Constructing Early Modern Empires

Proprietary Ventures in the Atlantic World, 1500-1750


The role of proprietorships or ‘private’ colonies in imperial development has not received the attention it deserves, notwithstanding recent scholarly emphasis on ‘state-building’. The continued use of these ‘private’ devices, even as early modern European nation-states grew more potent, is not only interesting, but is indeed normative though invariably missing from modern studies of empire. This collection provides in-depth analyses of the workings of the proprietorships themselves (rather than proprietary colonies) and in studies ranging from South Carolina to Nieuw Nederland to French West Africa to Brasil, broadens this discussion beyond British North America.

Contributors include: Mickaël Augeron, Kenneth Banks, Sarah Barber, Philip Boucher, Olivier Caporossi, Leslie Choquette, David Dewar, Jaap Jacobs, Maxine N. Lurie, Debra A. Meyers, L.H. Roper, James O’Neil Spady, Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, Cécile Vidal, and Laurent Vidal.
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Biographical Note

L.H. Roper, Ph.D. (1992) in History, University of Rochester, is Associate Professor of History at the State University of New York–New Paltz. He is the author of Conceiving Carolina: Proprietors, Planters, and Plots, 1662–1729 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, Ph.D. (1995) in American Civilization, Université de la Sorbonne-Nouvelle is professor at the Université de Paris 8. He is the author of From New Babylon to Edenm, The Huguenots and their Migration to Colonial South Carolina (2006) and co-editor of Memory and Identity. The Huguenots in France and the Atlantic Diaspora (2003).

Review Quote

"In the introduction, the editors attempt to make sense of the prevalence of proprietary ventures, their diverse functions, the meanings of success and failure in the Atlantic world, and what these enterprises can tell us about early modern political developments, both within Europe and in the Americas. They are self-consciously provocative and suggestive, and problematic in their invocation of modernization. But the issues they raise deserve further consideration, and this book will assure a significant place for their ideas in future scholarship."
Elizabeth Mancke, New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, vol. 84 (2010) no. 1-2, 107-109

Table of contents


Introduction, L.H. Roper & Bertrand Van Ruymbeke

1. Creating Colonial Brazil: the First Donatary Captaincies, or the System of Private Exclusivity (1534-1549), Mickaël Augeron and Laurent Vidal
2. Adelentados and encomenderos in Spanish America, Olivier Caporossi
3. Financiers, Factors, and French Proprietary Companies in West Africa, 1673-1713, Kenneth Banks
4. Proprietorships in French North America, Leslie Choquette
5. French Louisiana in the Age of the Companies, 1712-1731, Cécile Vidal
6. French Proprietary Colonies in the Greater Caribbean, 1620s—1670s, Philip Boucher
7. Power in the English Caribbean: the Proprietorship of Lord Willoughby of Parham, Sarah Barber
8. Bubbles and Beggars and the Bodies of Laborers: the Georgia Trusteeship’s Colonialism Reconsidered, James O’Neil Spady
9. The Mason Patents: Conflict, Controversy, and the Quest for Authority in Colonial New Hampshire, David Dewar
10. Dutch Proprietary Manors in America: the Patroonships in New Netherland, Jaap Jacobs
11. New Jersey: the Long Lived Proprietary, Maxine N. Lurie
12. Calvert’s Catholic Colony, Debra A. Meyers
13. Conceiving an Anglo-American Proprietorship: Early South Carolina History in Perspective, L.H. Roper

List of Contributors


All those interested in early modern seaborne empires, the histories of early modern European states, early modern colonial governments and societies.


Collection Information