Douglas V. Armstrong (author of Creole Transformation from Slavery to Freedom: Historical Archaeology of the East End Community, St. John, Virgin Islands) describes An Archaeology and History of a Caribbean Sugar Plantation on Antigua (University Press of Florida, 2020), edited by Georgia L. Fox, as “A detailed archaeological, historical, and landscape study of a significant plantation and heritage site [. . .].”
Description: An Archaeology and History of a Caribbean Sugar Plantation on Antigua uses archaeological and documentary evidence to reconstruct daily life at Betty’s Hope plantation on the island of Antigua, one of the largest sugar plantations in the Caribbean. It demonstrates the rich information derived from the multidisciplinary approach of contemporary historical archaeology can offer in assessing the long-term impacts of sugarcane agriculture on the region and its people.
Drawing on ten years of research at the 300-year-old site, these essays uncover the plantation’s inner workings as well as its connections to broader historical developments in the Atlantic World. Excavations at the Great House reveal similarities to other British colonial sites, and historical records reveal the owners’ involvement in the Atlantic slave trade and in the trade of rum and other commodities. Artifacts uncovered from the slave quarters—ceramic tokens, repurposed bottle glass, and hundreds of Afro-Antiguan pottery sherds—speak to the agency of enslaved peoples in the face of harsh living conditions. Contributors also use ethnographic field data collected from interviews with contemporary farmers, as well as soil analysis to demonstrate how three centuries of sugarcane monocropping created a complicated legacy of soil depletion.
Today tourism has long surpassed sugar as Antigua’s primary economic driver. Looking at visitor exhibits and new technologies for exploring and interpreting the site, the volume discusses best practices in cultural heritage management at Betty’s Hope and other locations that are home to contested historical narratives of a colonial past.
Georgia L. Fox, professor of anthropology at California State University, Chico, is the author of The Archaeology of Smoking and Tobacco.