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American BaroquePearls and the Nature of Empire, 1492-1700$
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Molly A. Warsh

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469638973

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469638973.001.0001

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Pearls and a Political Ecology of Empire, 1498–1541

Pearls and a Political Ecology of Empire, 1498–1541

(p.31) 2 Pearls and a Political Ecology of Empire, 1498–1541
American Baroque

Molly A. Warsh

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter traces how the Caribbean fisheries were embedded in global Iberian merchant networks that spanned the Atlantic and stretched into the Indian Ocean and beyond, connecting traders, laborers, and religious missionaries from the Americas to Asia. In the first four decades of the Venezuelan pearl-fishing settlements’ existence (their most lucrative ones), residents put forth their vision of an emerging American political economy, one which had a living ecology at its heart. The expertise of Warao, Guaquerí, and Arawak communities profoundly shaped vernacular practices of wealth husbandry along the Pearl Coast. So, too, did the skills of enslaved West Africans and indigenous peoples from around the Caribbean basin, all of whom labored in increasing numbers and various capacities alongside the motley assortment of European who came to settle, trade, and conduct slave-raiding in the region.

Keywords:   Political ecology, Wealth husbandry, Slavery, West Africa, Religious missionaries, Warao, Guayquerí, Arawak, Pearl Coast, Merchant networks

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