This talk uses Fairfield Plantation in the Dutch plantation colony Suriname and the people associated with it—owners, business partners, and visitors—as a lens to reassess slavery and its importance in eighteenth-century Boston. While there has been an explosion of scholarship about slavery in early New England over the past decade, much of that work has focused on slavery in the region proper. Although important for recovering and understanding the lives of men and women bound in New England, such perspectives only examine one part of the region’s connections to slavery. In addition to enslaving people at home, Bostonians played an important role in the inter-American slave trade, owned plantations in the Caribbean as absentee proprietors, and lived in plantation colonies, serving as merchants and factors in the business of slavery and often owning enslaved people and plantations. Ultimately, the profits of these activities returned home, fueling the expansion of commerce and the rise of industry in New England. In short, understanding Bostonians’ involvement of the wider world of slavery helps show the institution’s importance to the rise of American capitalism.
Jared Ross Hardesty is Associate Professor in the Department of History at Western Washington University and author of three books, Unfreedom: Slavery and Dependence in Eighteenth-Century Boston, Black Lives, Native Lands, White Worlds: A History of Slavery in New England, and Mutiny on the Rising Sun: A Tragic Tale of Slavery, Smuggling, and Chocolate.
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