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Drought and disaster in a revolutionary age: colonial Antigua during the American Independence War

Berland, Alexander Jorge; Endfield, Georgina H.

Authors

Alexander Jorge Berland

Georgina H. Endfield



Abstract

The American War of Independence (1775-1783) spelled crisis for the British West Indies. Trade embargos between rebelling and loyal territories, losses to American pirates and hostilities with other European states left the Crown’s tropical Atlantic colonies short of the imported supplies that normally sustained their populations and commerce. Historians have studied the dynamics and consequences of these developments in considerable detail, at both regional and local scales, but have tended to focus on economic, social and political dimensions of the subject matter. Although some investigations have highlighted that climate variability compounded agricultural and subsistence problems in certain locations, the role of climate has rarely been subject to the same level of scrutiny. The present paper addresses this theme by focusing on the Lesser Antillean island of Antigua and the severe drought which gripped the colony during the war period. Through extensive analysis of original, largely unpublished archival sources, the implications of deficient rainfall for human livelihoods, fiscal stability and governmental crisis management are examined. By supplementing findings with evidence from other episodes of warfare which coincided with extreme climate phenomena in the late 1700s and early 1800s, it is argued that successive years of drought were pivotal in defining the severe human and economic losses sustained in Antigua during the American independence conflict. The critical agency of this weather event must, however, be understood as the product of its dynamic interaction with the precarious backdrop of a colonial regime under profound socio-economic and geopolitical stress.

Citation

Berland, A. J., & Endfield, G. H. (2018). Drought and disaster in a revolutionary age: colonial Antigua during the American Independence War. Environment and History, 24(2), 209-235. https://doi.org/10.3197/096734018X15137949591918

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 29, 2016
Online Publication Date Jan 4, 2018
Publication Date May 1, 2018
Deposit Date May 5, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jan 4, 2018
Journal Environment and History
Print ISSN 0967-3407
Electronic ISSN 1752-7023
Publisher White Horse Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 2
Pages 209-235
DOI https://doi.org/10.3197/096734018X15137949591918
Public URL http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/33107
Publisher URL http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/whp/eh/pre-prints/content-whp_eh_1166
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingh.../end_user_agreement.pdf
Additional Information This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted following peer review for publication in Environment and History Volume 24, Number 2, May 2018, pp. 209-235 The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online, https://doi.org/10.3197/096734018X15137949591918

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Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/end_user_agreement.pdf





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