Casey Schmitt

 

Casey Schmitt

Barra Postdoctoral Fellow

csschmitt@email.wm.edu

“Bound among Nations: Labor Coercion in the Early Seventeenth-Century Caribbean”

Casey’s research uses bound labor as a lens for understanding the law of nations in the Caribbean from the 1580s through the 1670s. Using sources from French, English, and Spanish, she argues that bound labor was not just illustrative but constitutive of the development of international law. Europeans in the Caribbean, especially the English and French, sought to create an understanding of coerced labor that protected their ability to hold other people in bondage, while protecting themselves from being forced into unfree labor. In the process of negotiating over who could be coerced into what kind of labor arrangement, and how populations of bound labor would be policed, Europeans in the Caribbean referred to themselves as “nations” – creating legal shorthand for more cosmopolitan communities. This language of nation excluded people who were seen as outside the state, leaving them especially vulnerable to enslavement. In the seventeenth-century Caribbean, Europeans developed an understanding of international law built on the backs of enslaved and servant labor.

 

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