[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Volume 56 / Humanities


EDWARD L. COX, Associate Professor of History, Rice University, Houston
ANNE PEROTIN-DUMON, Professor of History, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
JOHN D. GARRIGUS, Associate Professor of History, Jacksonville University
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


A SURVEY OF RECENT PUBLICATIONS indicates that interest in the British Caribbean remains healthy. Despite considerable variation in the areas and themes covered, some of the most important scholarly contributions center on immigration of East Indians and Chinese in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the more useful publications covering the earlier period. Ordahl Kupperman, for example, offers a rich portrait of the early settlers on Providence Island who strove unsuccessfully to create a thriving colony that would have matched the mainland Puritan colonies (item bi 94012312).

As in past volumes of the Handbook, slavery continues to provide serious and important discourse for a number of scholars. Stinchcombe invokes social theory to explain why sugar planters needed and sometimes created repressive governments to recruit plantation labor (item bi 96011028). Placing Caribbean slavery and emancipation within the larger world context, he concludes that freedom was not necessarily a means of achieving the goals of the Enlightenment but rather another method of social control. This important work will undoubtedly stimulate considerable debate among slave studies scholars in the foreseeable future. Viotti da Costa's sophisticated work constitutes the most thorough examination to date of the factors surrounding the slave revolt and subsequent martyrdom of Reverend John Smith (item bi 96011023). Sheridan points to the harsh conditions that slaves in the British Windward Islands endured at a crucial period in the expansion of the plantation economy (item bi 94005195). While noting the important role white women played in slave societies of the US South, Beckles calls for serious inquiries into their contributions to Caribbean slave societies (item bi 94007930).

Nineteenth-century post-slavery adjustments and tensions are addressed in some excellent works. Heuman provides fresh insights into an important episode in Jamaica's social and political history, when growing disagreements between planters and workers led to the declaration of martial law, bloody suppression of the "insurrectionists," and ultimately the imposition of Crown Colony government (item bi 96011027). Butler discusses the impact of compensated emancipation on credit, landownership, finance, and trade (item bi 96011025). While her conclusion that West India Interest inflated its claims about the disastrous impact that emancipation made on their holdings is hardly novel, Butler's study casts light on the increasing availability of credit, the involvement of women in plantation ownership, and the differences in the plight of Jamaican and Barbadian planters. Finally, Wilmot (item bi 94005398) and Craton (item bi 94015198) address the experiences and expressed priorities of ex-slaves amidst planter attempts to ensure there was an adequate supply of laborers for the demands of plantation agriculture.

Importation of workers from overseas was a frequent device that planters in some islands employed to augment their labor supply. Look Lai's magisterial study deserves special mention for its sophisticated treatment of the importation and working conditions of Asians into the region (item bi 94000809). Laurence's work, though somewhat more limited in scope, is equally important and contains excellent tables of importation statistics and other information (item bi 96011026).

A number of fine studies address the contributions of these newer immigrants to the political economy of the host countries. Ramsaran provides a penetrating analysis of the remarkable growth in the mid- and late-20th century of the important East Indian business community in Trinidad (item bi 94012335), while Kartick discusses the unsuccessful attempt of Chinese immigrants to achieve self-sufficiency in British Guiana (item bi 94007411). Both Kelvin Singh (item bi 95007247) and H.P. Singh (item bi 95007246) concentrate on the political strivings of East Indians amidst the racial tensions of Trinidad's multi-ethnic society. Finally, Mudd (item bi 94012314) and Menezes (item bi 94007403) remind us of the important contributions, especially in agriculture and mercantile activities, that East Indians made to the economic life of two colonies.

Bolland skillfully presents an excellent overview of the political disturbances that spread throughout the British Caribbean in the 1930s as a result of severe economic problems that adversely affected the disenfranchised workers (item bi 96011024). Walker-Kilkenny examines specific strike action in British Guiana (item bi 94015106), while Woolford deals artfully with the career of a Guyanese trade union leader and politician whose activism was spurred by labor discontent (item bi 94001512).

Finally, one of the most fascinating works reviewed this biennium on the modern period is authored by Fraser (item bi 95007242), who argues that US involvement in the British Caribbean did not begin in the 1960s-70s, but rather, much earlier, when the emergence of nationalist movements in the region led to British withdrawal and American assertion of hegemony. [ELC]


Three studies utilizing sophisticated methods of social analysis clarify our understanding of slave societies in the French Caribbean and French Guiana. Geggus furthers our knowledge of French slaves by looking systematically at the sex ratios, age, and ethnicity of those who left Africa and worked on plantations (item bi 96012466). Garrigus links the rise of a free-colored planter class in Saint-Domingue both to the dynamics of merchant economies on the periphery and to an official policy of race-recasting (item bi 96012431). Branson traces the history of 1,300 Saint-Domingue refugees - masters and slaves, men and women - in Philadelphia in the early 1800s (item bi 96012339). Mass labor migrations to the Caribbean are reassessed by three studies: Gemery and Horn (item bi 94008990) and Huetz de Lemps (item bi 96012255) examine 17th-century indentured servitude, while Renard covers the East Indian and African indentured servants in 19th-century Martinique and Guadeloupe (item bi 94008430).

In HLAS 54 we signalled the growing attention to small islands in the interstices of imperial powers. This trend is confirmed by in-depth research on the 18th-century plantation economy, land use and technology, ethnic composition, and culture in Henri and Denise Parisis' "Le siècle du sucre à Saint-Martin français" (item bi 95004790) and Tyson's "Cotton plantations of St. Croix" (item bi 93025056), beautifully matched by Hopkins' study of map-making (item bi 95020495). Pointing toward the same environmental history is Huyghues-Belrose's creative essay on the seaboard of French Guiana, drawing from archaeological, archival, and aerial records (item bi 95011444).

Of all periods, the 19th century is best represented in the works annotated below, in particular for Guadeloupe. Meinier has documented how Guadeloupe's first qualified midwives confronted the male medical establishment (item bi 95004883). Dominique Taffin's reconstitution of a devastating cholera epidemic provides an unusual window on its post-emancipation society and is a good example of innovative cultural history (item bi 95004885). The centrality of sugar in the political economy of 19th-century French Lesser Antilles is best illuminated by Schnackenbourg's study of Ernest Souques, the first biography of Guadeloupe's most powerful sucrier and political "boss" (item bi 96013170), and Buffon's "L'affaire Zévallos," on the first self-management experience of socialist workers in a centrale (item bi 96013516). In addition, both Buffon and Schnackenbourg describe the colonial banks which presided over the sugar economy of Guadeloupe and Martinique for a century (items bi 94007481 and bi 95004884). Corvington's last addition to his multi-volume work shows the Haitian capital in the 19th century asserting its political primacy and achieving its spatial boundaries and distinctive culture (item bi 94012882).

Contemporary history makes a breakthrough with three studies. Chathuant analyzes the intricacies of the island's domestic and international policies during World War II, and its political culture under the spell of a collaborationist ideology (item bi 95004881). Donet-Vincent shows how France's infamous penal colonies in French Guiana ended (item bi 94012877). Mam-Lam-Fouck's Histoire de la Guyane contemporaine, 1940-1982) covers départementalisation after the war, its modernization policy, new political deal, and quiet demographic revolution (item bi 94012876).

High standards in local history have been set by Lafleur's comprehensive monograph on Saint-Claude, one of Guadeloupe's oldest settlements (item bi 96010919). In "Histoire et identité des Antilles françaises," Pérotin-Dumon analyzes a century of historiography, from romanticism and positivism to the plantation society paradigm (item bi 96001724). An authoritative edition of Thomas Madiou, the founder of Haiti's national history, is a testimony to the scholarly capacity to overcome society's odds (item bi 95009220). [APD and JG]


Scholarly interest in plantations and slavery has continued unabated and has resulted in a number of important essays, most notably those by Oostindie (item bi 94015187) and Van Stipriaan (item bi 96012619), both published in English. Two important Dutch-language contributions on Suriname's slave and plantation systems by these same authors, Oostindie's Roosenburg en Mon Bijou (see HLAS 52:1572) and Van Stipriaan's Surinaams contrast (see HLAS 54:2106), have unfortunately not yet been translated into English.

