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Isle of Devils, Isle of Saints

An Atlantic History of Bermuda, 1609–1684

How can the small, isolated island of Bermuda help us to understand the early expansion of English America?

First discovered by Europeans in 1505, the island of Bermuda had no indigenous population and no permanent European presence until the early seventeenth century. Settled five years after Virginia and eight years before Plymouth, Bermuda is a foundational site of English colonization. Its history reveals strikingly different paths of potential colonial development as a place where slave-owning Puritan tobacco planters raised large families, engaged overseas markets, built ships, created a Christian commonwealth, hung witches, wrestled to define racial difference, and welcomed godly pirates raiding Spanish America.

In Isle of Devils, Isle of Saints, Michael Jarvis presents readers with a new narrative social and cultural history of Bermuda. Adopting a holistic, multidisciplinary approach that draws upon thirty years of research and archaeological fieldwork, Jarvis recounts Bermuda's turbulent, dynamic past from the Sea Venture's dramatic 1609 shipwreck through the 1684 dissolution of the Bermuda Company. He argues that the island was the first of England's colonies to produce a successful staple, form a stable community, turn a profit, transplant civic institutions, and harness bound African knowledge and labor. Bermuda was a tabula rasa that fired the imaginations of English thinkers aspiring to create an American utopia. It was also England's first Puritan colony, founded as a covenanted Christian commonwealth in 1612 by self-consciously religious settlers who committed themselves to building a moral society.

By the 1670s, Bermuda had become England's most densely populated possession and was poised to become an intercolonial maritime hub after freeing itself from its antiquated parent company. The first scholarly monograph in eighty years on this important, neglected colony's first century, Isle of Devils, Isle of Saints is a worthy prequel to In the Eye of All Trade, Jarvis's masterful first book. Revealing the dynamic interplay of race, gender, slavery, and environment at the dawn of English America, Jarvis's work challenges us to rethink how Europeans and Africans became distinctly American within the crucible of colonization.

About the Author

Michael Jarvis (PENFIELD, NY) is an associate professor of history, the director of the Smiths Island Archaeology Project, and the director of the Digital Elmina Archaeology Project at the University of Rochester. He is the author of In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680–1783.

Endorsements

"With his first book, Michael Jarvis established himself as our generation's leading historian of colonial Bermuda. In this volume, a prequel to that monumental work, Jarvis situates the early history of Bermuda in the context of a growing English presence in the Atlantic basin in general and in relation to the development of England's mainland colonies in North America. Based on extraordinary research, Isle of Devils, Isle of Saints is the best starting point for understanding Bermuda's complex and vital history."

- Peter C. Mancall, University of Southern California, author of Nature and Culture in the Early Modern Atlantic

"Deeply researched and impressively wide-ranging, Jarvis brings to life the early history of the Bermuda colony in what will surely become the standard work. Jarvis writes with great sensitivity to the on-the-ground experience of colonization and the process of colonial ethnogenesis. Atlantic Crucible will challenge historians to reconsider the nature of the early English Atlantic world and grapple more fully with what Bermuda, hundreds of miles from mainland North America, reveals about other colonial experiments."

- Rupali Mishra, Auburn University, author of A Business of State: Commerce, Politics, and the Birth of the East India Company
Johns Hopkins University Press
Early America: History, Context, Culture
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