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Volume 50 / Humanities


COLIN A. PALMER, Professor of History, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
ANNE PEROTIN-DUMON, Assistant Professor of History, Kent State University, Ohio
FRANCISCO SCARANO, Associate Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
JOSE M. HERNANDEZ, Adjunct Professor of History, Georgetown University

SCHOLARLY INTEREST in the history of the British West Indies, especially the history of slavery, continues unabated. The focus seems to be shifting, however, from the culture and social institutions of slaves to the economics of slavery, the impact on the Atlantic economy and the rise of modern capitalism. It is too early to claim that this constitutes a trend, but some of the finest articles in recent years reflect the aforementioned emphasis.

David Richardson's "The Slave Trade, Sugar, and British Economic Growth" (item bi 89005055) examines British economic growth in the 18th century and concludes that it was stimulated essentially by internal factors. On the other hand, Barbara Solow argues in "Capitalism and Slavery in the Exceedingly Long Run" (item bi 89005536) that slavery organized the Atlantic economy and dominated it until the 19th century. Gavin Wright's "Capitalism and Slavery in the Islands" (item bi 89005551) is an interesting exploration of the similarities between the economics of slavery, decline, and abolition in the British West Indies and the American South.

There are, however, important exceptions to this economic emphasis. Richard Dunn's "Dreadful Idlers in the Cane Fields" (item bi 89005016) establishes the relationship between the physical treatment of the slaves and their health and mortality rates. Gail Saunders' Slavery in the Bahamas (item bi 89005801) deepens our understanding of the demographic and other characteristics of the slave population of those islands, while Hilary Beckles provides a rigorous analysis of the patterns of resistance in his Black rebellion in Barbados (item bi 89005777).

While studies associated with slavery received the most attention, a few scholars explored other questions. Michael Duffy's Soldiers, sugar and sea power (item bi 89005890) examines British military expeditions in the Caribbean (1793-1802). The impact of the American Revolution is the focus of Selwyn Carrington's "The American Revolution and British West Indies Economy" (item bi 89005011). It may be worth mentioning in this context that James Millette's important earlier work The genesis of Crown colony government (see HLAS 38:2952) has been reissued as Society and politics in Trinidad (item bi 89005891).

The immediate post-emancipation period remains relatively unresearched. Only two contributions merit serious attention: Swithin Wilmot's "Emancipation in Action" (item bi 89005549), an original analysis of labor relations in the immediate aftermath of emancipation in Jamaica, and Howard Johnson's carefully researched "A Modified Form of Slavery..." (item bi 89005429), which explores the control mechanisms that a white mercantile elite imposed on the freed persons in the Bahamas.

Similarly, neither the late 19th century nor the 20th century attracted the serious attention of scholars. Generally speaking, published works on the 20th century were characterized by their polemical tone and the absence of careful research. There were no important studies on the roles of women, labor unions, the political evolution of societies or the important transformations that have occurred in Caribbean societies since World War I. Three studies, however, should be mentioned. Franklin Knight's "United States' Cultural Influence on the English-Speaking Caribbean" (item bi 89005755) is a fine analysis of the extent and limits of American cultural penetration. Vereen Sheperd provides an interesting discussion of the problems that market gardeners of Indian descent confronted in Kingston in "The Economic Problems of Indians in Western Kingston" (item bi 89005740). Finally, David Lewis' Reform and revolution in Grenada (item bi 89006150) is a brave but flawed attempt at interpreting Grenada's recent history. [CAP]

We are able to focus on the Dutch Caribbean in this volume, thanks to the invaluable assistance of Dr. Rosemarijn Hoefte (Dept. of Caribbean Studies, Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology, Leiden, the Netherlands).

Van den Bogaart's edited volume on Dutch colonization (item bi 89004657), Kunst's institutional analysis of the same topic (item bi 89004729), and Goslinga's second installment of his study on the West India Co. (item bi 89005790) pave the way to an understanding of the role the Caribbean and The Guianas played in Dutch expansion, while Oostindie and Maduro have traced (and handsomely illustrated) three centuries of Caribbean and Surinamese contributions to the life of the metropolis (item bi 89005797). The research guide elaborated by Koulen, et al. (item bi 89004727) reflects the growing interest of scholars in the Dutch Antilles, a concern that will promote and shape new research on the region.

Plantation society and the Maroons who defied its control continue to dominate the colonial historiography of Suriname. Important additions to the Bronnen voor de Studie van Bosneger Samerlevingen series of records on Maroon societies in the collection of the Rijkuniversiteit, Utrecht, have been De Beet, De eerste Boni-oorlog (item bi 89005007), and Hoogbergen's De Bonis in Frans Guyana (item bi 89005032) and De Boni-oorlogen (item bi 89005029), the latter a thorough account of the Maroons' guerrilla warfare. Two contributions by de Groot (items bi 89005800 and bi 89006489) assess the evolution of the Suriname Maroons within the broad comparative framework of slavery and emancipation in the New World. Written in the same context are three studies of slave demography and social control on 19th-century plantations, two by H. Lamur (items bi 89004733 and bi 89005440) and one by R. Hoefte (item bi 89005420).

With regard to the early colonial period in the Caribbean, J.P. Moreau has edited a fascinating narrative by a French filibuster about his (largely unsuccessful) raids (item bi 89004993). Among studies of 18th-century plantations, two are particularly worth noting: L.C. Larsen's contribution, which establishes the chronology of St. John's unique development as an entity different from other Danish possessions (item bi 89005039), and J. Cauna's work, which documents and vividly recreates the microcosm of a sugar plantation in Saint-Domingue (item bi 89005013). The Société française d'histoire d'Outre-mer should be commended for republishing the classic Description of Saint-Domingue by Creole magistrate Moreau de Saint-Méry, first published in 1958 and long out of print; a short version, now available in English, will be invaluable for classroom use (item bi 89005892).

The end of plantations and slavery, a well-documented subject in other regions of the Caribbean, is now a leading topic in the French Caribbean. F. Thésée has followed the individual destinies of some 200 slaves who were rescued from the cargo of an illegal French trader off Martinique (item bi 89005539). S. Daget offers a magisterial overview on France's abolition of the slave trade and fills a long-standing gap in English on this topic (item bi 89005931). The crisis of Guadeloupe's sugar economy during the second half of the 19th century is thoroughly documented by A. Buffon, whose contribution examines the financial crisis within a world context (item bi 88001697), and by Ch. Schnackenbourg, who traces the slow decline of sugar plantations (item bi 89005527).

One area of increasing interest is the economic and political history of the Caribbean and The Guianas in the late 19th and early 20th century. Four studies document the dawning of a new era in the economies of the region with the introduction of mining and extractive industries. C. Lamur traces the organization of bauxite production in Suriname (and British Guyana) around World War I (item bi 89006148). J. Petot describes gold production and the frontier world it created in post-1860 French Guiana (item bi 89005713). Linking economic and social changes, J. Dekker assesses the impact of the oil industry on Curaçaoan society during 1900-20 (item bi 89006145). In a well-written study on the century following slave emancipation (1848-1948), a period dominated by gold, S. Mam-Lam Fouck offers valuable insights into how economic and political dependency on the metropolis shaped French Guyanese identity (item bi 89005456). Insofar as political history is concerned, C. Selma describes the progress of associations and unions in Martinique and Guadeloupe, organizations that combine the tradition of slave cofraternities with new mutualist and socialist ideals (item bi 89005629). A Mexican research team documents the emergence of unions and workers' organizations in Haiti in the context of social movements during the US occupation (item bi 89006143).

Finally, B.G. Plummer has given us the first comprehensive study of the growth of US economic interests in Haiti at the time of the building of the Panama Canal, and the ways that they influenced Haitian domestic politics and elite behavior, as a prelude to the subsequent occupation of the island (item bi 89005718). [APD]

Although the number of trained historians working on Puerto Rican themes is perhaps at its highest point ever, recent scholarship suggests that the interest in new methods which characterized the discipline earlier in the decade continues to decline. As reported in HLAS 48, the field appears to be undergoing a phase of consolidation and integration after 15 years of fruitful exploration of new themes and techniques. To be sure, many of the approaches preferred by the so-called "New History" have endured. But recent developments suggest that historians are returning to political and cultural issues, which were somewhat neglected during the heyday of economic and social historiography in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Scholars are reassessing questions posed by earlier generations, for whom institutions, culture and politics were preferred realms of investigation. For the first time in many years syntheses now seem both desirable and possible.

Several integrative works have been published, with more on the way. James L. Dietz's superb Economic history of Puerto Rico (item bi 89004677), which applies dependency theory to island history, nicely complements Fernando Picó's highly regarded survey, Historia general de Puerto Rico (HLAS 48:2375). Both incorporate enduring contributions from the New History and suggest ways of unifying those with the work of the pioneer historians. But it is the differences between the two books that render them fittingly complementary. Picó focuses on the early colonial period and the 19th century, skillfully depicting the structures of everyday life. On the other hand, Dietz, an economist, concentrates on 20th-century formal economic history and its impact on politics and culture.

The renewed interest in politics has yielded a fair number of studies on the independence and annexationist movements. Notable among the first group are Olga Jiménez de Wagenheim, Puerto Rico's revolt for independence: el Grito de Lares (item bi 89005966), a social and structural analysis, and Andrés Ramos Mattei, Betances en el ciclo revolucionario antillano: 1867-1875 (item bi 89005505), a study of the politics and ideology of the irrepressible revolutionary leader. The second group comprised studies of annexationism vis-à-vis the US. Fernando Picó, 1898: La guerra después de la Guerra (item bi 89005483); Mariano Negrón Portillo, Cuadrillas anexionistas y revueltas campesinas en Puerto Rico, 1898-1899 (item bi 89005464); Aarón Gamaliel Ramos, ed., Las ideas anexionistas en Puerto Rico bajo la dominación norteamericana (item bi 89005667); Edgardo Meléndez Vélez, "La Estadidad como Proyecto Histórico" (item bi 89005689); and Annie Santiago de Curet, "La Reacción de Ponce a la Ocupación Americana: 1898" (item bi 89005120) are all concerned with aspects of the history of pro-statehood sentiment and activities and reveal two significant trends. First, they show that annexationism is fast becoming one of the hotter topics of debate. Second, they indicate a systematic interest in the social origins of the annexationists, rather than the usual concern for their politics and ideas. Moreover, several of them focus on the chief turning point in the history of annexationism: the US invasion of 1898 and its immediate aftermath. Clearly, the social history of the transition between Spanish and American colonialism, long neglected in the literature, is now receiving well-deserved attention.

Finally, the cultural history of the Puerto Rican people is the subject of an especially valuable study by Jalil Sued Badillo and Angel López Cantos, Puerto Rico negro (item bi 89005881). Based on thorough research in Spanish archives, it compels us to rethink the role of Africans in island society throughout the early colonial centuries. It also demonstrates that in the case of Puerto Rico, the fruitful application of anthropological concepts to historical research can yield new insights. [FAS]

Of the publications annotated below, more than two-thirds focus on the national period and its origins. As a rule, however, the most noteworthy works are those devoted to colonial history (a little over a dozen for this biennium). In the case of Cuba, this is exemplified by the continued publication of Leví Marrero's Cuba: economía y sociedad (item bi 89005044), as well as by a few solid pieces of original scholarship: Reinerio Lebroc's inquiry into the colonial Church (item bi 89004742); Allan J. Kuethe's study of the behavior of Havana's elite in the 18th and early 19th centuries (item bi 89005037); and Larry J. Jensen's analysis of the impact of Spanish censorship on the colonial press (item bi 89005036). Works of comparable erudition have also been published on the Dominican colonial period: Carlos E. Deive's Heterodoxia e Inquisición en Santo Domingo (item bi 89004674); Carlos Dobal's description of early 16th-century society (item bi 89004991); and two studies of the 17th century: Frank Peña Pérez's account of the deterioration of the economy (item bi 89005003), and Antonio Gutiérrez Escudero's exploration of hitherto unknown aspects of the economy and the population (item bi 89005028). The same quality is evident in several rigorous studies of the Spanish borderlands. Notable among them is David Henige's sharply reasoned article on the role of epidemics in New World depopulation (item bi 89005070).

Unfortunately, the more recent the period under study, the poorer the quality of the work published. The 1986 sesquicentennial of the birth of Máximo Gómez, the Dominican-born leader of Cuba's rebel army in the 1895-98 war of independence, has generated an unusual number of works in both Cuba and the Dominican Republic, works uncritical in their approach and panegyrical in their tone, as most biographies published in these two countries are. The same can be said of the literature on the independence era as a whole and the outpouring of writings on José Martí, a figure who continues to attract the interest of historians but whose life still awaits the first-rate biography it deserves. Nevertheless, within the mass of average or below average publications, a few rise above the others. Some deal with largely unexplored topics, such as Spanish espionage in the US during the Cuban wars of independence (item bi 89005519), or the lives of General Serafín Sánchez and Sotero Figueroa, the editor of Martí's newspaper (items bi 89005077 and bi 89005540). Others simply stand on their own merit, such as the special issue of Cuban Studies devoted to the emergence of Cuban national identity (item bi 89004676); Fernando Portuondo and Hortensia Pichardo's reissue of Céspedes (item bi 89005501); María Poumier-Taquechel's reexamination of the legend of Manuel García (item bi 89005525); and Gerald E. Poyo's article on Cuban emigrés (item bi 89005503). On Martí, it is indispensable to single out Paul Estrade's two-volume monograph on the interpretation of his thought (item bi 89005129) and Enrico Mario Santí's brilliant essay on the impact of his political preaching on the Cuban Revolution (item bi 89005670). Emilio Rodríguez Demorizi has performed a major service by compiling the papers of General Pedro Santana (item bi 89005510) and the Dominican papers of Máximo Gómez (item bi 89005511).

Among the numerous studies on contemporary history, those that deserve special mention are: works which fill important gaps, such as items bi 89005628, bi 89005632, and bi 89005739; publications which cover the contemporary period in its entirety, such as Herminio Portell Vilá's Nueva historia de la República de Cuba (item bi 89005719); items which reflect exhaustive research, such as Frank Moya Pons' El batey (item bi 89006159); and finally, the various studies by Louis A. Pérez, Jr. (items bi 89005474, bi 89005707, bi 89005709, and bi 89005710). The highest proportion of the countless titles on 20th-century topics have been published to celebrate the Cuban Revolution's silver jubilee, but few are worth mentioning; most are partisan studies which tend to read unwarranted conclusions into the facts. There are, fortunately, some exceptions: among those published in Cuba, Mario Mencía's El grito del Moncada (item bi 89005690) is perhaps the most informative; Lucas Morán's La revolución cubana (item bi 89005694) is worth noting among those published outside Cuba. The most readable book on the Revolution produced during this biennium is Frei Betto's Fidel and religion (item bi 88001959). The most scholarly publications of the biennium are: an excellent introduction to contemporary Cuba by Juan M. del Aguila (item bi 89007638); a concerted effort to retrace the Revolution by Edward González et al. (item bi 89005670); an analysis of revolutionary mythology by C. Fred Judson (item bi 89005671); an examination of the American response to the radicalization of the revolutionary government by Richard E. Welch (item bi 89005752); and, last but not least, a masterful epilogue reassessing the Revolution by Hugh Thomas, Georges Fauriol, and Juan Carlos Weiss (item bi 89005744).

Understandably, in the Dominican Republic, the contemporary topic that commands the most interest is Trujillo and the upheavals following his assassination. Unfortunately, most works on this topic are by amateur historians. The exception to the rule is Bernardo Vega, who continues to break new ground with his ongoing documentary collections on US-Dominican relations (items bi 88002056 and bi 89005750), and, more recently, a compilation of materials on Dominican daily life under Trujillo (item bi 89005751).

No major general histories either of Cuba or the Dominican Republic have appeared during the biennium, an additional reason for welcoming the second edition of Jaime Suchliki's able survey of Cuban history (item bi 89004823). Other significant works published on general topics were Moya Pons' El pasado dominicano (item bi 89004753); Julio G. Campillo's comprehensive survey of Dominican electoral history (item bi 89004659); Gordon K. Lewis' examination of culture and ideology in the Caribbean (item bi 89004745); and Natalio Galán's very fine study of Cuban popular music, a major contribution to the understanding of Cuban culture (item bi 89004682). Paulino Castañeda's superb study of the tithe controversy (item bi 89004977) also deserves special mention.

Finally, it must be pointed out that interest in social history continues unabated, as evidenced by the number of studies on slavery. Worthy of mention are Juan Iduate's chronicle of a slave uprising in Cuba (item bi 89005425) and Alex Dupuy's article on slavery in Saint Domingue (item bi 89005017). Jorge Castellanos' reassessment of Plácido's role as a poet and as a leader of Cuba's famous Conspiracy of the Ladder (item bi 89005116) is also relevant in this context. Studies on the status of women and the immigration process likewise contribute to raise the level of historical writing in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. [JMH]

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