Empire at the Periphery: British Colonists, Anglo-Dutch Trade, and the Development of the British Atlantic, 1621-1713

Empire at the Periphery: British Colonists, Anglo-Dutch Trade, and the Development of the British Atlantic, 1621-1713

Empire at the Periphery: British Colonists, Anglo-Dutch Trade, and the Development of the British Atlantic, 1621-1713

Empire at the Periphery: British Colonists, Anglo-Dutch Trade, and the Development of the British Atlantic, 1621-1713

Excerpt

A 1700 engraving of New York City pictures a thriving British port in the midst of a period of rapid economic growth. The harbor bustles with activity. A great vessel, its sails full of wind, glides to join another already lying at anchor. Sailing among these massive seagoing vessels are smaller coastal craft busily carrying goods to and from the quays or perhaps bringing imports from surrounding colonies. The print portrays a vibrant yet orderly landscape; neatly arranged warehouses and countinghouses line the waterfront as tidy rows of homes stretch to the horizon. A serene hinterland fades into the background as a windmill, just visible on the right, suggests the burgeoning economic possibilities of the mid-Atlantic. A contemporary engraving of another English port, Bridgetown, Barbados, presents a similar if more densely populated scene. In this 1695 engraving, a score or more vessels crowd the Caribbean port’s carefully labeled wharfs and two large quays. Multistory structures line the shore, dominated by the great storehouses that front each wharf and suggest the economic success of this leading West Indian island as do the close to forty windmills processing sugarcane that are scattered in the surrounding cane fields.

On the surface, these prints present a British Atlantic composed of well-ordered colonial ports that function as nodes of Atlantic shipping. Metropolitan officials would have endorsed such depictions; they could imagine that these views of the ports’ orderliness reflected the . . .

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