Providence Island was founded in 1630 at the same time as Massachusetts Bay by English puritans who thought an island off the coast of Nicaragua was far more promising than the cold, rocky shores of New England. Although they expected theirs to become a model godly society, the settlement never succeeded in building the kind of united and orderly community that the New Englanders created. In fact, they began large-scale use of slaves, and plunged into the privateering that invited the colony's extinction by the Spanish in 1641. As a well-planned and well-financed failure, Providence Island offers historians a standard by which to judge other colonies. By examining the failure of Providence Island, the author illuminates the common characteristics in all the successful English settlements, the key institutions without which men and women would not emigrate and a colony's economy could not thrive. This study of Providence Island reveals the remarkable similarities in many basic institutions among the early colonial regions.
"Kupperman's examination of Providence Island thus presents an unusual and hitherto largely hidden case in the wide-ranging experimentation of the English in the early settlement of the Americas. It will contribute to fresh assessments of Puritanism, slavery and the burgeoning market economy, and the English political situation to the process. This is a model work of scholarship built not only on wide ranging primary sources but also a sure and unpretentious grasp of a number of specialized secondary literatures." American Historical Review "Kupperman's study sparkles in its attention to the comparative aspects of colonization and to the context of English political, religious, economic, and diplomatic circumstances that shaped patterns of colonial life in the West Indies. ... In resurrecting the story and articulating the significance of Providence Island, Kupperman has crafted a richly contextualized and noteworthy study for those interested in Puritanism and English colonization in the Atlantic." Journal of Interdisciplinary History "...well written, both scholarly and readable...This excellent book will give you a new slant on early colonial history." Stephanie Martin, Wilson Library Bulletin "[A] pioneering and energetic book...This is a marvelous work, an example of the study of great ideas and processes in a very small place. For this reason, if no other, Providence Island should be read with widened eyes by those in search either of West Indianness or of New England exceptionalism." Hilary McD. Beckles, William and Mary Quarterly "Kupperman has effectively rescued Providence Island from obscurity and used its story to shed new light on the process of English colonization that we thought we knew so well." Virginia deJohn Anderson, The Journal of American History "This is an extremely interesting and frequently thought-provoking book, and it is as revealing about English society on the eve of its Civil War as it is about the assumptions and circumstances of English colonization." Helena M. Wall, Reviews in American History "...this account of Providence Island makes a valuable correction to the course of colonial history -- one that no historian of seventeenth-century America or England can afford to ignore." Virginia Bernhard, The Journal of Southern History