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Isle of Devils, Isle of Saints

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Isle of Devils, Isle of Saints

An Atlantic History of Bermuda, 1609–1684

How can the small, isolated island of Bermuda help us to understand the early expansion of English America?

First discovered by Europeans in 1505, the island of Bermuda had no indigenous population and no permanent European presence until the early seventeenth century. Settled five years after Virginia and eight years before Plymouth, Bermuda is a foundational site of English colonization. Its history reveals strikingly different paths of potential colonial development as a place where slave-owning Puritan tobacco planters raised large families, engaged overseas markets, built ships, created a Christian commonwealth, hung witches, wrestled to define racial difference, and welcomed godly pirates raiding Spanish America.

In Isle of Devils, Isle of Saints, Michael Jarvis presents readers with a new narrative social and cultural history of Bermuda. Adopting a holistic, multidisciplinary approach that draws upon thirty years of research and archaeological fieldwork, Jarvis recounts Bermuda's turbulent, dynamic past from the Sea Venture's dramatic 1609 shipwreck through the 1684 dissolution of the Bermuda Company. He argues that the island was the first of England's colonies to produce a successful staple, form a stable community, turn a profit, transplant civic institutions, and harness bound African knowledge and labor. Bermuda was a tabula rasa that fired the imaginations of English thinkers aspiring to create an American utopia. It was also England's first Puritan colony, founded as a covenanted Christian commonwealth in 1612 by self-consciously religious settlers who committed themselves to building a moral society.

By the 1670s, Bermuda had become England's most densely populated possession and was poised to become an intercolonial maritime hub after freeing itself from its antiquated parent company. The first scholarly monograph in eighty years on this important, neglected colony's first century, Isle of Devils, Isle of Saints is a worthy prequel to In the Eye of All Trade, Jarvis's masterful first book. Revealing the dynamic interplay of race, gender, slavery, and environment at the dawn of English America, Jarvis's work challenges us to rethink how Europeans and Africans became distinctly American within the crucible of colonization.