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Volume 54 / Humanities


EDWARD L. COX, Associate Professor of History, Rice University, Houston
ANNE PEROTIN-DUMON, Professor of History, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
JOSE M. HERNANDEZ, Professor Emeritus of History, Georgetown University
ROSEMARIJN HOEFTE, Deputy Head, Department of Caribbean Studies, Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology, The Netherlands
TERESITA MARTINEZ-VERGNE, Associate Professor of History, Macalester College

SCHOLARLY INTEREST IN THE Caribbean has continued unabated over the past few years, and has resulted in the publication of a number of highly commendable works on the region. While slavery continues to attract the attention of scholars, there has been considerable interest in the immediate post-emancipation societies of the British Caribbean. Indeed, some of the most impressive publications address the dynamics of post-slavery societies. In addition, several authors have concentrated on: 1) the experiences of Indian immigrants to the colonies in the latter half of the 19th century; and 2) working class challenges to planter hegemony in an effort to enhance workers' socioeconomic positions. It is somewhat premature to say whether or not this change in focus is sufficiently great or sustained to constitute a trend in scholarly interest.

As was the case in earlier volumes of the Handbook, the economics of slavery again attracted considerable attention. William Darity, Jr., makes a strident plea for an appreciation of the central role of the slave trade and slavery to Britain's industrialization (item bi 93010230), while Selwyn Carrington calls for further examination of the impact of mature capitalism on the slave trade and slavery (item bi 90007455). In an extremely important article which is likely to stimulate considerable scholarly debate, William Green argues that the supply and availability of slaves, rather than the demands of sugar growers, stimulated Barbados' sugar revolution (item bi 92000715). Finally, J.R. Ward (item bi 91015325) argues that, contrary to previously held views, Jamaican planters were more receptive to the use of the plough in place of the hoe and suggests that though their counterparts throughout the Caribbean might have wished to adopt similar labor saving devices, the physical condition of the islands was the crucial determinant in their decision-making.

Several excellent pieces address the culture and social institutions of slaves. Michael Mullin (item bi 93000144) focuses on religion and family life in his examination of the relationship between slave acculturation and the changing nature of slave resistance, while Michael Craton and Gail Saunders (item bi 92010450) focus on the multifaceted nature of resistance among slaves in the Bahamas. David Barry Gaspar (items bi 93010243 and bi 93007174) reminds us of the resilience of Antigua's slaves amidst the harsh conditions under which they lived, while Winston McGowan (item bi 92015628) and M.K. Bacchus (item bi 92013780) explore the efforts of Christian missionaries among slaves in British Guiana.

The transition from slavery to freedom, as well as the experiences of the newly emancipated workers, have attracted considerable attention. A number of these publications obviously grew out of general interest in and conferences scheduled around the celebration of the 150th anniversary of general slave emancipation. Thomas Holt's The meaning of freedom: race, labor, and politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832-1938 (item bi 93000142) deserves special mention for the insightful analysis it provides of the divergent and changing goals and perceptions entertained by whites and blacks, planters and ex-slaves, residents of both Britain and Jamaica in the 100 years separating two major milestones in British Caribbean history. Robert Stewart's excellent work (item bi 93007733) explores the role of religion in post-emancipation conflicts in Jamaica. The contributions of Jean Besson (item bi 93007318), Michael Craton (item bi 93003376), Nigel Bolland (item bi 93007303), and Veront Satchell (item bi 92013738) elucidate the plight of plantation workers in this crucial transitional period when planters still sought to control labor as they had so effectively done during slavery.

The immigration scheme to supply the plantations with workers from overseas, as well as the experiences of these immigrants in the colonies, have been addressed by a number of extremely fine articles. Anand James (item bi 92015629) concentrates on the politics surrounding and the experiences of liberated Africans who were sent to British Guiana, while Isaac Dookhan (item bi 93009354), Reuben J. Kartick (items bi 93011245 and bi 93011246), and Brinsley Samaroo (item bi 91024314) examine various aspects of the experiences of these migrants in British Guiana and Trinidad.

