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Open Access Hierarchies of whiteness in the geographies of empire: Thomas Thistlewood and the Barrets of Jamaica

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Hierarchies of whiteness in the geographies of empire: Thomas Thistlewood and the Barrets of Jamaica

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

Shows how a racial solidarity between whites in colonial Jamaica during slavery developed, but covered class differences between whites. Author examines the differences between the lesser-white, socially mobile settlers, and the upper plantocracy. She looks especially at social-structural factors, in particular genealogy and reproduction, that separated upper plantocratic families and dynasties, with connections with Britain, e.g. through absentee plantation owners, from less wealthy white settlers, that obtained intermediate positions as overseers, and generally were single males. She relates this further to the context with a white minority and a majority of slaves, and with relatively less women than men among the whites, that influenced differing reproductive patterns. The upper-class tended to achieve white marrying partners from Britain, alongside having children with slaves or people of colour, while lower-class whites mostly reproduced only in this last way. Author exemplifies this difference by juxtaposing the family histories and relationships, and relative social positions of Thomas Thistlewood, an overseer who came alone, and had an intermediate position, and the upper-class wealthy Barrett family, who were large land and slave owners, and established a powerful white dynasty in Jamaica, with British connections, over centuries, and that also included, sidelined, coloured offspring.

Affiliations: 1: Departement of Sociology, University of Pittsburgh.


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