Irish planters, Atlantic merchants: the development of St. Croix, Danish West Indies, 1750-1766
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The West Indian island of St. Croix became a colony of the Kingdom of DenmarkNorway in 1733.1 Despite this, it remained undeveloped until the late 1740s when investment in the large-scale production of sugarcane began in earnest. By the end of the Seven Years’ War (1756 to 1763), the neutral island of St. Croix had a thriving sugar economy. This thesis examines a group of Irish merchant-planters who migrated to the Danish island from the British Leeward Islands. Although they became neutral subjects of the Danish Crown, they also maintained personal and commercial ties with the British Empire. In this way, they successfully established a number of sugar plantations and also took advantage of the brisk entrepôt trade that developed at St. Croix during this period. This group shipped a good deal of sugar to Denmark, yet it also supplied the besieged French colony of Saint Domingue with British and Irish goods, together with African slaves. In return, Saint Domingue was given an international market for its plantation produce. As we will see, the Irish community at St. Croix took advantage of the complex Atlantic supply chains and commercial networks that linked the island to ports such as London, Cork, New York, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Bordeaux. By following strategies of efficiency and economy, this trade became highly lucrative and allowed the Irish community to invest in the development and expansion of their Danish sugar plantations. As a result, their commercial activities as neutrals within the Atlantic economy served as the foundation upon which the Crucian sugar industry was established.