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The freest port? Slavery and literature in St. Thomas

Carlsberg Foundation Monograph Fellowships

What

The book studies different kinds of texts and narratives connected to the former Danish colony St. Thomas in the Caribbean over a 400-year period from the settlement of the island in 1666 to today. St. Thomas is particularly interesting because it in 1764 was declared a free port, making it a central hub for Caribbean trade and the town of Chalotte Amalie became a small metropolis of people from all colonial spheres. Studying diverse texts from this microcosm the book charts the importance of trade in the colonial world with special emphasis on the ways in which slavery and slave trade undergirded this world and the imprint of this reality in different narrative genres.

Why

By reading a diverse set of text the book will show how slavery and the slave trade was perceived and reflected in different ways in the colonial world thus adding to our understanding of the structures upholding the system of slavery and, in particular, its relation to early forms of liberalism and capitalism and the afterlives of these forms up until today.

How

The book is based on archive studies in St. Thomas, USA and Europe. These studies has unearthed a large corpus of diverse writings on and from St. Thomas that forms the basis for the study.

SSR

The book will contribute to ongoing discussions about national identity and history in St. Thomas, today under US rule as well as discussions about Danish colonial history in Denmark. In both contexts the project will place the history of slavery in its commercial and cultural context, thus adding to our understanding of this dark part of our shared history and its cultural afterlives.