Thursday, December 23, 2021

Thomas M. Truxes's "The Overseas Trade in British America"

Thomas M. Truxes is Clinical Professor of Irish Studies and History at New York University. He is the author of Irish-American Trade, 1660–1783 and Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York, among other books.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Overseas Trade of British America: A Narrative History, and reported the following:
There are many moving parts to the story of America’s colonial trade. Some relate to particular circumstances that transformed England from a peripheral second-rate kingdom into a major European military and commercial power in the sixteenth century. Others relate to the emergence of pockets of sustainable but fragile commercial activity in England’s geographically diverse American settlements. Still others touch on European rivalries that spilled into North American and West Indian waters and shaped the infant American economy. There are many more, of course, but it is this last point that is illustrated on page 99 of The Overseas Trade of British America: A Narrative History.

On display there is the moment in May 1655 when England’s Puritan army, emboldened by victory in the English Civil War, was routed by the Spanish defenders of Hispaniola. Much humbled, English troops succeeded in establishing a foothold on a smaller nearby island, Jamaica. The English presence in the Western Caribbean had enormous consequences for British America. It was through Kingston and other Jamaican ports that merchants in the northern colonies tapped into the river of silver that flowed out of the mines of Mexico and Peru into the Spanish treasury in Seville. With Jamaica as a jumping off point, North American ship captains in the eighteenth century became adept at dodging watchful Spanish guarda costas and circumventing the rigid trade barriers constructed by policy-makers in Madrid to block access by interlopers to the markets and resources of the Spanish Main.

In The Overseas Trade of British America, readers will learn how this casual disregard for international borders—when opportunity beckoned—became a characteristic feature of colonial trade. They will also see creative American entrepreneurship in action and learn how men and women of modest means could leverage small amounts of capital and participate in commerce with a global reach. It was a feat rarely matched elsewhere. They will discover, as well, how the light hand of British regulation (in the form of the Navigation Acts) fostered efficiency and competition until the tightening grip of London’s regulatory regime—beginning in 1763 following the end of the Seven Years’ War—ignited a flame of resistance that led to revolution and independence. Most significantly, they will see how both the Atlantic slave trade and the labor of enslaved African captives were connected to every aspect of colonial trade and, by extension, early American society.
Visit Thomas M. Truxes's website.

The Page 99 Test: Defying Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue