Possession: Gender, Race, and Ownership in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic France


ACLS Fellowship Program




In the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, the emergence of plantation capitalism alongside modern bureaucratic states reshaped who could own, what they could own, and how ownership was established. In the process, ownership transformed into a white patriarchal privilege. A close focus on the French Atlantic demonstrates the novelty of this development. “Possession” illuminates how this transition occurred by examining the ownership practices of white women and free women of color in the French Caribbean and France at the moment these opportunities disappeared. By focusing on how social relations structured early modern ownership as much as the law, this monograph challenges prevailing narratives of the rise of the plantation economy and ultimately capitalism.