Thursday 21 July 2011

Well done, Natalie!

    I am sure that you will all want to join me in congratulating Natalie Zacek on receipt of the 2011 Gladstone History Book Prize from the Royal Historical Society for her monograph Settler Society in the English Leeward Islands, c.1670-1776.

    This is a terrific achievement and represents well-deserved recognition.

Professor Brian Ward

The Gladstone Prize for 2010 was awarded to:
Dr. Natalie Zacek (University of Manchester) for Settler Society in the English Leeward Islands, c.1670-1776 (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Judges’ citation:
The dominant tendency among the historiography of Britain’s West Indian colonies has been to depict the plantation societies of the Caribbean in dark, deeply negative hues. The sugar planters who settled in that region have been variously characterised as grasping capitalists, moral degenerates and cultural philistines, whose get-rich-quick mentality militated against the creation of stable societies committed to the preservation of a common English identity.

In her sparkling study of the Leeward Islands (Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis and St. Kitts) from their independence from Barbados in 1670 to the outbreak of the American Revolution, Natalie Zacek challenges the notion that the English colonies in the West Indies were in any way failed societies. While she in no way downplays the centrality of black slavery to the economy of the Leewards, Zacek is primarily interested in exploring the complex dynamics of settler society and in doing so engages with a wide range of themes, including topography, migration, slavery, religion, ethnicity, gender and the family. The picture that emerges is of colonists who while ready and able to adapt to an unfamiliar and sometimes hostile environment were equally determined to uphold English social and cultural ideals. Subtle, reflective and elegantly written, this enlightening analysis not only rescues the Leewards from the margins of colonial studies, but is an important contribution to the wider discussion about the character of British colonial settlement in America.

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