The recent political past of Suriname has also generated a number of publications, many of which were included in the most recent social sciences volume, HLAS 55. Dew's The trouble in Suriname chronicles events from its 1975 independence to 1993 (see HLAS 55:3089). More analytical are two essays by Gary Brana-Shute, one covering the same period ("Suriname: A Military and its Auxiliaries," see HLAS 55:3087) and the other the Amerindian insurgency in Suriname's interior ("An Inside-Out Insurgency," see HLAS 55:782), and one by Sedoc-Dahlberg on the transition to democracy ("Suriname: the Politics of Transition from Authoritarianism to Democracy, 1988-1992," see HLAS 55:3093). Meel's article goes back further in time and discusses the late 1950s and early 1960s, arguing that this was the period when Suriname could and should have become independent ("Verbroederingspolitiek en Nationalisme," see HLAS 55:3092). Two legal scholars, Munneke and Van Aller, look at the political history and constitutional and administrative future of The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. In Van kolonie tot Koninkrijksdeel (item bi 96012020), Van Aller describes the political evolution of the islands, while in Ambtsuitoefening en onafhankelijke controle in de Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba, Munneke emphasizes the importance of administrative reforms to improve democratic control (see HLAS 55:3077).

The two most physically attractive books are by architects and discuss the buildings and lay-out of Saba and Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao. Buddingh' not only relates the architectural history of the area first settled by the Dutch and the synagoge Mikvé-Israël-Emanuel, but also provides an account of social life in early 18th-century Willemstad (item bi 96011257). Brugman uses Saba as a case study to call for more and better maintenance and preservation projects in the Caribbean (item bi 96011258). [RH]


Although the now-familiar "new" historiography of the 1970s renewed its forces in the past two years to produce several works worthy of note, it is the continued output of writings on the island's political situation that is drawing more notice. These two trends are not unrelated - each is connected to the issues brought to the fore by the Quincentenary of the "discovery" of America: constant political domination by a foreign power; limited economic development in the context of global capitalism; ethnic and class conflict resulting from continuous migratory waves, etc. As a result, books and articles on the early colonial period and the 19th century deal with the impact of Spain's economic and political control of subordinate groups in the colony: women, populations of African descent, the working class, and so forth. Studies on the 20th century have continued to examine this history of subjection, describing, analyzing, denouncing, and reminiscing about the island's political trajectory under US rule. In both sets of writings, one can detect the influence of cultural studies and literary criticism, as discourse analysis, the review of literary texts, and the inclusion of popular understandings of historical processes march onto the field of history. Several reference works also resulted from the Quincentenary outflow.

Several factors affecting Puerto Rico's economy captured the attention of "new" historians in the last two years. Customary consideration was given to sugar and coffee, the export crops that sustained the landowning class for most of the 19th century. Novel in their use of sources and theoretical perspectives were works by Ayala (item bi 96013448), Camunas Madera (item bi 94011295), and Pumarada O'Neill (item bi 94011308). The commercial establishment's links to the island's economy were revisited by Dávila Ruiz (item bi 96012812) and Cubano Iguiana (item bi 95010233), both of whom expand on traditional interpretations, in the former case, of the role of the US in Puerto Rico's commercial transactions and, in the latter, of that of Spanish-born merchants in the coffee economy. Studies of the oppressed included an outstanding contribution from González-Pérez (item bi 94011018), which argues that the near disappearance or absence of Africans in 19th-century Puerto Rican abolitionist and folkloric literature was due to the social and cultural integration of blacks and to the general desire for "whitening." In the field of women's studies, three excellent works, all three at the cutting edge of both theory and use of sources, must be mentioned: Baerga (item bi 96011018), Barceló Miller (item bi 94011017), and González García (item bi 94011282). Camunas Maderas (item bi 94005808), García (item bi 94011292), López Canto (item bi 95010238), and Picó (item bi 96011118) offer interesting attempts at exploring historical questions of recent vintage. Díaz Quiñones (item bi 93010482) and Navarro García (item bi 93013952), along with the previously mentioned González Pérez, engaged quite successfully in discourse analysis of elite immigrant groups, of the religious-political hierarchy, and of the white bourgeois, respectively.

Political writings concentrated on the 20th century. Informative, descriptive, or "objective" accounts of the relationship between the US and Puerto Rico from the standpoint of the military, of the pro-statehood party, and of commonwealth supporters can be found, respectively, in Estades Font (item bi 95003304), Meléndez (item bi 96001113), and Zapata Oliveras (item bi 94005810). A more general work, with appended primary source material, is Perusse (item bi 96011116). Empowering in tone and denunciatory in content are Carrión et al. (item bi 95010241), Fernández (item bi 96013776), García Muñiz (item bi 96013858) and Rodríguez-Fatricelli (item bi 94001739).

