Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Ronald Hoffman


The problematic relationship between racism and slavery has occupied the attention of several recent generations of scholars. Too often, however, the works produced have been limited by a reliance on familiar "American" sources, an inflexible temporal scope, and an overly restricted terrain. This dissertation seeks to break out of the confines of this generally teleological and parochial tradition in order to explicate the larger social and cultural context in which Anglo-American racial slavery was forged. In particular, it is argued that racism and slavery were not necessarily linked together in the English imagination before the settlement of Jamestown and that their relationship to each other cannot be understood in either a causative or linear fashion. "Race" and "slavery" are terms that possess specific historical connotations which must be understood in an early modern context in order to grasp the full import of their application and conflation in colonial British American society.;The opening section of this work addresses the multiple meanings and forms of human bondage in early modern England. Particular attention is paid to the legitimacy of slavery in Tudor England, as well as its attendant symbolic value and social meanings. Next, the problem of identity is considered, with a particular emphasis on the efforts of elite Englishmen to reinvent "Englishness" through mythic national histories and climate theory. Then, the issue of English "attitudes" about Africans is addressed. Prevailing ideas about African peoples were neither uniform nor consistent; there were, in fact, multiple stereotypes concerning the role of Africans in the Atlantic world. Finally, the dissertation shifts focus to the Anglo-American world, where the significance of the first three sections is tested. Here, traditional English conceptions of bondage, as well as Iberian and Spanish American conceptions of proper social relations in multiracial societies, were initially employed in the new settlements. These models proved to be confusing, even threatening, when blended in Anglo-American settlements and they were ultimately subverted by the growing importance of race-based plantation slavery. Questions of status and identity among the English were equally as important as prejudicial assumptions about Africans or Indians in shaping the corpus of ideas that supported the Africans or Indians in shaping the corpus of ideas that supported the development Anglo-American slavery.



© The Author