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Caribbean Exchanges

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Caribbean Exchanges
Slavery and the Transformation of English Society, 1640-1700
By Susan Dwyer Amussen
The University of North Carolina Press (2007)
ISBN: 978-0807858547

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - May 25, 2011

More than just slaves made the journey from the English Caribbean to England. New laws, cultural changes - including new notions about gender and race, labor organizations, and new opinions about violence and punishment also made the transatlantic journey to England. In Caribbean Exchanges: Slavery and the Transformation of English Society, 1640-1700 Susan Dwyer Amussen examines the changes wrought upon English society by the British slaveholding colonies in the Caribbean.

This study focuses on the British colonies in the Caribbean during the period from 1640-1700, with a major emphasis on the two largest colonies on Barbados and Jamaica. While the cultural, political, legal, and social changes that traveled from England to the Caribbean are looked at in this study, it is an examination of the impact that these slaveholding colonies had on English society that is the predominant goal of this history.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, Amussen has written a compelling history that will enthrall both general readers and scholars alike. The impact that slavery had on English society is usually overlooked, despite the significant changes that it produced including changes in English ideas about gender roles, social identity, criminality, race, division of labor, and slavery in general. Throughout, Amussen also examines not only how these changes affected English society, but also the slaves that were compelled to function in an alien culture.

Throughout, Amussen focuses on far reaching impact that slavery and the Caribbean colonies had on English society - showing how slavery changed England in unforseen and often unacknowledged ways. With panache, Amussen outlines these changes, how they were wrought, and the long-term impact of these changes. A professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Graduate College of the Union Institute and University, Amussen is a scholar of English history. Caribbean Exchanges provides readers with a unique glimpse into English history and English involvement in the slave trade. Most important, this book provides a telling account of slavery in the Caribbean, and what life was like for those newly enslaved, the slave owners, and the creole slaves that were born into slavery. Amussen also details how the slave culture and English-influenced society developed in the Caribbean. Caribbean Exchanges provides an excellent overview of British history in the Caribbean from 1640-1700, and it can be used as both a primary textbook or as a supplemental textbook in a variety of university level courses ranging from history courses to courses dealing with gender, class, or race.

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