam by the 1650s and in Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Carolina by the 1660s. These Barbadian adventurers embodied a different category of the agents of colonization: they were not the founders of stable societies, nor were they architects of religious havens, but instead, they were exploitative commercial organizers. They proved remarkably successful in this regard and spearheaded the growth of England’s Atlantic economy.

MA (Master of Arts)
Barbados, Adventurer, Commerce, Colonization, Seventeenth Century
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