Gluttony, excess, and the fall of the planter class in the British Caribbean

Petley, Christer (2012) Gluttony, excess, and the fall of the planter class in the British Caribbean. [in special issue: Rethinking the Fall of the Planter Class] Atlantic Studies, 9, (1), 85-106. (doi:10.1080/14788810.2012.637000).


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Food and rituals around eating are a fundamental part of human existence. They can also be heavily politicized and socially significant. In the British Caribbean, white slaveholders were renowned for their hospitality towards one another and towards white visitors. This was no simple quirk of local character. Hospitality and sociability played a crucial role in binding the white minority together. This solidarity helped a small number of whites to dominate and control the enslaved majority. By the end of the eighteenth century, British metropolitan observers had an entrenched opinion of Caribbean whites as gluttons. Travelers reported on the sumptuous meals and excessive drinking of the planter class. Abolitionists associated these features of local society with the corrupting influences of slavery. Excessive consumption and lack of self-control were seen as symptoms of white creole failure. This article explores how local cuisine and white creole eating rituals developed as part of slave societies and examines the ways in which ideas about hospitality and gluttony fed into the debates over slavery that led to the dismantling of slavery and the fall of the planter class.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1080/14788810.2012.637000
ISSNs: 1478-8810 (print)
1740-4649 (electronic)
Keywords: planters, caribbean, jamaica, food, drink, gluttony, abolitionism
Subjects: E History America > E11 America (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions : Faculty of Humanities > History
ePrint ID: 200397
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
March 2012Published
12 January 2012Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2011 09:30
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:45
Rethinking the Decline of the British-Caribbean Planter Class: A Case Study of Simon Taylor of Jamaica, 1760 - 1813
Funded by: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/I027290/1)
Led by: Christer Petley
3 October 2011 to 31 July 2012

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