The most important publications for the 20th century have addressed working class discontent and efforts to improve their material conditions. Brackette Williams (item bi 93000143) provides a rather sophisticated analysis of the problems posed by race and class divisions in Guyana's quest to enhance the meaning of nationhood. Susan Craig's succinct treatment of the Trinidad labor disturbances of 1937 (item bi 93000162) provides a useful backdrop for Raoul Pantin's work on the 1970 Revolution (item bi 93002036) and the publication by the editors of the Daily Express of the extremely useful first hand stories on the Muslimeen grab for power in 1990 (item bi 93000133). [ELC]

Commemoration of the historic slave insurrection of 1791 in Saint-Domingue has brought important new insights into the slave mobilization and the wars of Haiti's independence that were seminal to the formation of the modern Caribbean. Applying a rigorous historical critique David Geggus reexamines the question of voodoo in 18th-century Saint-Domingue (item bi 92011502) and its significance for the subsequent Haitian Revolution (item bi 89008437). Marcel Auguste shows how rebels who became soldiers fought in the revolutionary wars (item bi 92011504), and Frank Moya Pons disentangles the momentuous repercussions of the war on Santo Domingo (item bi 92011506). The emergence of politics in the revolutionary era, an issue often subsumed under the term "social movement," is discussed by Anne Pérotin-Dumon for free-coloreds and slaves in Guadeloupe (item bi 94012432). New ground is broken on the Caribbean Enlightenment by James McClellan's work on the scientific activities of Saint-Domingue colonists (item bi 92014602) and by Francs-Maçons des loges françaises aux Amériques, a research tool on French colonial free-masons by Elisabeth Escalle and Mariel Gouyon Guillaume (item bi 94012252).

Another anniversary, that of Columbus' momentous landing in the Bahamas, has stimulated examination of early European colonization. Jean-Pierre Moreau emphasizes Spanish reactions to the arrival of European free-rovers in the Lesser Antilles (item bi 93011093), while the destiny of Caribs after the European intrusion and the images of them developed in Western literature is the topic of Philip Boucher's Cannibal encounters (item bi 93010710).

Three books convey different facets of the colonial experience in 19th-century Caribbean and Guyana: 1) Josette Fallope's Esclaves et citoyens, tracing the fascinating mutation of Guadeloupe slaves into overseas citizens of the French Republic (item bi 93010728); 2) a welcome reprint of a narrative by Jules Crevaux, a gifted writer, enlightened observer, and the first European to explore the regions at the limits of the Guyana and Amazon Basins in 1870 (item bi 92009707); and 3) the original memoirs of Jacques-Aimé Péray, a French hat-maker enlisted in the French Navy who turned peddler and shop-keeper in Martinique - memoirs which are wonderfully evocative of a petit-blanc's life in the 1820s (item bi 93010722).

Probably the most dynamic field has been that of genealogical and family history, best represented by Généalogie et Histoire de la Caraïbe, a monthly publication since January 1989. It is tackling issues such as last names conferred to emancipated slaves in Martinique and Guadeloupe (item bi 94014611), and unearthing new sources with ramifications throughout the whole Caribbean (item bi 94013414).

As often, a renewal in perspective occurs at the margins of long-studied themes. Slave society in the Danish West Indies (item bi 94012184), artfully compiled from the late Neville Hall, shows slave living within a small slaveholding society and a diversified economy. François Nault and Francine Mayer have provided an in-depth study of slave demography in St. Bartholomew, a society whose population was in majority white (item bi 93001621). On the topic of European commercial interests, economic historians Michael Zeuske and Hermann Kellenbenz have produced fresh research on the rise of the German presence in Haiti, Curaçao and St. Thomas in the early 19th century (items bi 92011512 and bi 93011549).

The contribution of migrations and minorities to the formation of societies is another emerging theme with relevance beyond the French Caribbean. Zvi Loker provides an anthology of colonial documents on Jews in the Caribbean (item bi 92018148), and Raymond Delval's country-by-country survey shows that the liveliest communities are in Trinidad, Tobago, and the Guianas (item bi 93010716). In L'Emigration antillaise en France, Alain Ancelin offers a rich portrait and thoughtful analysis of Martiniquais and Guadeloupéens immigrants to France after 1962 (item bi 93011585), a period which Arlette Lameynardie's photographs document with great sensitivity in Regards sur la Martinique des années soixante (item bi 93011614). [APD]

Scanning recent work on the history of the Dutch Caribbean leads to the conclusion that there is not much new under the sun. Plantations, slavery, and Maroons continue to top the list of research topics. One of the most important books to appear is by Alex van Stipriaan (item bi 94002501). Based on extensive archival research, it will be the standard work on Suriname plantations and slavery for many years to come. Let's hope that it will be translated into English so that a wider audience can read Van Stipriaan's magnum opus. Together with Gert Oostindie's case study of a coffee and a sugar plantation from 1720-1870 (see HLAS 52:1572), we now have a complete picture of the agricultural, economic, and social history of Suriname plantations.

