Updating the Colonial Cartographic Representation of Barbados: Digital Inquiries of a Sugar Island

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Koby, Peter James
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 21, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Deryck W. Holdsworth, Dissertation Advisor
  • Deryck W. Holdsworth, Committee Chair
  • Anthony C. Robinson, Committee Member
  • Andrew M. Carleton, Committee Member
  • Matthew Restall, Outside Member
  • Barbados
  • sugar
  • colonial
  • digital humanities
  • cartography
  • historical geography
  • geography
  • history
  • census
  • maps
  • geospatial
  • Sweet Atlantic
  • symbols
The island of Barbados, settled in the 1620s as an English colony, grew swiftly to become a major economic node in the Atlantic trade network by producing sugar and rum. By the early 1700s, the island was home to about seventy-five thousand people, a rich tapestry of humanity from diverse cultures: white settlers, planters, and servants from England and Ireland, merchants from the Netherlands and Brazil, and a demographic majority of enslaved Africans. To track this colonial cocktail, five major maps produced between 1657 and 1736 are examined in conjunction with two incomplete census records from 1679 and 1715 and a database of information of indentured servants from the late 1600s. Linkages across time and space, drawing on names of individual people and plantations, are explored using modern geospatial inquiries. Patterns of persistent habitation across the decades are visualized, as well as movement onto and off the island. The efficacy and accuracy of these historical records in a modern digital and geospatial context are considered throughout. The results update and augment the representation of Barbados from the maps and written records, demonstrating the massive influence that Barbados had on the “Sweet Atlantic” network of trade through the development of sugar as a cultural necessity. The outcome is a synthesis of the rich tapestry of humanity on Barbados, detailing the lives of a few individuals to illustrate the many in order to enrich the understanding of the roles of the populations in the global impact of the island.