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Going Timbering and Turtling in the Caribbean with Mary Draper

Three hundred years ago, timber and turtles were key commodities for English settlers on Barbados and Jamaica.

Barbadians sailed northwest to the island of St. Lucia where they harvested timber while Jamaicans headed to the Cayman Islands to take turtles in astounding numbers.

Why did they seek these resources hundreds of miles away from their home islands? And what does it have to tell us about how settlers adapted to the environment in the early modern Caribbean?

On today’s episode, Dr. Mary Draper joins Jim Ambuske to flesh out how timber and turtles became central to Barbadian and Jamaican society in the colonial era.

Draper is an Assistant Professor of History at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas and an expert on the environmental history of the colonial Caribbean.

About Our Guest:

Mary Draper is Assistant Professor of History at Midwestern State University. She is a scholar of colonial and revolutionary North America and the greater Atlantic world.  Particularly interested in the history of the seventeenth-and eighteenth century British Caribbean, she is working on a book that recovers how the region's urban residents--from colonial officials and merchants to turtlers and enslaved pilots--amassed environmental knowledge to develop, defend, and sustain their volatile coastlines.  An article based on the project was published in the Fall 2017 edition of Early American Studies.  In both her research and teaching, Draper highlights the interconnections that crisscrossed the empires, culture, and ecologies of early North America and the Atlantic world.  After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from Rice University, she earned both her Master of Arts degree and  doctorate from the University of Virginia.

About Our Host:

Jim Ambuske leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia in 2016 with a focus on Scotland and America in an Age of War and Revolution. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  He is the co-author with Randall Flaherty of "Reading Law in the Early Republic: Legal Education in the Age of Jefferson," in The Founding of Thomas Jefferson's University ed. by John A. Rogasta, Peter S. Onuf, and Andrew O'Shaughnessy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019). Ambuske is currently at work on a book entitled Emigration and Empire: America and Scotland in the Revolutionary Era, as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.