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An archaeology of crisis: The manipulation of social spaces in the Blue Mountain coffee plantation complex of Jamaica, 1790-1865

James Andrew Delle, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Between 1790 and 1865, the Jamaican political economy experienced a series of structural crises which precipitated changes in the relations of production on the island. Faced with changes within the global circulation of capital, groups of Jamaican elites, using their positions of privilege within the socio-economic hierarchy of the island, attempted to manipulate the socio-economic upheavals of the nineteenth century to maintain and reinforce their wealth, power, and status within Jamaican society. Within this context, large-scale coffee production, first using slave- and then later wage-based labor systems, was introduced to Jamaica for the first time. The introduction and development of this industry in one coffee producing region, the Yallahs drainage of the Blue Mountains in the southeastern quadrant of the island, are considered as manifestations of the global change that was affecting Jamaica at the time. A crucial component of the socio-economic manipulations of the nineteenth century was the introduction and negotiation of new social spaces. Two sequential phases of negotiation were experienced and have been interpreted: the introduction of coffee production under slavery, and the reorganization of labor/capital relations following emancipation. The intentions behind, and the often contested results of, the elites' attempts at restructuring the logic of accumulation during these phases of manipulation are interpreted by examining the historical, cartographic, and archaeological records. These various data sets are considered to be manifestations of three interrelated dimensions of space: the cognitive, the social and the material. By examining plantation space in this theoretical context, this dissertation interprets the way new spaces were designed and intended by elites to reinforce new social relations, and how such manipulations were resisted by the African-Jamaican majority in the Yallahs region.

Subject Area

Archaeology|Cultural anthropology|Agricultural economics|Economic history|Labor economics

Recommended Citation

Delle, James Andrew, "An archaeology of crisis: The manipulation of social spaces in the Blue Mountain coffee plantation complex of Jamaica, 1790-1865" (1996). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9709587.