Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean, by Matthew Mulcahy

By Matthew Mulcahy

Hurricanes created designated demanding situations for the colonists within the British larger Caribbean through the 17th and eighteenth centuries. those storms have been completely new to eu settlers and quick turned the main feared a part of their actual surroundings, destroying staple plants and provisions, leveling plantations and cities, disrupting delivery and alternate, and leading to significant monetary losses for planters and frequent privation for slaves.

In this examine, Matthew Mulcahy examines how colonists made feel of hurricanes, how they recovered from them, and the position of the storms in shaping the improvement of the region's colonial settlements. Hurricanes and Society within the British higher Caribbean, 1624–1783 offers an invaluable new point of view on a number of subject matters together with colonial technology, the plantation financial system, slavery, and private and non-private charity. via integrating the West Indies into the bigger tale of British Atlantic colonization, Mulcahy's paintings contributes to early American heritage, Atlantic historical past, environmental heritage, and the transforming into box of catastrophe studies.

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Colonists no longer viewed hurricanes as “strange” and “unusual” but saw them as routine and expected. Commentators increasingly discussed the natural processes that gave rise to hurricanes, and fewer accounts contained explicit moralizing or recitations of the communal sins that had warranted God’s wrath. Although the exact mechanisms at work in the storms remained a mystery, writers spent more time outlining natural forces than reflecting on divine justice. A number of factors influenced this shift in emphasis, but none were more important than greater experience with hurricanes and increased observation of their physical characteristics.

One commentator found it “very odd, that they [hurricanes] should be so dreadfull in some places of the Caribbe-Islands, insomuch that Nevis and St. ” The British captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655, and colonists viewed its immunity to hurricanes as a key asset. Storms often forced English ships sailing in the region to seek refuge in Spanish ports, but an English Jamaica now offered a safe haven for distressed vessels. 20 This image of Jamaica as free from the ravages of hurricanes continued into the eighteenth century, despite at least one report of a storm in 1672.

51 The threat from hurricanes helped create a sense of fragility and uncertainty among colonists as the possibility of violent destruction and chaos hovered over the region each year. Although colonists who migrated to the Greater Caribbean shared the basic ideas of improvement with others in British America, experience with hurricanes forced them to temper their expectations and acknowledge their vulnerability to larger environmental forces. ” Property in the region was “exceedingly precarious,” wrote one eighteenth-century visitor to Jamaica, and so too was the broader society.

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