Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 November 2022
Chapter 5 examines how the Great Plague Scare unfolded in the entangled colonial empires of France and Spain. Despite their intertwined histories in the early-eighteenth-century Atlantic, few works in the English language have focused on Franco-Spanish colonial relations. The chapter describes the orders coming from the metropoles for dealing with the threat of plague and analyzes how those on the ground ultimately responded. In the end, it answers the question, what was different in the colonies? It opens in Fort Royal, Martinique, where a major scandal unfolded when a French vessel arrived from the Languedocien port of Sète. What I call the “Sète affair” offers the opportunity to examine the “spirit of sedition” that endured in the French Antilles well before the Age of Revolution. The chapter then transitions to plague-time violence and Franco-Spanish relations in the Caribbean and demonstrates that the demands of the metropole were not always in line with the needs or wants of the people in the overseas colonies. On the surface, disaster centralism during the Plague of Provence seemed to extend from Europe to the colonies, but on the ground, local needs and economic concerns often outweighed the demands of a far-flung ruler.