Daniel Vickers

Credit and misunderstanding on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts (1683-1763)

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This essay investigates the culture of exchange that prevailed amongst the aboriginal inhabitants on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. By comparing the rules of exchange between colonists and aboriginals described in an account book kept by two colonial storekeepers between 1683 and 1763 with the book-keeping practices that prevailed amongst the colonists themselves, the study argues that the differences can be best accounted for by the influence of aboriginal practice. The aboriginal economic culture of «shared abundance» differed from the English «economy of obligation» brought to Nantucket by the colonists, and that difference helped to shape the pattern of intercultural exchange. The essay concludes by describing how the peculiarities of accounting in the storekeeper's account books imparted by aboriginal influence gradually began to wane as English economic culture triumphed.

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