Commerce in Disguise: War and Trade in the Caribbean Free Port of Gustavia, 1793–1815

Victor Wilson

Tutkimustuotos: VäitöskirjatyypitTohtorinväitöskirjaMonografia


The thesis is a study of the free port of Gustavia on the island of St. Barthélemy, the Swedish colony in the West Indies, during the French Revolutionary Wars of 1793-1815. The aim of the work is to chart the economic activity through Gustavia with the aid of unexplored source material, and to assess the port’s place in the West Indies and in the Atlantic economy during the war years.

The primary result of the study is that it shows the temporary but exceptional position attained by Gustavia during the conflict, which was attested by the sizeable flows of cargo in transit through the Swedish colony as well as the increasing shipping under the Swedish flag in the region. The wartime economy attracted a large number of new settlers to the island, both from neighboring islands as well as the United States and Europe. For a few decades, the free port and the island functioned as a global marketplace in the West Indies for merchants who circumvented blockades and prohibitions.

Furthermore, the thesis deals with the questions surrounding Sweden’s involvement in the slave trade in a systematic manner, and demonstrates that the Swedish slave trade was more extensive than previous research has showed as prior international surveys on the transatlantic slave trade have often missed this element.

St. Barthélemy has previously garnered a relatively low level of attention within Swedish historic research, and has often been portrayed as an exotic and unimportant episode in Swedish early modern history.  A major part of prior studies concentrate on the links between the colony and Stockholm. The thesis show that these links were few and that the economic significance of the colony for Sweden was marginal. However, it locates and reevaluates the colony’s appreciable role in a greater international context.

AlkuperäiskieliEi tiedossa
Painoksen ISBN978-951-765-806-5
Sähköinen ISBN978-951-765-807-2
TilaJulkaistu - 2015
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG4 Tohtorinväitöskirja (monografia)


  • History
  • Slavery-- Scandinavia--History
  • Slave Trade--Sweden--History
  • Smuggling, History of
  • colonial history
  • Caribbean
  • Sweden
  • Atlantic World