Benjamin Steiner
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Variegated engineering
The builders of the Caribbean empire
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Africans and Europeans were not the only ones involved in the construction of the large buildings on the islands. The indigenous populations, the Caribs, whom the Europeans encountered when they landed on these islands, mastered several building techniques, disposed over knowledge about the local materials, different sorts of woods, stones, corals, and how to handle, use, and apply them for construction works. This chapter describes the multicultural constellation of the population in the Antilles at the beginning of European colonization efforts. A close look on materials used in the large buildings reveals the sort of assemblage that the actor–network theory proposes to be an essential image of the interconnection between things and people. In the Antilles bricks, stones, and lime, including sea corals and shells, were used in many buildings; sometimes French engineers imported bricks, tiles, steel, and even stones from Europe making the walls of the large buildings thus perfect examples of assemblages of Atlantic materials.

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Building the French empire, 1600–1800

Colonialism and material culture


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