Wim Hoogbergen continues to write about the history of the Maroons. His 1985 dissertation on the Boni Maroon wars from 1757 to 1860 (see HLAS 50:1582) serves as the basis for further publications: in 1990 a slighty condensed English translation appeared (see HLAS 52:1665) and in 1992 Hoogbergen published a popular account of the Maroon wars in Dutch called De Bosnegers zijn gekomen! (item bi 94002271). Furthermore, Hoogbergen has written many articles on this topic (see HLAS 53:1012).

Finally, one of the most fascinating books in the last couple of years is a joint effort by the historian Scholtens and three anthropologists - Wekker, Van Putten, and Dieko - who describe in great detail the extensive rituals following the death of Aboikoni, the gaama or paramount chief of the Saramaka. To write Gaama duumi, buta gaama (item bi 94002230) the authors had to overcome numerous obstacles in the form of civil war in the interior of Suriname and the Saramaka's historical distrust of outsiders. It is definitely worth the effort. [RH]

Three trends mark the production of works of history in the past two years. The most evident, and possibly least interesting, is the proliferation of volumes focusing on "events" in the island's history that have captured the attention of the general readership. The second is many authors' continued preference for social and economic themes legitimized by "the new history" of the 1970s and 1980s, and concomitantly the exploration of new questions within the framework of traditional political history. Although few Puerto Rican historians have consistently applied new methods of analysis to their work, the third trend - the shift toward postmodernism and cultural studies - is a promising development.

Four events stimulated the production of works related to the island's history. First and foremost was the ill-fated attempt to celebrate Columbus' landfall in 1493, which resulted in a reexamination of the early colonial period - particularly the experiences of subordinate groups - as evidenced in Alegría's account of the travels of a black conquistador (item bi 94006800); Sued-Badillo's articles on the enslavement of the indigenous peoples and Africans (items bi 93002670 and bi 89008503); Moscoso's reconstruction of a 16th-century slave uprising (item bi 94011516); and López Cantos' work on slaves in the 18th century (item bi 94011502). Also worthy of mention is Sued-Badillo's detailed recording of the activities of the San Juan cabildo in the first half of the 16th century (item ). Secondly, the announcement that a plebiscite intended to definitely settle Puerto Rico's political status would be held in 1991 and the consequent referendum that measured the population's preference regarding association with the US promoted the publication of a number of works of a strictly political nature. Cabán chose to go back to the first decades of the 20th century for insights on Puerto Rico's colonial status (item bi 91007406); Zapata-Oliveras examined the international dimension (item bi 91026812); and Marrero Betancourt traced the obstacles to self-determination to the 1930s and 1940s (item bi 94011627). Similary, the anniversaries of the births of Eugenio María de Hostos and Pedro Albizu Campos served to encourage writers to rethink the ideological impact of these influential figures. Cassá's "Sociedad e Historia en el Pensamiento de Hostos" (item bi 94011520) and López Cantos' selection of Hostos' writings (item bi 93001221) deserve mention. The reconceptualization of the edition of Hostos' complete works begun in 1989 by the University of Puerto Rico and the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (item bi 94011992) is an exciting prospect for years to come. Ferrao continued his work of demythifying Albizu Campos in an article that examines his ties to Catholicism (item bi 94011617); Rodríguez-Fatricelli reexamined Albizu's national-, metropolitan-, and international-based strategies (item bi 94011654); and Vassallo and Torres Martinó collected various writings on the nationalist leader (item bi 93001213). Finally, several works on Luis Muñoz Marín and on Arturo Morales Carrión, whose deaths closed a chapter in the island's political and intellectual history, also appeared in this period: Bird Piñero's Don Luis Muñoz Marín: el poder de la excelencia (item bi 93001216); Rosario Natal's Luis Muñoz Marín: juicios sobre su significado histórico (item bi 94006860); and Arturo Morales Carrión: homenaje al historiador y humanista (item bi 93007716).

