Capitalism and the Shift to Sugar and Slavery in Mid-Seventeenth-Century Barbados

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2 Scopus citations


The origins of capitalism in the British West Indies began as part of the revolutionary shift to sugar and slavery in Barbados in the second quarter of the 17th-century. This study examines the origins of capitalism in Barbados through the exploration of the historical record and archaeological findings from Trents Plantation and other early colonial estates in Barbados. The expansion of agro-industrial sugar production into the English colony of Barbados set in motion a dramatic shift in social and economic structures. Social and economic change resulted from the intersection of access to investor capital, dramatic profits rapidly amassed through the production of a commoditized cash crop, sugar, and a related shift in the labor force to a reliance on large numbers of enslaved laborers from Africa. The change took place rapidly during a period of political turmoil in England that resulted in laissez-faire governance and a void in administrative oversight in the West Indies. The social and economic changes seen in the archaeological record at Trents, and actuated across Barbados, had a dramatic impact on the broader Atlantic World, inclusive of the Americas, Europe, Africa, and their trading partners across the globe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)468-491
Number of pages24
JournalHistorical archaeology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • capitalism
  • enslavement
  • indenture
  • plantation
  • sugar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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