Struggles of a Sugar Society: Surveying Plantation-Era Montserrat, 1650–1850



A major obstacle to understanding Montserrat’s sugar industry and the often-contentious social dynamics that accompanied it has been the absence of a comprehensive study of the small Caribbean island’s plantation-era cultural landscape. We employ a multi-scalar approach, combining archival research and archaeological survey data, to trace the island’s shifting socio-cultural composition and fluctuating sugar industry over the course of two centuries (ca. 1650–1850). Adopting an island-wide perspective on the interpretation of Montserrat’s plantation-era remains, we expand the breadth and depth of understandings about the island’s sugar society through comparative, multi-sited analyses. Our findings underscore the importance of extending Caribbean plantation studies beyond individual estates.


Montserrat Sugar plantations British Caribbean Archaeological survey 



We thank Steve Lenik and Christer Petley for inviting us to contribute an earlier version of this paper to a session at the 2013 Society for Historical Archaeology conference in Leicester, UK. We are grateful for earlier contributions and maps that Luke J. Pecoraro provided for the conference version of this paper, as well as the feedback from Mark Hauser and another anonymous reviewer of this article submission. Fieldwork has been made possible through funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research program (Grant RZ-51674-14), the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University, the National Geographic Society Waitt Family Foundation (Grant W86-10), the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration (Grant 9610–14), and Wayne State University. We wish to thank Lady Eudora Fergus and Mrs Sarita Francis OBE (past and current Directors of the Montserrat National Trust) for their support of our work on the island. We are likewise appreciative to all those who have participated on the SLAM project over the past several years, particularly Douglas C. Anderson, Emanuela Bocancea, and Thomas P. Leppard, who have dedicated multiple years of fieldwork to the project. Lastly, for sharing their own research and for practical assistance, we are indebted to Mary Beaudry, Lydia Pulsipher, Jessica Striebel MacLean, Conrad Mac Goodwin, Laura McAtackney, Luke J. Pecoraro, and Casey Pecoraro.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  2. 2.Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient WorldBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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