Forthcoming Book: The Island That Disappeared

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The Island That Disappeared: Old Providence and the Making of the Western World by Tom Feiling discusses the early modern history and culture of a number of Caribbean islands, focusing on Providencia and San Andrés, but also touching upon Jamaica, Panama, and the Corn Islands, and, as the publisher points out, “their relation to wider operations of colonialism, piracy and slavery as orchestrated from London and Madrid.” According to Andrew Lockett (Explore Books), The Island That Disappeared completes the story of Karen Kupperman’s book Providence Island, 1630-1641: The Other Puritan Colony, by bringing the story of Providencia up to date. The book will be available on May 4, 2017.

Description: The creation myth of the United States begins with the plucky English Puritans who landed on the Mayflower, and went on to build the most powerful nation on earth. This is the story of the passengers aboard its sister ship, the Seaflower, who in 1631, founded a rival Puritan colony on an isolated Caribbean island called Providence. They were convinced that England’s empire would rise not in barren New England, but tropical Central America. But their crops failed, their slaves revolted, and as crisis loomed, the worldlier settlers turned to piracy.

After eleven years of conflict between God-fearing Puritans and devil-may-care buccaneers, the Spanish invaded, and the colony was wiped out. Providence was soon forgotten in England, but as Tom Feiling discovers, the dramatic confrontation of high-mindedness and low cunning was reprised when the island was resettled a century later. Today, Providence is a fascinating microcosm of the Atlantic story, and the contradictory nature of the modern Caribbean. At first glance, it is an island of 5000 devout churchgoers—look a little closer, and you realise that it is still dependent on its smugglers.

Spanning 400 years of British imperial history as seen from a tiny island community, The Island That Dis- appeared is both intimate and global, and takes on new significance as Britain tries to reimagine a global free-trading role for itself post-Brexit.

Tom Feiling is a writer, journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker and the author of two highly acclaimed books Cocaine Nation: How the White Trade Took Over the World (Pegasus 2010) and Short Walks from Bogota: Journeys in the New Columbia (Penguin, 2013).

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