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Volume 52 / Humanities


EDWARD L. COX, Associate Professor of History, Rice University, Houston
ANNE PEROTIN-DUMON, Associate Visiting Professor of History, University of Virginia
FRANCISCO SCARANO, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
JOSE M. HERNANDEZ, Adjunct Professor of History, Georgetown University
ROSEMARIJN HOEFTE, Deputy Head, Department of Caribbean Studies, Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology


SLAVERY AND SLAVE SOCIETY continue to attract the attention of most scholars of the British Caribbean, and, although no recently-published pieces fall into the "excellent" category, a few very important works did appear. By making use of the 1813-16 slave registration data for Trinidad, Meredith John's The plantation slaves of Trinidad (item bi 90000640) provides a marvelously interesting portrait gallery of plantation slavery in the early-19th century. Her conclusions of high mortality and low fertility rates for slaves confirm what has been intuitively suspected of the island and the British Caribbean as a whole, though they do not embrace or address Higman's projection of improved rates as emancipation approached (see HLAS 48:2517b). Armstrong's archaeological study of the Drax Hall Plantation (item bi 91005377) gives a fascinating, important glimpse of the material culture of workers on one Jamaican plantation during times of slavery and freedom. Hall has edited and provided a useful introduction to a revealing journal kept by a Jamaican planter (item bi 90004138) which significantly improves our knowledge and understanding of important aspects of slave life, slave management, the process of creolization, and the relationships between whites and slaves.

Campbell's book (item bi 90000638) is undoubtedly the most comprehensive and intellectually stimulating treatment to date on Maroons in Jamaica, while Beckles' and Watson's useful article "Social Protest and Labour Bargaining" (item bi 89008149) examines another aspect of slave resistance. Their argument that Barbadian slaves utilized bargaining power rather than revolutionary means to extract concessions aimed at improving their own material conditions is a sharp reminder of how slaves' experiences and patterns of behavior were likely to vary over time and under different conditions. Gaspar's "Slavery, Amelioration, and Sunday Markets in Antigua" (item bi 89008154) indicates that though reformers viewed amelioration as potentially beneficial for slaves, the slaves themselves reacted negatively toward the abolition of Sunday markets because it denied them a meaningful opportunity to trade and otherwise promote their own self-interests.

The free colored population is covered in two worthwhile publications. An address to the Right Honourable Earl Bathurst, by a free mulatto (item bi 90000650) is simultaneously a powerful articulation of the disabilities which the Trinidad group faced during a critical transitional period, and a moving appeal by a member of the body for redress. Sio's "Marginality and Free Coloured Identity in Caribbean Slave Society" (item bi 89008145) rightly reminds us of the need to reexamine the rank and file of this important group rather than relying too heavily on examples from the highly visible elite to portray the entire community as being assimilationist.

The resurgence of interest in Caribbean economic history, noted in previous volumes of the Handbook, is evident in some recent publications, two of which deserve special mention. Solow and Engerman have edited a volume of essays entitled British capitalism and Caribbean slavery (item bi 90000644) which reexamines Eric Williams' contributions to Caribbean economic history, especially his central thesis on the symbiosis of capitalism and slavery. Carrington's The British West Indies during the American Revolution (item bi 90000653) analyzes the British West Indian commercial and political developments (1770-87) and concludes that the economic decline of the islands began during the American Revolution when the islands lost access to British North American markets.

Important aspects of the post-emancipation society and labor system are addressed by a number of authors. Trotman's Crime in Trinidad: conflict and control in a plantation society (item bi 90000634) succinctly analyzes how planters criminalized certain aspects of Creole culture in order to maintain social control over the laboring population, while Mangru (item bi 88000928) provides a fruitful study of Guyanese planters' unsuccessful attempts to eliminate their financial responsibility for providing return passages to East Indians at the end of their indentureship. Shepherd's "The Dynamics of Afro-Jamaican/East Indian Relations in Jamaica" (item bi 88000929) points to deteriorating relations between workers of these different ethnic groups especially during periods of economic depression.

