A major reassessment of the development of race and subjecthood in the British Atlantic
Focusing on Jamaica, Britain’s most valuable colony in the Americas by the mid-eighteenth century, this book explores the relationship between racial classifications and the inherited rights and privileges associated with British subject status. Brooke Newman reveals the centrality of notions of blood and blood mixture to evolving racial definitions and sexual practices in colonial Jamaica and to legal and political debates over slavery and the rights of imperial subjects on both sides of the Atlantic.
Weaving together a diverse range of sources, Newman shows how colonial racial ideologies rooted in fictions of blood ancestry at once justified permanent, hereditary slavery for Africans and barred members of certain marginalized groups from laying claim to British liberties on the basis of hereditary status. This groundbreaking study demonstrates that challenges to an Atlantic slave system underpinned by distinctions of blood had far-reaching consequences for British understandings of race, gender, and national belonging.
Brooke N. Newman is associate professor of history and associate director of the Humanities Research Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is coeditor of Native Diasporas: Indigenous Identities and Settler Colonialism in the Americas.
“A rich and deeply researched exploration of race-making in the colonial British empire”—Marisa J. Fuentes, New West Indian Guide
“This insightful book challenges the understanding of racial classifications and the birthrights of imperial subjects in the slave societies of the British Caribbean, especially Jamaica. . . . A must-read for all scholars of Caribbean studies, race, and the African diaspora.”—F. H. Smith, Choice
“[A]mbitious and meticulously argued. . . . Newman’s book deftly handles a wealth of fascinating evidence and contains many illuminating insights; it is a book that rewards careful reading.”—Kate L. Mulry, William and Mary Quarterly
“[A] carefully written and thoughtful assessment of the ways in which heritage shaped Britishness.”—Jenny Shaw, Journal of African American History
“[A]n important addition to our understanding of race and privilege in colonial Jamaica, the British empire, and broader Atlantic world.”—Katherine Johnston, Eighteenth-Century Studies
Winner of the 2019 Gold Medal for World History, sponsored by the Independent Publisher Book Awards
Finalist for the 2019 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, awarded by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition
Listed on Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles List for 2019
“This exhilarating and innovative study of race, sex, and subjecthood in Jamaica demonstrates how a concentrated examination of ‘blood purity’ gives us an entirely fresh perspective on crucial issues in the formation of identity within black and white populations. A major and exciting advance in understanding the British Atlantic.”—Trevor Burnard, University of Melbourne
“In this richly researched and cogently argued book, Brooke Newman reveals how ideas about blood and law and the making of a slave society in colonial Jamaica helped to construct as well as deconstruct racial difference in the imperial order. Few historians have done a better job of analyzing the intersections of gender, sexuality, and race in the print culture of the British Empire. A must read for any historian of slavery and abolition.”—Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition
“Brooke Newman’s fascinating account of colonial Jamaican racial politics reveals the British investment in concepts of inherited blood, birthright, and Christianity as the legal foundation for English privilege and enslaved African subordination.”—Kathleen M. Brown, University of Pennsylvania
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