Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Leading Early American Scholarship Since 1943


Unless otherwise indicated, all Institute books are published and distributed by The University of North Carolina Press. For ordering information, call 1.800.848.6224 or fax 1.800.272.6817. Please note that these books can be purchased only through UNC Press and not through the Institute.

Fatal Revolutions

Natural History, West Indian Slavery, and the Routes of American Literature

Christopher P. Iannini

Cloth ISBN 978-0-8078-3556-2

Copyright 2012 by the University of North Carolina Press

Visit the University of North Carolina Press web page for this book.

“Extensively researched and historically grounded, Fatal Revolutions is an important addition to eighteenth-century literary and cultural studies. It argues convincingly for the significance of the Caribbean, and particularly the complex discourses of natural history representing it, in British American thinking about race, nations, and enlightened culture. Iannini unearths a vast archive and leads us to reconceive the spatial and linguistic boundaries of colonial and early national study.”

--Philip Gould, Brown University

Fatal Revolutions takes us on a fascinating journey of discovery. With an eye for detail as sharp as that of any naturalist he studies, Iannini examines the connection between natural history and plantation slavery in a way that makes the West Indies seem, not at all exotically peripheral, but intellectually central to the American narrative.”

--Gregory Nobles, Georgia Institute of Technology

“In this revolutionary text, Iannini expands our understanding of natural history as a genre central to the ‘world of letters’ that expressed the tenets of the American Enlightenment—not restricted to the mainland of British North America, but embedded in the Caribbean and tied inextricably to the culture of slavery upon which a circumatlantic plantation economy was bound.”

--Amy R. W. Meyers, Director, Yale Center for British Art

“Iannini shows that as circumatlantic networks of commerce, slavery, power, and revolution interwove natural science with the literary and artistic imagination, early American literature became saturated with the strategies of natural history. The implications are profound: no reader of this extraordinary and ambitious book will see the world of American letters in quite the same way again.”

--Laura Dassow Walls, University of Notre Dame