As a legacy of the "new history" movement, microstudies on the processes related to the island's economic development during the 19th century - such as migration, slave and wage labor, and agricultural production - continued to dominate the historiography in the early 1990s. Noteworthy among these are Luque de Sánchez's "La Revolución Francesa y su Impacto Inmigratorio" (item bi 92011526); Martínez-Vergne's Capitalism in colonial Puerto Rico and "The Allocation of Liberated African Labour through the Casa de Beneficencia..." (items bi 92014246 and bi 94011507); Negrón Portillo's and Mayo Santana's La esclavitud urbana en San Juan (item bi 94006853); Pérez Vega's "Las Oleadas de Inmigración ..." (item bi 94011556); San Miguel's "La Economía de Plantación... en Vega Baja" (item bi 94011556); and Scarano's Haciendas y barracones... (item bi 94006855). Town histories sponsored by local history committees generally concentrated on the same themes. See, for example, Camuñas Madera's "Fundación y Crecimiento de Lares..." (item bi 94011509) and Santana Rabell's Historia de Vega Alta de Espinosa (item bi 93001209). Colón's Historia de Isabela... (item bi 93001214) and Martínez Fernández's San Lorenzo: notas para su historia... (item bi 93007720) are exceptions. Two traditional political studies deserve to be mentioned: Arrigoitia's work on José de Diego (item bi 93007725) and Navarro García's analysis of the governorship of Miguel de la Torre (item bi 93001217).

Most exciting are the cross-disciplinary explorations into Puerto Rico's early 20th century provided by Ramos' Amor y anarquía (item bi 94006859) and Rigau's Puerto Rico 1900 (item bi 94006798). More focused on social processes, but equally concerned with the social construction of meaning are Alvarez Curbelo's "La Mirada en la Tierra..." (item bi 94011614); Rosario Urrutia's "El Combate Prohibicionista..." (item bi 94011804); Schwartz's "The Hurricane of San Ciriaco..." (item bi 93008993); and Zavala's "El Exilio Republicano..." (item bi 93007355). Fully in the realm of cultural studies are Pérez's "La Plena Puertorriqueña..." (item bi 94011646) and Hernández's "The Origins of the Consumer Culture..." (item bi 94011618). [TMV]

No new trends of any significance are perceptible in the items reviewed here. As usual, the subsection entitled Spanish Borderlands has been graced by a small number of solid works, both monographic and synthetic; and the same can be said of the literature on the colonial period, an area of research that customarily attracts few but hard-working and dedicated scholars. In contrast, also as in the preceding biennium, the quality of material drops sharply as the focus shifts to the 19th and 20th centuries, especially the latter. The lack of perspective of many of these works of contemporary history is such that one wonders how they would look had they been written 50 years from now, or whether they would have been written at all.

Of course, also as two years ago, there are exceptions to the rule, works that rise above the mass of publications, and that, therefore, deserve special mention. In the Dominican Republic there are at least two that must be so recognized: Frank Moya Pons' study on Dominican import substitution and industrialization policies (item bi 91009437), and Mu-Kien A. Sang's scholarly biography of Buenaventura Báez (item bi 93009623).

Cubans, who have published more profusely, have written an even larger number of works that stand out as important contributions. Some of them are indeed outstanding, as the Castellanos' volumes on Cultura afrocubana (items bi 94010142 and bi 94010143) which, according to a well-known Cuban scholar, figure among the ten best Cuban books of all time. Others are perhaps not as exciting, but still must be singled out as truly meritorious. This is the case, for example, of the studies on Cuban railroads (items bi 92017212 and bi 93010289), two ground-breaking works that complement one another; and such is the case, too, of Fr. Manuel Maza's little volume on El clero cubano y la independencia (item bi 94010753), the first impartial attempt that has been made in 60 years to dispel the prejudices that have often obscured the role played by the Catholic Church in the Cuban independence movement. Of comparable value are a small number of works published in Cuba by relatively unknown scholars, among which should be mentioned as examples Gabino La Rosa Corzo's Los palenques del oriente de Cuba (item bi 94010707), and Francisco Pérez Guzmán's introduction to Loynaz del Castillo's memoirs (item bi 92017220), a noteworthy bibliographical essay.

In closing, reference must be made to the scholarship of non-native historians, some of whom have also produced very serious work. John L. Offner, for instance, has managed to offer new insights into a worn-out subject such as the Spanish American War (item bi 93009651), and J.C.M. Ogelsby has suggested new ways of interpreting the problem of Cuban independence (item bi 92010940). Significant studies on these and other topics have also been written by young Spanish scholars who deserve commendation for their balance and objectivity. [JMH]

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