The creation myth of the United States begins with the plucky English puritans of the Mayflower--but what about the story of its sister ship, the Seaflower.
Few people today know the story of the passengers aboard the Seaflower, who in 1630 founded a rival puritan colony on an isolated Caribbean island called Providence. They were convinced that England’s empire would rise not in barren New England, but rather in tropical Central America.
However, Providence became a colony in constant crisis: crops failed, slaves revolted . . . and then there were the pirates. And, as Tom Feiling discovers in this surprising history, the same drama was played out by the men and women who re-settled the island one hundred years later.
The Island That Disappeared presents Providence as a fascinating microcosm of colonialism--even today. At first glance it is an island of devout churchgoers - but look a little closer, and you see that it is still dependent on its smugglers.
At once intimate and global, this story of puritans and pirates goes to the heart of the contradictory nature of the Caribbean and how the Western World took shape.
Documentary filmmaker and author Feiling (The Candy Machine) explores centuries of transatlantic life through this vignette-driven history of Providence, an island near Nicaragua that has been variously inhabited by English colonists, Spanish soldiers, pirates, slaves, and their modern-day descendants. For many 17th-century Puritans aboard the Seaflower, the Caribbean seemed more promising than frigid New England. There, the Providence Island Co. was founded in hopes of growing tropical cash crops, securing financial aid for fellow dissenters, and enabling England to break its trade dependence on Portugal and Spain. Yet, as Feiling details, the colony immediately faced difficulties: disgruntled indentured servants, English privateers looking for a home base, and retaliatory Spanish attacks. Feiling also uses the ever-evolving Providence as a lens for examining England's transformation into a colonial empire. In the book's final section, Feiling meets Providence's present-day inhabitants and attempts to uncover legacies of the island's past, but while he encounters fascinating characters and reflects on globalization and post-colonial neglect, he struggles to extend the insights of his historical sections. Nonetheless, his book holds appeal for readers interested in both Caribbean history and an alternative view of New World settlement.