In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680-1783

In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680-1783

In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680-1783

In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680-1783


In an exploration of the oceanic connections of the Atlantic world, Michael J. Jarvis recovers a mariner's view of early America as seen through the eyes of Bermuda's seafarers. The first social history of eighteenth-century Bermuda, this book profiles how one especially intensive maritime community capitalized on its position "in the eye of all trade."

Jarvis takes readers aboard small Bermudian sloops and follows white and enslaved sailors as they shuttled cargoes between ports, raked salt, harvested timber, salvaged shipwrecks, hunted whales, captured prizes, and smuggled contraband in an expansive maritime sphere spanning Great Britain's North American and Caribbean colonies. In doing so, he shows how humble sailors and seafaring slaves operating small family-owned vessels were significant but underappreciated agents of Atlantic integration.

The American Revolution starkly revealed the extent of British America's integration before 1775 as it shattered interregional links that Bermudians had helped to forge. Reliant on North America for food and customers, Bermudians faced disaster at the conflict's start. A bold act of treason enabled islanders to continue trade with their rebellious neighbors and helped them to survive and even prosper in an Atlantic world at war. Ultimately, however, the creation of the United States ended Bermuda's economic independence and doomed the island's maritime economy.


What did early America look like from the deck of a ship, and how might this perspective change the ways we understand it? This book positions itself at the intersection of maritime history, Atlantic history, and colonial American history to consider an Atlantic world that was in motion and evolving in the century before the American Revolution. It focuses on British American mariners and the vital role they played in connecting Atlantic regions. It invites readers to see the Atlantic world through the eyes of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Bermudian seafarers and explore the maritime world they inhabited. With such a gaze, we can appreciate better how prominently the Atlantic Ocean figured in Americans’ lives.

Atlantic history should rest on a maritime foundation. Early modern Americans were well acquainted with sailing vessels. For immigrants and slaves, crossing the Atlantic in ships was often a life-changing experience. American colonists frequently traveled in boats and coastal vessels to avoid slow, tedious, or dangerous overland journeys through wilderness. Even in settled areas, travel by road involved teeth-jarring journeys along dusty or muddy routes and delays precipitated by broken carriages, lamed horses, swollen rivers, and inclement weather. Sailing vessels carried the commodities that settlers produced, transporting them from the seaport entrepôts where exports were gathered to overseas markets. They also brought in the many tools, textiles, ceramics, and other manufactured items that Americans could not make for themselves. Maritime commerce shaped the pace and direction of colonies’ development, promoting staple specialization in the Sugar Islands of the West Indies, diversification in the middle colonies, and shipping, shipbuilding, and naval stores industries in . . .

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