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The Franco-Irish plantations of Saint-Domingue
Finola O’Kane

French advances in engineering, map-making, landscape design and colonial governance made Saint-Domingue, now Haiti, the world’s most valuable tropical colony for most of the eighteenth century. Governed from Paris as another French département, its many plantations, their success founded on matrilineal chattel slavery, proliferated across the region’s flat plains. The infrastructure that supported their extraordinary productivity was designed and drawn from a distance and, exhibiting the French State’s ambitious design coherence, this led to remarkable innovations in irrigation, water power and landscape planning. In contrast, Jamaica’s designed landscapes speak of the reach of the individual planter, the power of the Jamaican Assembly, and both empires’ diverging traditions of cartography, engineering and landscape design.

The Saint-Domingue plantation-owner Moreau de Saint-Méry’s encyclopedic two-volume Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle de Saint-Domingue (1797–8) was intended to provide an in-depth description and assessment of every quarter of Saint-Domingue. Saint-Méry’s volumes, when cross-referenced with Saint-Domingue’s digitised cadastral maps, and some other significant visitors’ accounts, reveal the role of Franco-Irish families, such as the dynasties of Butler, O’Sheil/Sheill, McNemara and O’Rourke, in creating them. Enabling a comparative analysis of the French and English Caribbean, and particularly the French and English plantation, the method also reveals how and why the landscape design of Saint-Domingue became the runaway design model for eighteenth-century colonial space.

in Ireland, slavery and the Caribbean
Finola O’Kane

In 1752 Dennis Kelly’s only daughter and heiress, Elizabeth, married Peter Browne (1731?–80), son and heir of Sir John Browne (1709–76), owner of a substantial Irish landed estate that had been accumulating since Elizabethan times, with large tracts located in the poor and unimproved reaches of the far west. Elizabeth Browne-Kelly and her husband continued her father’s practice of removing further and further from the real landscape of Jamaica, while using the profits of plantation to benefit their estate in Galway and Mayo. In the early nineteenth century the young George Hildebrand surveyed, measured and drew both Irish and Jamaican estates. A scion of a transplanted German family, he subsequently became the estate agent until he was sued for corrupt management practices by the Browne family in the 1850s. Family taste and tradition on one side of the Atlantic could transfer easily and quickly to the other. This chapter will explore the impact of the families of Kelly, Browne and Hildebrand on the connected landscapes of Ireland and Jamaica during the long eighteenth century. It will also touch upon ways in which the steady stream of sugar income that the Jamaican plantations produced (even if the sugar itself was never landed in Ireland) funded Irish projects of urban and landscape improvement throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

in Ireland, slavery and the Caribbean
John Byrn, Irish merchant of Kingston, Jamaica (September–October 1756)
Thomas M. Truxes

Irish trading houses – and trading houses with strong Irish connections – were a conspicuous feature of the eighteenth-century West Indian economy. Although most did business in the British, French and Dutch islands of the eastern Caribbean, there was, as well, an Irish presence on French Saint-Domingue and in Great Britain’s largest West Indian city: Kingston, Jamaica. Useful evidence of the activities of such firms survives in bits and pieces, and most often from an external perspective. By a stroke of luck, however, the mailbag of an Irish trading ship, the Europa of Dublin (a vessel recaptured after having been taken by a French privateer early in the Seven Years War) contained letters providing an inside look at the operations of John Byrn of Dublin, an overseas merchant in Kingston. Byrn’s correspondence ties his trade to Dublin’s merchant elite and key figures in London’s Irish merchant community. 

in Ireland, slavery and the Caribbean
Maria Edgeworth and the West Indies
Claire Connolly

This chapter traces the threads of scattered details, repeated images and occasional plot twists found in the fiction and letters of Maria Edgeworth in order to consider the scope and extent of her engagement with the West Indies throughout a long career. The topic of slavery makes an uncomfortable home within the context of Edgeworth’s broader intellectual interests, not least because she does not set the ownership, sale and exchange of people apart from trade in ideas, books and goods. Furthermore, the kinds of violent improbabilities that help to form the particular texture of Edgeworth’s realism often concern seeds and plants. Within the specific scenes that flow from Edgeworth’s thinking about slavery in the context of improving debates about education and domesticity, she allows seeds, plants and gardens to sharpen and define lines of imperial connection.

in Ireland, slavery and the Caribbean
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Ireland and Barbados, 1620–1660
David Brown