Puerto Rico's two elder statesmen, Luis Muñoz Marín and Luis Ferré published memoirs in 1992. The second volume of Muñoz Marín's public autobiography, published posthumously, reflects on politics and government between 1940-52 (item bi 94011289). Ferré's memoir, narrated by his daughter Rosario, an established writer herself, is more personal in terms of style and content (item bi 94011306). Five works revolving around the construction of a national identity deserve a separate category: Acosta-Belén (item bi 94002836); Flores (item bi 96011108); González (item bi 96013884), Alvarez-Curbelo and Rodríguez Castro (item bi 96011097); and Delgado Cintrón (item bi 96013682). A number of textbooks and general works deserve mention as well. Scarano (item bi 94011284) and Díaz Soler (item bi 95010682) wrote general histories, the latter covering exclusively the years of Spanish domination. Another installment of Adolfo de Hostos' Tesauro de datos históricos (item bi 95010230) covers entries up to the letter R. Scholars are also fortunate to have another volume of Eugenio María de Hostos' Obras completas available for consultation (item bi 96012837). [TMV]


The last biennium was disappointing to some extent, among other reasons because it failed to generate any major works related to the centennials of José Martí's death and the outbreak of the 1859-98 Cuban War of Independence. There continued to be almost a superabundance of materials, but the writing generally followed the pattern of previous years: no significant new trends developed, nor was there any appreciable improvement in the level of objectivity. Ideology and political preconceptions kept permeating historical output, particularly that of Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits. As always, very little appeared that is truly memorable, but this merely serves to put in relief the noteworthy exceptions.

Among the works in the general category that deserve to be singled out is Moya Pons' concise history of the Dominican Republic (item bi 95020857), which certainly fills a gap in the literature in English. Equally deserving, although for different reasons, are Levine's study of the Jewish experience in Cuba (item bi 93020854) and Baud's analysis of the problems of the Haitian-Dominican frontier (item bi 93020542). Morena Fraginals' slender volume is also an important addition to the history of Spanish immigration to Cuba (item bi 94008658).

None of the publications listed under the early colonial and late colonial headings needs to be specially mentioned, but the comparatively higher level of erudition of the works on the Spanish Borderlands ought to be highlighted. Notable among these works is the extremely useful De Soto Chronicles, an indispensable tool for researchers (item bi 94012749).

As in previous HLAS volumes, most of the entries annotated below refer to works on 19th-century topics. Thus it is not surprising that most of the above-average studies should appear in this subsection. Perhaps the most outstanding among them is the Herculean investigation of the Cuban slave market carried out by Bergad, Iglesias, and Barcia (item bi 95020214), a truly unparalleled work. Three Spanish scholars, Bahamonde, Cayuela, and Roldán de Montaud, also produced solid pieces of research on 19th-century Cuban politics, economics, and administration (items bi 94012595, bi 93010720, bi 94012595, bi 94012744, bi 93010727, and bi 93021882). These works, however, are only samples of the excellent materials generated by Spanish historians, who were also largely responsible for the publication of Ramón La Sagra y Cuba (item bi 94012662) and half a dozen serious studies on the Spanish-American War. In Cuba, the publication of extensive segments of the campaign diary of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes (the initiator of the 1868-78 War of Independence) made accessible to scholars material that had been presumed lost for over a century (item bi 96004641). This is a finding that is bound to amend, to some extent, the historical record of the war.

As to the studies on contemporary history, perhaps the most ambitious, though not necessarily the most successful, is Quirk's massive biography of Fidel Castro (item bi 94012932). Less ambitious, but more successful, is Paterson's inquiry into the reasons for Castro's triumph in Cuba, at least insofar as events in the US were concerned (item bi 95009602). But neither of these two works is as thorough as Bernardo Vega's probe into the relations between Trujillo and the US armed forces (item bi 94012664). The study, based on US and Dominican archival sources, should be required reading for all advocates of US military intervention in other countries. There are also two minor essays that, although less sweeping, are nevertheless interesting: O'Brien's discussion of General Electric's investments in Cuba (item bi 94007531) and Collazo's study of the Cuban banking crisis of 1920 (item bi 95009604). Had Collazo's approach to his subject been more balanced, his little book would have been far more thought-provoking. [JMH]

Go to the:

Begin a Basic Search | Begin an Expert Search

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian (09/01/03)