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Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean, 1624-1783 by Matthew Mulcahy

Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean, 1624-1783

Part of the Early America: History, Context, Culture Series


Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean, 1624-1783 by Matthew Mulcahy

Hurricanes created unique challenges for the colonists in the British Greater Caribbean during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These storms were entirely new to European settlers and quickly became the most feared part of their physical environment, destroying staple crops and provisions, leveling plantations and towns, disrupting shipping and trade, and resulting in major economic losses for planters and widespread privation for slaves. In this study, Matthew Mulcahy examines how colonists made sense of hurricanes, how they recovered from them, and the role of the storms in shaping the development of the region's colonial settlements. Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean, 1624-1783 provides a useful new perspective on several topics including colonial science, the plantation economy, slavery, and public and private charity. By integrating the West Indies into the larger story of British Atlantic colonization, Mulcahy's work contributes to early American history, Atlantic history, environmental history, and the growing field of disaster studies.


A rich and engaging study. Readers of Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean will add hurricanes to the list of characteristics that define the early modern Caribbean: sugar, slavery, disease, war. -- Robert Olwell * William and Mary Quarterly * An innovative, polished, crisply written book that will peak the interest of scholars even as it appeals to some educated general readers. -- Darcy R. Fryer * Georgia Historical Quarterly * In this lucidly written and cogently organized monograph, [Mulcahy] argues that the destruction wrought by hurricanes only acquires meaning in the context of the community that experienced it... A wonderful read and a stimulating piece of scholarship. -- James Alexander Dun * Business History Review * A thoughtful consideration of all sorts of issues at the heart of early British American history. -- Michael Guasco * H-Atlantic, H-Net Reviews * Will reward almost any reader. Scholars interested in Barbados, Jamaica, or South Carolina will want to have it on their bookshelves. -- J.R. McNeill * Itinerario: European Journal of Overseas History * A valuable book for anyone who wants to understand the British Greater Caribbean. -- Bradford J. Wood * Journal of American History * As the impact of hurricanes challenges contemporary societies, a well-researched volume that considers the uneven development of local adaptive strategies and central aid policies is valuable... A well-written and thought-provoking study. -- James Robertson * Historian * Mulcahy's vivid descriptions of Caribbean hurricanes, their impact on colonial economic and social life, and their effects on the larger Atlantic world is a most valuable contribution to the recent number of books on disasters in history. -- Anthony N. Penna * Environmental History * Path-breaking and original... Mulcahy has creatively exploited the paper trails left by major seventeenth- and eighteenth-century hurricanes as probes into changing social relations in the British Caribbean. -- James Rodger Fleming * American Historical Review * This book will interest not only scholars interested in how past groups have addressed the challenges of new environmental phenomena but also those interested in how people have learned or failed to learn from these events and how many of the fears and misconceptions of the past still shape and distort our views of disasters today. -- Walter Gillis Peacock * Hispanic American Historical Review * Intriguing and well-written analysis of the cultural impact of hurricanes in the plantation regions of seventeenth and eighteenth century British America. -- Trevor Burnard * Reviews in History * Solid, well-researched study. One hopes that he is just starting a provocative research career dealing with the history of geographical hazards in the Caribbean and adjacent rimland zones. He is certainly off to a promising start. -- Bonham C. Richardson * New West Indian Guide * By drawing on the perspectives of disaster studies and environmental history, Mulcahy's work implicitly raises provocative questions for the history of meteorology. -- Deborah R. Coen * Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences * Mulcahy certainly takes his place in the growing field of environmental history with this useful and intriguing study, which should prove of value to scholars in a wide variety of fields ranging from environmental history, Caribbean studies, cultural and intellectual history, to economic and colonial histories. Well-written and concise, yet possessed of sufficient depth to engender future research projects, Hurricanes and Society is a worthy contribution to its field. -- Jefferson Dillman * Historical Geography *

About the Author

Matthew Mulcahy is associate professor and chair of the history department at Loyola College in Maryland.

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Book Info

Publication date

11th July 2008


Matthew Mulcahy

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Johns Hopkins University Press


272 pages


History of the Americas
Natural disasters
Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700
Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900



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