Repurposed Metal Objects in the Political Economy of Jamaican Slavery


The development of iron technologies in mid–eighteenth Century Britain led to an explosion in the variety and scope of iron objects manufactured for the consumer market. One of the primary markets for iron goods was the Caribbean plantation complex. An astonishing amount of iron ware was shipped to Jamaica, where archaeological investigations at Marshalls Pen, a nineteenth-century coffee plantation, recovered a variety of iron tools and other metal objects from enslaved household contexts. A selection of these tools show evidence that the enslaved population of the plantation reshaped these tools for their own purposes.

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We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the many people who have supported this work over the years. In Scotland we would like to thank the Earl of Crawford, Lord Lindsay, and the Lindsay Trust who have provided frequent and unfettered access to their collection of family papers. The staff of the National Library of Scotland who curate that collection provide both a welcoming place for study and research and unparalleled assistance in those pursuits. The faculty, staff, and fellows of the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh provided fond fellowship and a wonderful facility during the last research trip to Edinburgh. In Jamaica, we are very grateful to Ann Sutton for allowing us access to her property for these investigations. Thanks also to the staff and directors of the Jamaica National Historical Trust, as well as the faculty and students of the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of the West Indies at Mona for their untiring support of this project. Special thanks go to the many graduate and undergraduate students—past and present--from North America who have contributed to this project, especially Elizabeth Clay, Jordan Pickrell, Janet Six, Ashley Tupper, Patrick Heaton, and Lizzie Martin. This research has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Philosophical Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, Franklin and Marshall College, Kutztown University, Shippensburg University, and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

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Delle, J.A., Fellows, K.R. Repurposed Metal Objects in the Political Economy of Jamaican Slavery. Int J Histor Archaeol (2021).

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  • Jamaica
  • Coffee plantations
  • Iron tools
  • Repurposed tools