The 20th-century nationalist movement has received coverage in three fine articles and a monograph. Magid's Urban nationalism: a study of political development in Trinidad (item bi 90000643) portrays disputes within the Port-of-Spain Town Council and the subsequent radicalization of political behavior as the forerunner of island-wide nationalism, while Basdeo (item bi 88000931) makes creditable use of class analysis in examining Trinidad's labor politics in the early 20th century when riots and protests against the colonial power were rampant throughout the British Caribbean. Palmer (item bi 90000261) addresses the uncertain search for racial identity in Jamaica where the presence of racial and class tensions facilitated government efforts to crush the Black Power ideology of the 1960s. Finally, Bennett (item bi 90000262) argues along a similar vein by detailing the continued racial tensions in Trinidad at the time of the outbreak of the "February Uprising." The government's belated recognition of the validity of the claims of the revolutionaries, however, placed an official seal on the latter's charges that full independence was a mere chimera in the presence of so many lingering aspects of colonialism and imperialism. [ELC]


Recent publications on the French Caribbean and French Guiana explore new avenues in addition to pursuing well-known topics. It is particularly encouraging that French Guiana history has grown to encompass new topics such as the bases of the region's colonial economy - first annatto-plantations (Saint-Martin, item bi 91024920) and then gold (Huyghues-Belrose and Bruleaux, item bi 91024906), her long history of slavery (item bi 89006543), and changes brought about by each World War (Huyghues-Belrose and Alexandre, items bi 89006493 and bi 91024981).

The bicentennial of the French Revolution of 1789 has stimulated the study of this region's revolutionary period. Geggus provides an overview of the Haitian Revolution (item bi 89008437) and the Historical Society of Guadeloupe has reprinted one of the best narratives on the English Caribbean campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars (item bi 92014303). Interest in colonial Freemasonic lodges (items bi 92014404 and bi 92014117) and the relationship between the French Islands and the Spanish Caribbean (item bi 92014397) has also generated new publications.

The late colonial period continues to attract many scholars, with urban history emerging as a new field of study in this Caribbean region. The growth of 18th-century colonial port cities is documented by Pérotin-Dumon (items bi 92012088 and bi 92014393), Geggus (items bi 90002176 and bi 92014122), Butel (items bi 91028318 and bi 89006770) and Loupès (items bi 91006391 and bi 89006772).

On sugar and slavery, topics with significance extending beyond the 18th century, the trend is towards syntheses such as Stein's French sugar business (item bi 90004642) and Renault and Daget's Traite negrière (item bi 91024919). A gap has also been filled by Saugera on the Atlantic French slave trade of the early 1800s (item bi 91025093).

The abolition of slavery continues to dominate the 19th-century history of the region: Schmidt examines its political significance in conjunction with the universal male suffrage proclaimed by the French Second Republic (item bi 89006791), and Buffon examines its implications for the national economy, given the indemnifications granted to former slave owners (item bi 89006767).

Perhaps the most creative studies, overlapping several centuries, deal with art and architecture. Bégot shows the limits to artistic creativity under colonial rule, a creativity which has blossomed over the past century of independent Haiti (items bi91-24903 and bi 92011678). Greene and Cissel (item bi 90013828) and Bégot and Mousnier (item bi 91024927) convey the architectural dimensions of colonial power and economy. Religious history, hitherto a neglected field, is emerging thanks to Lafleur's account of the 17th-century Protestant minority in the French Antilles (item bi 91024931) and Hellström's study of the enlightened Protestant churches in the 19th-century Danish islands (item bi 92014013).

Haitian political history dominates the 20th-century subsection: Hector traces the complex history of labor unions (item bi 90000603); Bonnardot and Danroc have recorded the anti-Duvalierist voices of grassroots churches and political organizations (item bi 91024983); and Pizetty-van Eeuwen analyzes Haiti's political destiny in light of the country's present hopes and difficulties (item bi 89001193). [APD]


Recent work on the history of the Dutch Caribbean continues to focus on the study of slavery and Maroon society. It is remarkable, however, that anthropologists have written most of these historical works. Postma is one of only two representatives of the historian's guild mentioned in this HLAS essay covering 1988-90. His long-awaited account of The Dutch in the Atlantic slave trade (item bi 91027137) is an eminent study which fills a huge gap in the literature.

Richard and Sally Price edited and introduced Stedman's classic Narrative of a five years expedition against the revolted Negroes of Surinam (item bi 92015096). This splendid volume is based on Stedman's personal copy of the 1790 manuscript rather than on the edited version of 1796.

