Högre seminariet, Historia: Annika Raapke talks about War and Peas. Professional rivalries and attacks between free Black women and white men in the pacotille trade , 1743-1778

The seminar will be in English.

The trade in so-called “pacotilles”, a form of small-scale retail, can almost be described as a common denominator of 18th century French Caribbean economic life, with people from across the social spectrum participating in it whenever the occasion presented itself. The professional trade in pacotilles, however, was mostly carried out by members of two social groups who, in colonial societies increasingly preoccupied with racialisation, were defined more and more along the lines of colour and liberty: free Black women and white men. Vying for customers and patrons in a rather flexible, often unorthodox commerce, these traders constantly interacted with each other, engaging in alliances but also in quite bitter rivalries. This paper explores their conflicts through sales books, letters, petitions and parish records from Martinique and Saint Domingue, showing how free Black female and white male pacotille traders struggled for the economic upper hand by using the colony’s fixation on questions of colour for their respective interests, both in discourse and argument and in the expert manipulation of colonial legal, cultural, and economic practices.