empire migration, imperialism, West Indian Company


In 1917, Denmark sold its Caribbean colonies—known at the time as the Danish West Indies—to the United States and thus made its final, official break with the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. The transfer of the islands to the United States involved a juxtaposition of both rupture and continuity, however. Although the year 1917 marked a significant decline in Danish colonial rule, “new imperial” ideas and practices continued without interruption. Moreover, the transfer did not break Danish ties to the former colony. Several Danes stayed on and continued their island lives, while other Danes chose to migrate to islands aft er 1917.1 In common for all of these was the general feeling among Danes that there was a bond between Denmark and the islands, that they were somehow connected. This was an “affective” bond grounded in the shared history and in a sort of postcolonial nostalgia, but it was also characterized by a continued institutional connection to the islands.2 Many of the Danes who arrived on the islands around and aft er the transfer were men who worked for private companies and institutions on the islands, and who oft en brought their families with them. They were not formally tied to the (former) empire, but could rather be understood as “empire migrants.”