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Adventurers, Emissaries and Settlers: Ireland and Latin America
27-30 June 2007, National University of Ireland, Galway

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Irish Catholic planters in the Caribbean: Montserrat and St. Croix 1747-1775

Orla Power (NUI, Galway)

A tremendous insight into the position and importance of Ireland within the Atlantic World system is to be gained through the study of the Irish in the Caribbean . While Irish nationalist history has tended to highlight the condition of the oppressed Irish indentured servant, many Irish settlers experienced the Caribbean from a different perspective. For instance, Irish Catholics were actively involved in the sugar and rum industry, owned plantations and traded in African slaves - all while maintaining links with the Catholic Church in Ireland, Southern Europe and America. Accordingly, Irish – Caribbean commercial and social networks were truly global as they defied political and linguistic boundaries and established a geographically disparate, yet cohesive community. The importance of kinship as a means of developing and sustaining the infrastructure of the Atlantic World has been well documented. However, other means of maintaining trust within the erratic world of transatlantic commerce can also be identified. While not based on blood ties, the close-knit nature of Montserratian society continued to bind the business ventures of ex-patriot planters and merchants who left the British island to pursue economic and social advancement elsewhere. This paper will focus on a group of Irish Catholic planters, who relocated from Montserrat in the 1740s to the socially tolerant, Danish island of St.Croix (modern day USVI). In exploring the ways in which this Irish community interacted with each other, unfamiliar environments, and with the outside world, it is hoped to contribute new perspectives regarding the colonising roll of Irish people within the Caribbean, together with an insight into the nature of “Irishness” and Irish - Creole identity.

Online published: 24 April 2007
Edited: 07 May 2009

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