Providence College Seminar in the History of Early America SEMINAR ANNOUNCEMENT

Sharon Murphy's picture

Please join us for our next Providence College Seminar in the History of Early America when we welcome: 

Dr. Casey Schmitt, Assistant Professor of History at Cornell University

Subjects not Slaves: Captivity, Human Trafficking, and Imperial Jurisdiction

While captivity and smuggling were ubiquitous in the early modern world, this paper explores the contours of a distinctive practice of captive-taking created to meet colonial demands for bound labor within the Greater Caribbean. This paper focuses on trans-imperial and inter-colonial trafficking of victims of captivity during the 1640s through the 1670s, and analyzes how English, Dutch, and French ship captains, merchants, and mariners responded to the disruption in official trade through widespread smuggling, oftentimes through raiding for captives in one part of Spain’s empire in order to sell those same captives in another. The raiding and smuggling economy that developed during the 1640s through the 1670s ensnared a wide variety of people, including free people of African and Indigenous descent, and it also came to the attention of Spanish American officials. Spanish officials responded by declaring that some captives were Spanish subjects and, therefore, not subject to slavery at the hands of the English, French, or Dutch. As this paper shows, however, Spanish claims were often less about the status of the captives themselves. As I argue, applying “subjecthood” to argue for the freedom of these captives served as a means for Spanish officials to stake claims of jurisdiction over contested territory in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Monday, March 27, 2023


The Ruane Center for the Humanities, Lower Level LL49

Providence College

1 Cunningham Sq

Providence, RI. 02918


Those attending the seminar should read the paper in advance. Light refreshments will be provided. 

For questions, a copy of the paper, parking information, or to be added to the seminar distribution list, please contact Prof. Sharon Ann Murphy ( or Prof. Steven Carl Smith (