Black on White: Danish Colonialism, Iceland and the Caribbean

  • Kristín LoftsdóttirEmail author
  • Gísli Pálsson
Part of the Contributions To Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA, volume 37)


For some time, scholars have stressed the centrality of colonialism and imperialism for European identity formations, in addition calling for increased destabilisation of the boundaries between colonised and colonisers, thus looking at colonialism in more nuanced ways. This chapter explores some of the complications and contradictions of Danish colonialism during the nineteenth century, using Iceland and the Caribbean as case examples. The discussion is twofold: On the one hand, it emphasises Icelandic representations of skin colour, and their special relationship to the colonial metropole. On the other hand, it explores the case of Hans Jonatan, who was born into slavery on a sugar plantation in St. Croix, later transferred to Copenhagen as part of a white household, then, after the abolition of slavery in Denmark, sentenced to go back to St. Croix, eventually escaping to Iceland, where he settled and raised a family. We suggest that this case highlights contradictory notions of colonial relationships.


Skin Colour Slave Trade Slave Owner Colonial Regime Sugar Plantation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Svend Holsoe, Helgi Már Reynisson, George Tyson, and the editors for stimulating discussions, important advice on sources of evidence, and excellent comments on the text and arguments we develop.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of IcelandReykjavikIceland

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