Prof. Dr. Tiya Miles: New Guinea and the Island of Nantucket.

Last year, on 31st August 2021, Professor Tiya Miles, department of history at the Harvard University, published an article in The Atlantic about the Island of Nantucket entitled: “Nantucket doesn’t belong to the Preppies”.1 The article grew out not only from the vivid history of the island itself, but also through her conversations with many figures of the island.

Combined with private observations, biographical experiences and conversations, she first pictured colonial-white-focussed perceiptions and quickly corrects the impressions.

Picture Nantucket, and you probably imagine whales and hydrangeas, white people swimming in white-capped waves. But that’s only part of the story. Although the Black community of New Guinea has passed into history, its mark on the landscape remains, a reminder that Nantucket was once a place of working-class ingenuity and Black daring.

Tiya Miles

While the most stories of Nantucket typically began with the popular anektode of English settlers, who arrived in 1690, and noticed whales while they surveyed the sandy land, the Wampanoag people had already lived there, “dispersed across multiple villages.” Miles shows how the rising wealth of “Anglo-Nantucketers […] particularly through the commercial whaling industry” based on the rising “labor from populations with ready skills that would not, or could not, reject dangerous maritime work.” For this, they not only “compelled Indigenous people to row their boats”, but also drew back to slavery by bringing people with descent from the African continent to Nantucket.

According to a census of 1764, the Island inhabited 148 “indians + Sqwaws” and 50 “Negroes”, of which a majority were enslaved. In this regard, Miles also recounts the famous case between William Swain and Boston:

One black family, the Bostons, lived on Nantucket for generations and profoundly shaped the island’s history. Boston and his wife, Maria, and their eight children were enslaved by a merchant named William Swain. In 1760, for reasons that are not documented, Swain freed the couple and their youngest baby. He placed the other children on a manumission schedule, guaranteeing that he could extract their labor for years. Eventually, members of the Boston family moved to a hilly region at the edge of town, where a handful of other free Black families lived, near the four noisy windmills that served as the island’s power source.

Tiya Miles

In the 1770s, when the island suczessively “phase out slavery”, many free persons now settled themselves at “New Guinea”or “Newtown”, where they intermarriaged with Native Americans and so shaped the place as “a multicultural hub”.

You can read the full article here.1

  1. Miles, Tiya (2021): Nantucket doesn’t belong to the Preppies, in: The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/08/nantucket-doesnt-belong-to-the-preppies/619874/, 31.08.2021. [last Access:25.7.2022]. [] []

1842: Starbuck from Nantucket applies for British Naturalization in Sydney

In 29th September 1842, the “Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser” informs their readers about the naturalization of an American person named George Starbuck from Nantucket, who officially requested to become a British citizen:

“Naturalization of an Alien. – A Mr. George Starbuck, who is a native of Nantucket, in the United States, took the oaths of allegiance to her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria on Tuesday last, before His Honor the Chief Justice, in the Court of Equity.”1

Reading of a Starbuck family member from Nantucket in the mid of the 19th century, one can easily draw a connection to the whaling industry. Unfortunately it remains unclear, how he arrived in Sydney or whether he captained a whaling ship or not (at least according to the database of www.whalinghistory.com). Only one entry lists a George Starbuck person as an Agent of the whaling ship “JOSEPH STARBUCK”, which went on a Pacific whaling voyage between 1838 and 1842, and was captained by Wilbur Sanford.2

The website of the “State Archives & Records” in Sydney hold the records of the Naturalization processes in detail and give further knowledge about the legal history of the naturalization too.3

Naturalization is the means by which aliens (non-British subjects) gain the privileges and rights of citizenship held by British subjects or people born in New South Wales.

There was no law covering naturalization before 1849. Prior to that year, the process of naturalization was known as denization and could only be performed through an Act of Parliament. Denization gave an alien the right to own land. The Act to Amend the Laws relating to Aliens, 1849 (No 11 Vic No 39) established the system of naturalization, which gave much broader rights and made denization obsolete.

State Archives & Records NSW

Since Starbuck applied in 1842, his records fell into the “Letters of Denization” in the collection of the State Archives. Receiving the British citizenship came along with many privileges and benefits such as the right to vote (only for men), but what might have been much more interesting for the applicants was the right to buy or own land, which seem to have been only confined to British settlers. One important requirement was the Residency of at least five years. This means that George Starbuck must have been living in Sydney since at least five years.

The database of the naturalization applicants do only consist of Non-British people with backgrounds from all over the world. Individuals from Ireland or Canada did not need to become naturalized as they already belonged to the British Empire. In these online provided naturalization database, I was able to find the name of George Starbuck, yet his name was mistyped as George Starbrick.

The entry is kept very brief, yet I assume that the entry might provide further information about the background.

  1. Naturalization of an Alien, in: Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser, 29.09.1842, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2557455, [last Access: 12.06.2022]. []
  2. Joseph Starbuck, 1838-1842, in: whaling history, https://whalinghistory.org/?s=AA1190, [Last Access: 12.06.2022]. []
  3. Naturalization / Citizenship Guide, in: State Archives & Records, Sydney, https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/archives/collections-and-research/guides-and-indexes/naturalization-citizenship-guide?fbclid=IwAR3lEsZshEranA8ILV01U-X4iHgdq70Syw2iqbRk_TuTuxu42lYl8jom6Ww, [Last Access: 12.06.2022]. []
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