The ‘Glasgow West India interest': integration, collaboration and exploitation in the British Atlantic World, 1776-1846

Mullen, Stephen Scott (2015) The ‘Glasgow West India interest': integration, collaboration and exploitation in the British Atlantic World, 1776-1846. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis aims to illuminate the economic and social world of the Glasgow-West India merchants, planters and the temporary economic migrants who travelled across the Atlantic during the period, 1776-1846. The city of Glasgow and her satellite ports was the premier Scottish transatlantic hub with connections across the British Atlantic world. This thesis has focused on the period after the American War of Independence ended the city of Glasgow’s tobacco monopoly. Thus, the rise to prominence of the city’s West India elite is assessed as well as the social, political, financial and commercial networks that underpinned their rise. This thesis offers new insights on religious affiliations of the merchants of Glasgow and traces the exportation of Presbyterianism to Jamaica in 1814.

This thesis has implications for other aspects of the incipient Scottish-Atlantic historiography. In particular it contributes to T.M. Devine’s recent view that Caribbean slavery made Scotia great. However, this thesis is deliberately placed into a British-Atlantic context. Although this research demonstrates how a distinctly Caledonian operation promoted the flow of capital to Scotland, the ‘Glasgow West India interest’ themselves were part of a wider international network which in turn dictates the scope of this thesis and the historiography with which it engages.

Specifically, this body of research traces direct investments of capital by West India merchants into Scottish industry and land, thus providing qualified support for Eric Williams’ main thesis in Capitalism and Slavery. However, this work goes significantly beyond the work of Williams to trace the connections between commerce and banking institutions in Scotland and the plantations of the West Indies. This thesis has examined in some detail the political activities of the Glasgow West India Association from inception in 1807 up to 1834. The Association’s sophisticated operations at a national and regional level supported the exploitative activities of the Glasgow-West India elite. Indeed, this research demonstrates that the members of the Association collected the bulk of the compensation awarded to individuals resident in Glasgow on the emancipation of slavery in 1834.

This thesis has adopted a transatlantic approach that connects Scotland and the West Indies. In particular, these connections are illuminated through the prism of the careers of the young Scotsmen who sojourned to Jamaica and Grenada in particular. This thesis suggests there were increasing levels of emigration to the West Indies in this period and the skilled and educated young men sought economic opportunities not available at home. By examining wealth repatriation in life and post-mortem property transmission strategies, this thesis offers a revision on the view that such young men struggled to repatriate colonial profits. This has implications for the work of Alan Karras and others. The transatlantic approach is developed in case study examinations of Glasgow-West India merchant houses. This connects Scottish banks, commerce and industry with the British Parliament and the planters of the West Indies.

The world of Scottish planters, merchants and sojourners is now becoming increasingly well known. The life, wealth and legacy of the Glasgow West India elite traced here provide innovative insights into their living conditions and material culture. It is further argued that a West India career could propel even those of modest means into the British super-wealthy. Finally, this thesis recognises the contribution of enslaved peoples to the economic development of Scotland which will hopefully stimulate further research in a Scottish-Atlantic context.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Glasgow, West Indies, Caribbean, Jamaica, Grenada, merchants, planters, sojourners, slavery, sugar.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Newman, Professor Simon
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Mr Stephen Scott Mullen
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6409
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2015 13:18
Last Modified: 30 May 2018 07:33

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