Kate Mulry

Assistant Professor, Department of History, California State University, Bakersfield

2021 to 2022
Research Fellow

“‘it nourisheth the Child in the Womb’: Chocolate, Reproduction, and Colonization in Seventeenth-Century Jamaica”

After the English conquered Jamaica in 1655, several English medical writers claimed consuming cacao boosted women’s fertility and enabled endless physical exertion despite the island’s hot climates. In other words, they anticipated cultivating cacao would solve the island’s population and labor needs. My project investigates physicians’ roles in developing a range of exploitative ideas about what kind of colony Jamaica would become, including ideas about reproduction, labor, and slavery. This project will further examine how anxieties about labor and population size in Jamaica overlapped with changing attitudes towards population size in England. Numerous treatises published in the latter half of the seventeenth articulated newly emergent pro-natalist policies. Boosting population strength and labor supply were increasingly matters of state interest. This project will reveal parallel and divergent narratives addressing the role different communities of women were expected to play in ensuring the demographic and economic strength of an expanding English empire.