Mann, Douglas Fenton
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This dissertation explores the relationship between material culture and the development of Creole identity in the eighteenth-century urban slave society of Kingston, Jamaica. Although economic and social historians of the British West Indies in this period have focused on the export of major crops such as sugar, they have devoted little attention to the construction of social and cultural identity. From Kingston’s colonial architecture and urban design, to the interior of homes, white residents displayed their cultural attachments, social prominence, and racial superiority. But slaves also engaged in material acquisition. Through the clothing many domestic slaves were able to obtain from their masters, through purchase, or through other means, slaves blurred the racial lines that divided Kingston society. This study also examines Kingston’s white women who were often caricatured as indolent and attached to excessive material consumption in contemporary sources. However, this portrayal is not accurate. Kingston’s white women, by virtue of their prudent and economical management of domestic consumption and effective oversight of their domestic staff of slaves, carved out for themselves an arena of agency that historians have overlooked. By considering the material culture of Kingston and the circulation of goods within the complex social, racial, and cultural matrix that made up its urban landscape, this project illuminates how material objects acquired social meaning and helped fashion a Creole identity.