Island history, not the story of islands: The case of St Helena

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Abstract

This article makes distinctions between stories of islands and island history,
between descriptions of individual islands and the subject matter of Island Studies. St Helena is used as the case study, not during its days on the global stage as the prison for Napoleon, but earlier, when it was a revictualing station for East India Company ships returning from the Orient. Events and stories on St Helena during this period are seen to be part of a much wider historical setting of global trade and nascent imperialism. International contestation played a role, too, with the island changing hands twice in 1673 when the Dutch conquerors were displaced by the English navy. Following recapture, the earlier attempts of
the East India Company to establish a utopian society on their island were abandoned and a harsh regime imposed, which was met with sedition, mutiny and a slave rebellion. The article concludes with a discussion of the growing realisation of the significance of St Helena and other islands to the study of imperial history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-55
JournalShima
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2019

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India
navy
imperialism
history
slave
correctional institution
regime
event
global trade
History
Society
East India Company

Keywords

  • Islands
  • History
  • St Helena
  • East India Company
  • Slavery

Cite this

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Island history, not the story of islands: The case of St Helena. / Royle, Stephen.

In: Shima, Vol. 13, No. 1, 10.04.2019, p. 44-55.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AB - This article makes distinctions between stories of islands and island history,between descriptions of individual islands and the subject matter of Island Studies. St Helena is used as the case study, not during its days on the global stage as the prison for Napoleon, but earlier, when it was a revictualing station for East India Company ships returning from the Orient. Events and stories on St Helena during this period are seen to be part of a much wider historical setting of global trade and nascent imperialism. International contestation played a role, too, with the island changing hands twice in 1673 when the Dutch conquerors were displaced by the English navy. Following recapture, the earlier attempts ofthe East India Company to establish a utopian society on their island were abandoned and a harsh regime imposed, which was met with sedition, mutiny and a slave rebellion. The article concludes with a discussion of the growing realisation of the significance of St Helena and other islands to the study of imperial history.

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