Between 1640 and 1660, England, Scotland, and Ireland faced civil war, invasion, religious radicalism, parliamentary rule, and the restoration of the monarchy. Carla Gardina Pestana offers a sweeping history that systematically connects these cataclysmic events and the development of the infant plantations from Newfoundland to Surinam.
By 1660, the English Atlantic emerged as religiously polarized, economically interconnected, socially exploitative, and ideologically anxious about its liberties. War increased both the proportion of unfree laborers and ethnic diversity in the settlements. Neglected by London, the colonies quickly developed trade networks, especially from seafaring New England, and entered the slave trade. Barbadian planters in particular moved decisively toward slavery as their premier labor system, leading the way toward its adoption elsewhere. When by the 1650s the governing authorities tried to impose their vision of an integrated empire, the colonists claimed the rights of “freeborn English men,” making a bid for liberties that had enormous implications for the rise in both involuntary servitude and slavery. Changes at home politicized religion in the Atlantic world and introduced witchcraft prosecutions.
Pestana presents a compelling case for rethinking our assumptions about empire and colonialism and offers an invaluable look at the creation of the English Atlantic world.