*On Campus* Chronological Change In Domestic Economy And Provisioning Strategy

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project will employ archaeological evidence of village life and provisioning from colonial Dominica to map the changing relationship between a colony and its empire between 1763 and 1834. Specifically I ask the question what drove local markets- imperial concerns, local contingencies or some mixture of the two. My lens through which to analyze this question are the domestic economies of households located in plantation settlements. Domestic economy was at the intersection of mercantile networks, legal regulations regarding slaves, and the everyday demands of living on the colonial frontier. Dietary remains, trade goods and craft production will be the primary lens through which I will document variation in the domestic economy. Both content and patterns in documents regarding to the subsistence and furnishing of households will be juxtaposed to map the differences between imperial prescription and everyday practice. This research makes three important contributions to the study of early modern empires. First, it considers slaves, not only as commodities and labor, but as consumers [whose household production and consumption had economic impacts through out the colonial world. Second, it centers domestic production, provision, and consumption in Atlantic imperial infrastructures. Third, this research takes into account variation in environmental and social conditions that shaped the slave’s domestic economy. By tracking the global, regional, and local networks that functioned to support colonial enterprises- such as plantations- this research will map the tension between domestic and political economies that made empires run. This research makes three transformative interventions in archaeological method and theory. This research employs the documentary record, not just as sources of information, but also as artifacts of imperial and colonial agendas that are both patterned and processed over time. By looking at the context of authorship, the circulation of content, and the ultimate disposition of sources, the networks surrounding documents related to land, labor, and commerce can be useful juxtaposed against patterns of material culture. As such this research develops a multi-scalar approach that simultaneously considers both top-down and bottom up approaches to the political economy of colonial empires. As a site of imperial contention between Britain and France Dominica’s documentary record can help examine the similarities and differences in how land, labor and commerce was imagined in the homeland and practiced on the frontier. Intellectual Merits This research contributes to a growing concern that questions the intellectual merit of dividing the analysis of ancient and modern empires especially through the lens of archaeology. Archaeologists studying empires have argued that provincial settlements, like colonies or territories, are ideal settings to explore the range of variation in imperial practices and are reflective of larger administrative policies on which empires were founded. While historians and archaeologists agree that activities and practices in peripheral territories are only partially related to the core, it is of some debate as to why. While some have looked to the depreciating influence of imperial centers as a function of distance, others have argued that colonies were the site of an improvised political economy best characterized as rogue. This project draws on such recent work, which has mapped the difference between imperial prescriptions and everyday practice on the frontier in order to u
Effective start/end date7/1/146/30/17


  • National Science Foundation (BCS-1419672)


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