The Pennants’ Jamaican plantations and industrialisation in North Wales, 1771–1812
Richard Pennant, the first Pennant to own the vast Penrhyn estates of North Wales, fits Watkin Williams Wynn's idea of a slave-owner turned industrialist. This chapter examines the contribution that Jamaican wealth made to the realisation of the Pennant dreams. It shows how wealth could be made in the colonies through a combination of hard work, luck and demographic fortune. The chapter illustrates the contributions that colonial money made to British economic development, especially in the peripheries. The Pennants made money in one periphery of empire, eighteenth-century Jamaica and spent it in another periphery, North Wales. Nevertheless, the Pennants were content to maintain the sustainability and profitability of the Jamaican plantations rather than to increase their investment and involvement in the Jamaican economy. Crucial to Eric Williams's thesis in Capitalism and Slavery is that profits from plantation agriculture were invested into the early stages of British industrialisation.
The Atlantic slave trade was a violent institution. What is more important
than cataloguing the everyday and extraordinary violence in the Atlantic
slave system – which began in the mid fifteenth century, before Columbus’s
voyages to the New World, and which lasted until 1888, when Brazil became
the last society to abolish slavery – is to analyse the meanings for
planters, traders, and enslaved people of the constant violence that
enveloped this system. This chapter uses violence as an analytic category in
order to demonstrate how brutality, violence, and death were not mere
by-products of the extremely lucrative early modern plantation system, but
were the sine qua non of that plantation world.