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Islanders and Empire
Smuggling and Political Defiance in Hispaniola, 1580–1690

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Part of Cambridge Latin American Studies

  • Date Published: October 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108477659

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About the Authors
  • Islanders and Empire examines the role smuggling played in the cultural, economic, and socio-political transformation of Hispaniola from the late sixteenth to seventeenth centuries. With a rare focus on local peoples and communities, the book analyzes how residents of Hispaniola actively negotiated and transformed the meaning and reach of imperial bureaucracies and institutions for their own benefit. By co-opting the governing and judicial powers of local and imperial institutions on the island, residents could take advantage of, and even dominate, the contraband trade that reached the island's shores. In doing so, they altered the course of the European inter-imperial struggles in the Caribbean by limiting, redirecting, or suppressing the Spanish crown's policies, thus taking control of their destinies and that of their neighbors in Hispaniola, other Spanish Caribbean territories, and the Spanish empire in the region.

    • Provides a rare, on-the-ground study of a Spanish Caribbean society in the seventeenth century, a previously understudied period and region
    • Discusses significant examples of colonial peripheries and borderlands in shaping overall imperial governance
    • Features a strong narrative style as a key feature of historical inquiry
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    • Winner, 2021 Alfred B Thomas Book Award, Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Islands and Empire is an important contribution to the growing literature on the Caribbean during the long seventeenth century. This deeply researched and well written study of the social and economic smuggling networks on Hispaniola shows how royal officials and local elites on the island confounded the Crown's attempts to enforce mercantilist controls.' Jane Landers, Gertrude Conway Vanderbilt Professor of History, Vanderbilt University

    'Working from a difficult archival base with incredible imagination and care, Smugglers and Empire reconstructs stratifications - and freedoms - made within a world shaped by extralegal trade. Ponce Vázquez helps to reframe narratives not only of the early colonial Caribbean, seen from Santo Domingo, but also all of the plantation struggles that were yet to come.' Anne Eller, Associate Professor of History, Yale University

    'Through an innovative investigation of smuggling, this deeply researched book asks us to reconsider subjecthood in the Spanish Empire. Ponce Vázquez convincingly argues that illicit commerce enabled Santo Domingo’s inhabitants to consolidate control over colonial government, redefine their relationships with foreigners and the Spanish monarchy, and selectively disobey royal orders.' Jesse Cromwell, Associate Professor of History, University of Mississippi

    'A century after Columbus conquered Hispaniola, the crown rerouted the silver fleets away from Santo Domingo. The impoverished island thus became the hub of a vast, grassroots, intra- and trans-imperial smuggling network. Islanders and Empire is a fascinating, crisply written, richly researched book on the political economy of smuggling and the making of a decentralized, Creole-ruled American Spanish Empire.' Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History, University of Texas-Austin

    ‘… draw[s] attention to important yet understudied periods of Haiti’s history.’ Crystal Eddins, Haiti’s New Political Worlds

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2020
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108477659
    • length: 320 pages
    • dimensions: 150 x 230 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.64kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of Figures and Tables
    1. Colonial Origins: Hispaniola in the Sixteenth Century
    2. Smuggling, Sin, and Survival, 1580–1600
    3. Repressing Smugglers: The Depopulations of Hispaniola, 1604–06
    4. Tools of Colonial Power: Officeholders, Violence, and Enslaved African Exploitation in Santo Domingo's Cabildo
    5. 'Prime Mover of All Machinations': Rodrigo Pimentel, Smuggling, and the Artifice of Power
    6. Neighbors, Rivals, and Partners: Non-Spaniards and the Rise of Saint-Domingue
    Glossary of Spanish Terms

  • Author

    Juan José Ponce Vázquez, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
    Juan José Ponce Vázquez is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Alabama.


    • Winner, 2021 Alfred B Thomas Book Award, Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies

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