Departing from an intervention by a colonial official from Martinique at the end of the eighteenth century on the issue of the Exclusif, the French protective trade restrictions in the colonies, emphasis is laid on the ‘right’ earned by individuals and groups in participating in the material construction of empire. As the argument continues the claim is brought forward that those who have built the empire earn a right of its possession, not only morally, but also materially and existentially. The emotional binding of individual, groups, and whole societies to their built environment gives an important insight into how empires become actually stable without having a strong dependence to the centre. The French empire, therefore, is a global construct that is connected by certain similar practices, emotional ties that stretch over the distance of oceans, and finds its best expression in the large buildings and complexes that not only the French had built, but many other people that earned a right of the possession of ‘their’ empire. But the only revolutionary outcome this earned right provoked was on Saint-Domingue, when the newly formed republic appropriated the material culture of the former colony in order to stabilize the new nation of Haiti.
presumption a default globality of historical events or a Eurocentric sense of global space that itself is a construct of the imperial past.
Microhistories of empire
Empires are elusive. The term ‘empire’ implies a certain ambiguity about power relations: while determined by dominant central rule, empires are also characterized by a certain weakness of government control over large distances. While this is true for most empires in world history, it is particularly noticeable in the case of the French colonial realm in the early modern
situated at temporal or
geographic distance from the production of social suffering’. 18 This shift
creates a space to think about the ways in which those people who
are seemingly disconnected from the events might draw some form of
privilege or benefit as a result. It enables a greater understanding
of the power structures and ideologies which underpin individual
laptots who received salaries. Other buildings included all the necessary installations for the colonial settlement: limekiln, forge, workshops for carpenters, a dovecote, and some huts for the storage of merchandise, placed some distance away from the settlement due to the risk of fire. A feature that was characteristic for the Senegal region, however, was the boathouse for the craft of the Senegalese laptots, the indispensable experts for all transportation to and from the island.
The ‘governor's’ mansion, however
grandchildren. The Hibbert matriarch’s shock at witnessing the
ministrations of an enslaved nanny underscored the relative distance
both physically and psychologically that separated the two worlds
that the family inhabited.
The Hibberts had to negotiate family politics within
the context of both metropole and colony. Their intimate relations
were transformed through their engagement with
manual worker, ignorant to the supposed fact it was the latter that had built and served the country. While distancing themselves from Africans, this self-understanding simultaneously differentiated workers from the ‘office boy’, the weak and pathetic daydreamer, the antithesis to the manual labourer deemed to be the embodiment of masculinity and self-respect. Thus the dominant colonial image of feminised and infantilised African ‘boys’ that was used to legitimate segregation in the workplace was also projected on to middle-class Europeans. 99
within the high-risk world of the slave
economy. Close-knit commercial networks based on personal relationships
were crucial to longevity and success. Formal and informal methods of
vouching and recommendation existed to protect the business from the
threat of the unknown. In a period in which trust played a fundamental
role in building the credit relations necessary for investment in
See ibid., p. 17.
B. A. Balcom, The Cod Fishery of Isle Royale, 1713–58 (Ottawa: National Historic Parks and Site Branch Parks Canada, 1984), pp. 4, 11–19. Despite its distance the eastern and western coasts of the Northern Atlantic Ocean were so closely connected that even germs could travel to and fro like, for example, in 1758 when a typhus epidedmic quickly spread from Louisbourg to Brest and across Brittany (see Johnston
domestic comforts with the ethical implications of involvement in
the business of slavery. Work, of course, did more than simply
explain and justify domesticity – it paid for it. In this way the
profits of participation in the system of slavery were abstracted in
the elegance of the polite mercantile home. Distanced from the
violence of the plantation, the labour of the enslaved was
pity that your residence should be at such an Inconvenient distance
from him’. 36 In 1812
William purchased a property at Crescent Grove in Clapham, putting
him a short walk away from both his brother George and his
sister-in-law Mary. After William’s death in 1844, Hare Hill was
sold to the Brocklehurst family. The house is designated a Grade II
listed building and remains in