“Constructing Colonial Identities and Power in the British Atlantic World,” with KICD Postdoc Erin Marie Holmes


In the second of three Spring 2020 postdoc research presentations, Dr. Erin Marie Holmes (Political History) will give a Valentine’s Day talk entitled, “I Could Stair at You All Day: Constructing Colonial Identities and Power in the British Atlantic World,” looking specifically at the broader implications of how slavery transformed the built environment in South Carolina and Barbados (see abstract below). The talk will begin at 3:30pm in Jesse Hall 410. It is part of our “Pursuit of Happiness Hour” Friday Colloquium Series, made possible with the support of Logboat Brewing Co.


What can we learn about how colonists related to the British Empire from the way they lived? During the course of the 18th century, British colonists in South Carolina gradually adapted their houses to the presence of enslaved people and the dependence of slaveholders on their labor, while colonists in Barbados stubbornly insisted that they had not changed the way they had lived and still lived like Englishmen back in the metropole. What Barbadian plantation owners failed to recognize was that they had adapted to the tropical climate in the 17th century and continued replicating those buildings, affecting both the experiences of enslaved people and the institution of slavery on the island. By comparing the architecture, landscape, and material culture of these two British colonies, Dr. Erin Holmes will explore how slavery transformed the built environment and the way colonists lived in each place to answer why Barbadians refused calls to join the American Revolution—but South Carolinians chose to fight.

Erin Holmes holds a B.A. in History from the College of William and Mary, a Certificate in Early American History and Museum Studies from the National Institute of American History and Democracy, a Ph.D. in History from the University of South Carolina, and a Certificate in Historical Archaeology and Cultural Resource Management from the USC Department of Anthropology. Her manuscript project, The House that Slavery Built: Social and Material Transformation in the British Atlantic World, 1670-1831, explores how the built environment—buildings, landscapes, objects, and the spaces in between—shaped the experience of slavery within the plantation house, transforming colonial identity to create the conditions that made the American Revolution possible. Her research has been funded by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, among others, and from 2017-2019, she was an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the American Philosophical Society. She joins the Kinder Institute as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Political History.