In the decades following England’s 1655 conquest of Spanish Jamaica, the western Caribbean became the site of overlapping and competing claims—to land, maritime spaces, and people. English Jamaica, located in the midst of Spanish American port towns and shipping lanes, was central to numerous projects of varying legality, aimed at acquiring Spanish American wealth. Those projects were backdrop to a wide-ranging movement of people who made their own claims to political membership in developing colonial societies, and by extension, in Atlantic empires.
Boundaries of Belonging follows the stories of these individuals—licensed traders, smugglers, freedom seekers, religious refugees, pirates, and interlopers—who moved through the contested spaces of the western Caribbean. Though some were English and Spanish, many others were Sephardic, Tule, French, Kalabari, Scottish, Dutch, or Brandenberg. They also included creole people who identified themselves by their local place of origin or residence--as Jamaican, Cuban, or Panamanian.
As they crossed into and out of rival imperial jurisdictions, many either sought or rejected Spanish or English subjecthood, citing their place of birth, their nation or ethnicity, their religion, their loyalty, or their economic or military contributions to colony or empire. Colonial and metropolitan officials weighed those claims as they tried to impose sovereignty over diverse and mobile people in a region of disputed and shifting jurisdictions. These contests over who belonged in what empire and why, and over what protections such belonging conferred, in turn helped to determine who would be included within a developing law of nations.
April Lee Hatfield is Associate Professor of History at Texas A&M University and author of Atlantic Virginia: Intercolonial Relations in the Seventeenth Century, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.
"Boundaries of Belonging fits seamlessly into a growing body of historical scholarship concerning race, empire, and the Caribbean. Historians of slavery, piracy, the Caribbean, or the Spanish or English empires stand to learn from Hatfield’s research approach, clear prose, and meticulous attention to detail. This text deserves a spot on comprehensive exams lists for students in Atlantic and Caribbean history and as a syllabus staple for any course concerning empire, race, or archival methods."—H-Early America
"This fascinating book untangles the forces that shaped concepts of belonging and identity in the early colonial Caribbean...Hatfield delves into themes of trade, ethnicity, race, and birthplace to complicate the means and meaning of belonging. Pirates, Sephardic Jews, enslaved peoples, Indigenous communities, and others added new dimensions to the complexities of belonging. English conquest of Jamaica provided novel ways of thinking about identity as English colonists, seeking to capitalize on Spanish wealth, confronted the fluidity of Catholic affiliation. This process in turn galvanized English constructs of whiteness."—Choice
"April Lee Hatfield has written a deeply researched and carefully argued study of the racial politics of political community formation in early Jamaica. Boundaries of Belonging is essential reading for anyone interested in the intertwined histories of race, slavery, and political belonging in the Atlantic world."—Lauren Benton, Yale University
"Out of the many possible identities anyone could claim at the entangled borders of empire, those who claimed to be ‘English’ made race their linchpin, while ‘Spaniards’ deliberately did not. In this eye-opening and groundbreaking study, April Lee Hatfield illuminates how the construction of ‘Anglo’ and ‘Latin’ narratives of exclusion and belonging in the body politic began as early as the mid-seventeenth century in and around Jamaica. Boundaries of Belonging is sure to become a classic on the comparative history of race in the continent."—Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, University of Texas at Austin