The Irish presence in England’s early Caribbean colonies has startlingly modern echoes. A healthy trade in provisions and servants had developed between Munster and Virginia during the 1620s. As the quantity and value of Virginia tobacco increased dramatically, the Government of Charles I, in 1630, sought to increase its tax revenue and decreed that all Virginia tobacco must be imported through London. To circumvent this tax, a group of colonial projectors and planters, resident in County Cork and centred around Richard Boyle, the first Earl of Cork, joined forces with a group of London-based tobacco merchants and established small plantations on the Leeward Islands, which they peopled with Irish servants. The partners’ intention was to cultivate tobacco on the islands and to import it through Cork, thus avoiding the Virginia tax. Although the tax loophole was removed a few years later, it had the effect of developing a number of successful colonies managed by English merchants but using Irish finance and labour. The habit of merchants moving their production to the lowest-tax jurisdiction has, it seems, a long history.

in Ireland, slavery and the Caribbean
Making Irish elites in the early modern English Caribbean
Jenny Shaw

Centring on the experiences of three Irish men (Cornelius Bryan, John Blake and William Stapleton) who arrived in the Caribbean in the middle of the seventeenth century, this chapter uncovers the strategies they employed to circumvent English perceptions of their barbarous natures and the threat posed by their religious beliefs. By acquiring property in land, becoming enslavers, emulating English social and cultural norms, and quietly hiding their Catholicism, these men (and hundreds more like them) encouraged English elites to rethink their former antipathy towards anyone hailing from Ireland. These property-owning Irish men became important members of the planter class and, as such, played key roles in England’s imperial success. 

in Ireland, slavery and the Caribbean
Natalie A. Zacek

This chapter explores the recent rise of the figure of the ‘Irish slave’ in popular discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. The fact that there is no evidence that any person of Irish heritage experienced chattel slavery comparable to that endured by people of African descent throughout the Atlantic world has not discouraged a small number of writers and a far larger cohort of white nationalists, particularly in the United States, from deploying this concept in an attempt to minimise the sufferings of enslaved African-Americans and deny the legitimacy of racial justice movements such as Black Lives Matter. In order to counter these misconceptions, it is crucial that scholars and activists promote a more nuanced understanding of the historical and contemporary meaning of slavery.

in Ireland, slavery and the Caribbean
Charles Ivar McGrath

This chapter represents some initial investigations into whether there was an identifiable British imperial barrack-building policy in the eighteenth century. It will consider to what extent comparisons can be made in relation to the nature and purpose of barrack-building in Ireland and Jamaica in the early-to-mid eighteenth century, and the extent to which the country-wide barrack-building project that commenced in Ireland in the late 1690s might have provided a template or example for a nascent imperial barrack-building project in other parts of the emerging British empire. Such considerations will be predicated upon assessment of some of the imperatives for building barracks, such as the need to house a standing army required to fight wars, defend imperial possessions and gain new ones, and the more mundane though crucial matters of discipline, health and military logistics for an imperial army. These considerations will be made within the context of continuing anti-standing army sentiment in Britain and elsewhere in the empire during the eighteenth century.

in Ireland, slavery and the Caribbean
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Lambert Blair and his appetites
Ciaran O’Neill

Lambert Blair rose from relatively humble origins to control vast amounts of human and economic capital in the British empire, acting as a teenage agent and trader and then, in his adult years, controlling a large share of sugar and cotton plantations, as well as more than 1,000 enslaved people, in Berbice, across an area that would later become British Guiana. He was the perfect example of a trader in the West Indies, an archipelago full of what Sir James Marriot once called ‘renegadoes of all nations’. Lambert is sketched in anecdote in a well-known travel journal by Dr George Pinckard from 1796, published in 1806. In Pinckard’s three-volume work we are given an image of a generous, even gluttonous, planter. He is variously described as a ‘rich planter’, ‘opulent’, with an enviable mansion and the wherewithal to dispense his generous bounty. This chapter aims to restore further flesh to Lambert’s apparently ample frame, and to try to piece together his imperial career in order to understand better the unique position of Irish enslavers and traders in the Greater Caribbean.

in Ireland, slavery and the Caribbean
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Finola O’Kane
and
Ciaran O’Neill

The Caribbean was the crucible of Atlantic slavery and the plantation system that sustained it. The impact of Irish people on the evolution of the Caribbean archipelago is not well understood; nor is the reverse impact of the Caribbean on Irish mentalities, networks, towns and landscapes. Researching Ireland’s role in slavery’s transatlantic web of commerce, improvement and monoculture agriculture is complicated by the overwhelming watershed of the Irish famine of 1845–9, which continues to distort the interpretation of earlier events, and the popular correlation of Cromwellian indentured servitude with inherited matrilineal chattel slavery. Irish-Caribbean identities stretched from indentured servants to great planters, and Irishmen were also subversive players in British imperial contexts. This introductory chapter seeks to discuss and interrogate these complex threads, advertise the developing historiography, and advance new arguments about the relationship between Ireland and the Greater Caribbean.

in Ireland, slavery and the Caribbean