“Unless Speedily Relieved from Old or New England, the Commoner Sort of People and the Slaves Must Starve”
By the 1680s, Bridgetown surpassed Bristol to become the second largest English commercial center in terms of both shipping and volume. This impressive level of trade was necessary, as the island’s nearly 60,000 inhabitants needed more goods, especially consumables, than London could regularly supply. This chapter uses the extant Naval Office Returns to aggregate all available import and export records into a single database in order to trace the movement of consumable goods both into and out of Barbados during the last two decades of the seventeenth century. While historians have previously examined single, random years from the Naval Office Returns, this study addresses a 20-year period in order to better examine and map out how Barbadian trade changed and evolved over time into three major periods, and what these alterations meant to the island’s supply of consumable goods. When considered together, these three periods will depict the extensive and shifting nature of late seventeenth-century commercial networks and how Barbadian planters, farmers, indentured servants, enslaved individuals, and merchants established and maintained access to vital consumable commodities.