Patterns of Mixed-Race Migration to Britain in the Eighteenth-Century Black Atlantic

Friday, January 8, 2010: 3:10 PM
Manchester Ballroom F (Hyatt)
Daniel Livesay , University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
With tremendous gender and racial disparities, miscegenation and interracial cohabitation became the norm in eighteenth-century Jamaica.  A large number of mixed-race children came from these unions, and in many cases these individuals received financial and personal assistance from their white fathers.  Lacking schools, and with almost no professional prospects for free people of color on the island, many fathers sent their mixed-race children to Britain for a better chance at schooling and employment.  These individuals took their place in the upper ranks of metropolitan society, with large colonial fortunes behind them.  Their interactions with white relatives, and scholarly success in Britain, paved the way for continued achievement in the metropole, or for a more advanced position in Jamaican society, if they chose to return. This paper examines the wills of over 2200 Jamaican residents from 1770-1815 to provide a quantifiable look at mixed-race migration to Britain.  Gathered from the Island Record Office in Central Village, Jamaica, these wills shed light not only on the frequency and regularity of this practice over the period in question, but also on the gender and class dynamics that dictated life for mixed-race Jamaicans who traveled to the metropole.  Though primarily a male phenomenon, mixed-race migration to Britain also included a large number of women who, more often than their male counterparts, stayed in the metropolis permanently.  This paper will argue that such movement became an important component in the development of the Black Atlantic, and that the remigration of mixed-race Jamaicans from the metropole to the periphery constituted a vital force in the creolization of the West Indies.
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