Anthropologists Thoden van Velzen and Van Wetering's 25 years research among the Ndjuka Maroons in Suriname are the basis of the fascinating The Great Father and The Danger, the first extensive study of the religious and social history of these Maroons (see HLAS 51:842). In an experimental work which is not always satisfying, Richard Price presents the successful struggle for freedom of the Saramaka Maroons by interweaving four historical voices (set in as many type styles) of the Saramakas, the Dutch, the missionaries, and Price himself as the mediating historian (item bi 91024918).

In comparison to the historiography of the region as a whole, the Dutch Caribbean contribution is meager. In addition, most works on the history of the Antilles and Suriname lack a Caribbean context. Even though the quantity of historical works has grown appreciably during the last two decades, the same cannot be said of their quality. It is rather telling that this brief survey does not include publications on the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. With the exception of Curaçao, the history of the Dutch Caribbean islands - Aruba, Bonaire, St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius - largely remains to be written. Goslinga has published three volumes on the Dutch in the Caribbean (item bi 91024914), yet emphasizes political and economic developments. Topics such as the 20th-century social history, immigration, and the history of women have been barely touched. The compilation of an integrated inventory of all material available in Antillean, European, South and North American archives is sorely needed to facilitate and improve the quality of historical research. [RH]


The current crop of Puerto Rican historical writings once again evinces the same focus on politics and culture observed in HLAS 50. The more exciting work builds upon the so-called New History, which in the 1970s and early 1980s tried to unravel the class dynamics of a colonial society thrust upon the world market as a staple producer. Current historiography widens this focus to capture a nuanced and complex picture of the relationship between social forces and the State, as well as between power and culture. Structural issues, especially those arising from export production, continue to claim substantial attention. But previously unexplored themes such as political discourse, urbanization, collective mentalities, social movements, plebeian solidarities and the formation of subaltern communities and popular culture have also begun to excite the imaginations of island historians.

Quintero Rivera's latest writings exemplify the organic connection between the New History and this novísima historia (Newest History). In the 1970s, his writings on class, colonialism, politics, and, more specifically, on the politics of labor, were a key component of the revisionist literature. Recently, however, he has turned his attention to different topics: to what he describes as the "camouflaged" imprint that Africans left on Creole culture (item bi 92014648). In this essay, Quintero Rivera offers fresh interpretations of the process of creolization. He boldly uses concepts and methods borrowed from musical studies and architecture, among others, to dissect these processes and to demonstrate African cultures' profound influence in Puerto Rico. Other significant studies that look beyond socioeconomic history include Sepúlveda's stunning work on the capital city (item bi 89003731), his companion study of Cangrejos-Santurce co-authored by Jorge Carbonell (item bi 89003733), and Rivera-Belardo's "Los Problemas de la Expansión Urbana: San Juan de Puerto Rico, 1850-1898" (item bi 90002572).

Another way in which the latest writings have added to the socioeconomic literature of the past two decades is in the analysis of political alignments and ideologies. In this, Cubano's research has led the way. Her revised dissertation El hilo en el laberinto: claves de la lucha política en Puerto Rico, siglo XIX (item bi 92014647), skillfully combines economic and political history. It aptly recounts Arecibo's economic history of sugar and coffee, while making sense of various complex strands of elite politics: the tangled web of economic and social relations between import-export merchants and planters for example, which she argues cannot readily fit into a rigid conservative-liberal mold, and the colonial policies of the 1880s and 1890s, which helped to cement the Puerto Rican elite's adherence to Spanish sovereignty. Cubano addresses key historical questions even more directly in various other essays: three are noteworthy for the clear and effortless manner in which they resolve crucial questions of imperial control and colonial acquiescence (items bi 92014560, bi 92014565, and bi 92014569).

Believing, like Cubano, that notions of power and social order are not determined by relations of production, Alvarez Curbelo has examined the contingent ways in which powerless groups constructed such conceptions. Two of her essays (items bi 92014541 and bi 92014542) throw light upon how people translated grievances into political ideologies, whether it was the proto-fascism of certain middle farmers in the 1920s and 1930s or the "moral economy of the crowd" evident in urban riots four decades earlier. In a similar vein, Baldrich studies how tobacco farmers mobilized against a corporate finance and marketing monopoly in the early 1930s (item bi 92014545), a movement that led to a successful growers strike in 1931-32. The book is theoretically clear and sophisticated, a valuable addition to the literature on social movements in the Caribbean during the turbulent Depression era.

