Monday, October 26, 2015

Robert DuPlessis's "The Material Atlantic"

Robert S. DuPlessis is Isaac H. Clothier Professor of History and International Relations Emeritus at the Department of History, Swarthmore College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Material Atlantic: Clothing, Commerce, and Colonization in the Atlantic World, 1650-1800, and reported the following:
Opening to page 99 will give a sense of The Material Atlantic’s multivalent project: close attention to sources and historiography as well as exposition and explanation concerning critical articles—clothes and textiles—that at once satisfy a basic human need and enable personal expression and group identification. Focusing on apparel fabrics and fashions, The Material Atlantic explores the material selves that individuals of diverse ethnicities, statuses, and occupations created in a variety of environments around the vast Atlantic basin. In order to uncover both everyday and exceptional sartorial experiences of women and men, indigenous and immigrant, enslaved and free, poor and affluent, the book uses a wide array of written and pictorial sources, and has a lot of illustrations in color and greyscale. In addition, it addresses central issues in recent scholarship on the Atlantic world, globalization, and consumption.

Found in Chapter 2, “Acquiring imported textiles and dress,” the text on page 99 is part of the analysis of merchant textile stocks, the most important source of clothing fabrics around the Atlantic. The chapter also outlines the plethora of market and non-market modes of fabric acquisition that allowed people in the Atlantic world to invent what I term “dress regimes,” the individually and socially created complexes of garments and related items, the practices by which they were appropriated and deployed, and verbal and pictorial discourses that sought to direct, explain, and justify (or invalidate) both apparel and dressing practices.

The next four chapters investigate the processes and meanings of dress regime creation among indigenous, enslaved, and free settler men and women in a dozen locations on both sides of the Atlantic; the final chapter compares these fashions both with dress regimes found on the “eve” of the Atlantic world (just as exchanges and migrations began to intensify from the early seventeenth century, as delineated in Chapter 1), and with those found in late eighteenth century Europe, and concludes by outlining the effects of Atlantic consumption on European textile manufacturing.
Learn more about The Material Atlantic at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue