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Ph.D, The University of Texas at Austin
Teaching and Research Interests
Latin American History, Atlantic History, Caribbean History, Comparative Empires, Maritime Commerce, Piracy and Smuggling, Imperial Reform, Transatlantic Migration
Jesse Cromwell is Associate Professor of Colonial Latin American history. His research focuses on the imperial and Atlantic histories of Spanish colonialism in the eighteenth-century circum-Caribbean with a special emphasis on how the Bourbon Reforms affected the transimperial interactions, commerce, and mobility of a host of populations in the region. Professor Cromwell joined the faculty at the University of Mississippi in 2012 after earning his B.A. from Brown University and his M.A. and Ph.D from the University of Texas at Austin.
Professor Cromwell’s first book, The Smugglers’ World: Illicit Trade and Atlantic Communities in Eighteenth-Century Venezuela (Omohundro Institute-UNC Press, 2018) reinterprets the meaning illicit commerce in the early modern Atlantic. More than simply a transactional relationship or a political-economy concern of empires, smuggling became a societal ethos for the communities in which it was practiced. For most of the colonial period, subjects of the commercially-neglected Province of Venezuela depended on contrabandists from the Dutch, English, and French Caribbean. These illegal, yet scarcely-patrolled, rendezvouses came under scrutiny in the eighteenth century as Bourbon reformers sought to regain control and boost productivity in the province. Subsequent crackdowns on smuggling sparked colonial tensions. Illicit trade created inter-imperial connections and parallel communities based around provisioning as a moral necessity. It threw the legal status of people of color aboard ships into chaos. Smuggling’s participants normalized subversions of imperial law and proffered mutually agreed-upon limits of acceptable extralegal activity. Venezuelan subjects defended their commercial autonomy through passive measures and occasionally through violent political protests. This commercial discourse between the state and its subjects was a key part of empire making and maintenance in the early modern world.
Professor Cromwell is currently at work on a new book project examining eighteenth-century, crown-sponsored migrations of Canary Islanders to the circum-Caribbean as settlers and soldiers meant to shore up sparsely-populated Spanish dominions against foreign incursion and increase agricultural productivity. Imperial bureaucrats sent impoverished individual migrants and whole families to parts of the empire that other Spaniards declined to inhabit, including Florida, Texas, Santo Domingo, Cuba, and Venezuela. This multi-site study will investigate how an immigrant group much maligned by competing Spanish American colonists as vagrants and halfbreeds came to embody imperial tensions about defense, reform, race, and settler autonomy.
In the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History, Professor Cromwell teaches courses in Latin American history, Caribbean history, piracy, commodities, the conquest of Mexico, and graduate courses in Atlantic history.