Twentieth-century political life is also the subject of Ferrao's solid work on Pedro Albizu Campos (item bi 92014571). A controversial work because its central issues have contemporary resonance, the book has opened up new vistas on nationalism - the character of its leadership, its motivations and programs. Ferrao delves deeper than previous scholars into the topic of Albizu Campos and his Nationalist Party devotees: who they were, what they actually believed in, and how important certain events during the 1930s - the Depression, of course, but also the Spanish Civil War and the neighboring Dominican Republic's Trujillo dictatorship - were to their formulation of a radical nationalist solution to Puerto Rico's vexing problems.

Finally, Picó's suggestive history of a free black community in the periphery of San Juan has advanced our understanding of the politics of resistance and evasion among the island's poor. Vivir en Caimito (item bi 90013023) weaves the community's story in with the tale of State and elite attempts to coerce people into work and social discipline, from the 18th century to the present. Picó argues that many generations of caimiteños have resisted encroachments on their freedom. While he explores only superficially the nature of community solidarity and consensus, and overlooks the inevitable fissures inside the community, the book is a passionately written reminder of the possibilities of doing history "from below" in the Puerto Rican context. [FAS]


The overall quality of the material received for review this biennium differs little from that of the works included in the previous HLAS volume. Authors continue to dwell on the same familiar topics providing only slight additional detail; articles and books have been as uncritical and panegyrical in tone as before; and, as a rule, they have continued to suffer from the lack of a solid base of research. In addition, Cuban historiography has not yet matured enough to rid itself from the theoretical preconceptions and political prejudices that have hampered it until now.

This is not to say that there are no exceptions that rise above the mass of average or below average publications. Indeed, there are nearly two dozen books and articles that were published during the last two years that have either filled historiographical gaps, broken new ground on certain subjects, or approached old problems from entirely new perspectives. Some are genuinely amusing, like Deive's piquant account of daily life in Hispaniola during the colonial period (item bi 90013011). Others, like Aguilar's short work (item bi 91025175), are an open invitation to the reader to philosophize about people and their historical destiny.

Among the articles are two that cannot be ignored. One is Moreno Fraginals' comparative study of slavery in Cuba and the Spanish Caribbean and in the English-speaking colonies (item bi 89001432). The other is the detailed discussion of the celebrated Martí-Roa dispute by Toledo Sande (item bi 89004735), a paradigm for exhaustive research and impartial treatment of a thorny subject.

Most of the noteworthy work appears in the 19th-century subsection: Jorge and Isabel Castellanos' commendable survey of the evolution of Afro-Cuban culture (item bi 91025761); Bergad's erudite study of sugar monoculture in Matanzas, Cuba (item bi 89003269); and Schwartz's monograph on the connection between patriot-brigands and Cuban independence (item bi 90004723). Lamore's analysis of Martí's view of "our America" (item bi 89001678) probably belongs in this category also, as does Paquette's book on the "Escalera" slave conspiracy in Cuba (item bi 89001675), written despite the fact that he was not permitted to examine Cuban records. As to Amigo's interpretation of Varela's philosophical thought (item bi 91026969), there is little doubt of its significance, since few have been as well equipped as he to pass judgment on the Cuban priest's eclecticism.

There are also works that deserve to be singled out in the other subsections. Such is the case of the other monographs by Deive (items bi 89001703 and bi 91003951) and the various books by Vega (items bi 89001670, bi 90005315, bi 90005316, and bi 91003944). Of the books written or edited by Vega, however, none perhaps is as provocative as the collaborative volume on Dominican culture (item bi 90005336). Far more shocking, but nonetheless useful for understanding problems afflicting Cuban society, is Moore's angry examination of race in Cuba (item bi 91009699).

Finally, we should note among positive developments the appearance of scholarly works on the Catholic Church in both Cuba and the Dominican Republic, a subject which to date has received only spotty attention from historians. Balanced interpretations of the Church-State relationship in present-day Cuba have begun to see the light (item bi 91027327), and researchers have dipped into archival sources in procurement of hitherto unknown data with renewed enthusiasm. This tendency is best exemplified by Sáez's two-volume account of the activities of the Jesuits in the Dominican Republic (item bi 91025725). Also worthy of note is Maza's publication of documents relevant to the Cuban Church vis-à-vis the independence movement (item bi 91025950). Perhaps these auspicious efforts are an indication that similar projects will be undertaken in the future. [JMH]

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