Violent Identity: Elite Manhood and Power in Early Barbados



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“Violent Identity: Elite Manhood and Power in Early Barbados” demonstrates that gender is essential to understanding Anglo-American colonialism and plantation slavery. Throughout the seventeenth century, manhood shaped and supported Barbadian planters' strategies for achieving and maintaining power. Violence proved key to performing masculinity. It achieved manly ideals like bravery, valor, duty, and fortitude. Possessing such traits buttressed planter superiority over servants, slaves, and women, while justifying the physical tools used to maintain their authority. Elite Barbadian manhood evolved over the first fifty years of settlement. However, violence remained fundamental to masculinity and power throughout the period. It became part of a unique Atlantic identity and permeated island life for all the island's inhabitants. “Violent Identity” broadens our understanding of the way that gender supported Anglo-American slavery. The study builds on a growing scholarship of gender and violence within early American systems of power. Going beyond the master-slave relationship, this work explains how manhood and violence were foundational to the entire colonial project. A violent masculinity guided planter interactions with the metropole and subject groups from Indians to Africans and the Irish. It helped forge colonial legal and economic institutions, including slavery. Scholars have long demonstrated that Barbados was a world of systemic violence. Rather than just an outgrowth of race and economics, however, this dissertation argues that such violence stemmed from an adapted English manhood.



Barbados, Manhood, Violence, Slavery, Caribbean, Colonial Caribbean, Masculinity, Anglo-America