Ethnic Groups and Class in an Emerging Market Economy: Spaniards and Minorcans in Late Colonial St. Augustine
James Gregory Cusick
Chairperson:Dr. Kathleen A. Deagan
The community study has been one of the most productive but least used approaches to the archaeological study of the past.This is especially ironic because the community study approach offers a framework that overcomes many of the problems and fulfills most of the goals of contemporary historical archaeology.It is based in the relationship of people and locale, it is conducive to the synthesis of documentary and archaeological data, it can be used in conjunction with hypothesis testing and scientific method, and it employs a comparative approach which deals with groups of sites and multiple classes of data.
This approach was used here to study the influence of class and ethnicity on the material world of colonists in late colonial Spanish St. Augustine.The relative importance that peoples' socioeconomic position and ethnic affiliation had on their material lives has been an issue of great controversy in historical archaeology.In general, there is evidence that ethnic groups can be distinguished based on their material culture; however, these distinctions often disappear with upward mobility.
This dissertation focused on two groups from St. Augustine circa 1784-1821.The Spaniards were drawn predominantly from the urban, middle-class stratum of Cuba.The Minorcans were peasant farmers, fisherfolk, and artisans, originally brought to Florida by the British to serve as indentured servants.Archaeological assemblages and probate records were employed to compare the material culture of households in both groups and answer a simple question:Was the material life of these households more similar within ethnic groups or within socioeconomic strata?
Results demonstrated that the relation between ethnic affiliation and material culture varied depending on the type of material culture.Costume, as represented in probate records, followed well-delineated Spanish and Minorcan traditions.Archaeological ceramic assemblages, on the other hand, were largely reflective of household socioeconomic position.Diet at Minorcan households changed noticeably with rising affluence.
Thus, ethnicity influenced peoples' physical world but the influence tended to decrease with mobility.This implies that processes of ethnic cohesion and assimilation apparent in twentieth century life were also in operation two hundred years ago.