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Volume 58 / Humanities

HISTORY: THE CARIBBEAN, THE GUIANAS, AND THE SPANISH BORDERLANDS


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


THE BRITISH CARIBBEAN

AS WAS THE CASE with previous volumes of the Handbook, important trends in the publications reviewed this biennium seem to indicate that the state of writing on the English Caribbean is alive and well. While no single publication stands out as truly remarkable, there are a number of highly important studies that deserve special mention. Ramesar's Survivors of Another Crossing: A History of East Indians in Trinidad, 1880-1946 is a well-documented and cogently argued text that presents interesting portraits of East Indians in late-19th- and early-20th-century Trinidad (item #bi 97014498#), while Campbell's The Young Colonials: A Social History of Education in Trinidad and Tobago, 1834-1939 evaluates the quality of education that young Trinidadians received in the 100 years after slavery's abolition (item #bi 97008523#). B. Moore's Cultural Power, Resistance, and Pluralism: Colonial Guyana, 1838-1900 commendably treats the multi-ethnic situation in Guyana, where the pattern of divisiveness that was a distinct feature of the immediate postslavery era remained largely intact and became institutionalized by the end of the 19th century (item #bi 97001329#). In a well-researched and well-argued article, J. Scott portrays the efforts of sailors and slaves to bridge the artificial boundaries that nation-states created in the Caribbean (item #bi 97012131#), while R. McDonald's fruitful use of a stipendiary magistrate's diary provides an insider's commentary on societal strains during the apprenticeship period (item #bi 97012150#).

The belatedly maturing state of the discipline relative to the study of women and gender is amply demonstrated through the works of a number of authors. Bush (item #bi 96022970#), Jabour (item #bi 96008097#), Gaspar (item #bi 96022971#), and Beckles (item #bi 96022965#) provide interesting dimensions on slave women's experiences including resistance, work conditions, and health and reproductive matters. The 20th-century landscape is wonderfully illuminated through the contributions of Vassell (item #bi 97001326#), French (item #bi 96022200#), and Woolford (item #bi 96013723#), who point to the efforts women made to become politically active despite official policy aimed at keeping them in traditional roles. If this research trend continues, we can expect an increasing number of worthwhile works on these themes as scholars explore aspects of society that for too long have gone unattended.

In a gradual shift from previous years, renewed interest in Atlantic slavery suggests that scholars are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the state of scholarship surrounding this important, though contentious, subject. Eltis addresses the matter head-on by using his own study as a springboard for an assault on normally accepted notions regarding the volume of the trade and British involvement in it during the 17th century (item #bi 97012137#). He concludes that previous studies grossly underexaggerated the role of the British. Gragg and Burnard are more specific, limiting the focus of their useful studies to the volume and workings of the trade in early Barbados and Jamaica, respectively (items #bi 95014086# and #bi 97001735#).

The crucial transition from slavery to full freedom continues to attract the attention of scholars. In addition to McDonald's work cited above, Shelton (item #bi 96008118#) and Troillot (item #bi 97012148#) have made worthwhile contributions to our understanding of this phase of the Caribbean experience through their studies of St. Kitts and Dominica. Particularly impressive are Troillot's and McDonald's compelling arguments and their thorough use of the reports and diaries of two different stipendiary magistrates.

The experiences of newer immigrants continue to garner attention. Mention has already been made of Ramesar's important work on indigenous peoples in Trinidad (item #bi 97014498#). Mohamed's article constitutes a fascinating study of the emergence of a Portuguese business community in Guyana (item #bi 99005509#); Menezes provides a comprehensive examination of the sociopolitical history of the entire Portuguese community in the country (item #bi 97001336#); while Shepherd and Basdeo analyze the experiences of indigenous peoples on Jamaica and Guyana, respectively (items #bi 97001327# and #bi 97001335#).

Finally, efforts to place the experiences of early Bermuda colonists within the larger North American context have led to the publication over the past few years of a number of fruitful and highly important studies. Bernhard's article shows that, although slaves on Bermuda rebelled throughout the period of slavery's existence, punishment was vastly different from that experienced by their counterparts on the other Caribbean islands (item #bi 97008566#). Through the use of probate records, Metz provides a fascinating glimpse of wealth and material culture in 18th-century Bermuda (item #bi 95022002#). Similarly, Bowen and Jarvis (item #bi 95022001#) and Barka and Harris (item #bi 95022000#) have put archeological findings to excellent use, enhancing our understanding of lifestyles, food usage, and general fortifications on the island. As scholars seek to understand more fully the Bermudian variant of the early British North American colonies, we will see more in-depth studies of a colony often neglected by the literature. [ELC]


THE FRENCH AND DANISH CARIBBEAN

For scholars, guides to resources provide invaluable assistance. Historians of the Virgin Islands have given us two excellent research tools: Highfield and Tyson's Slavery in the Danish West Indies: a Bibliography (item #bi 96001144#); and its companion book of selected texts, The Kamina Folk (item #bi 96001142#). Drawing on unique sources, these works offer fresh interpretations of the institution of slavery in the 18th-century Danish West Indies. Highfield identifies patterns of accommodation and resistance (item #bi 96011343#), while Olwig examines the possible African origins of modes of social insertion (item #bi 97009474#). David's "L'histoire religieuse de Martinique au XVIIème siècle" constitutes another important research tool for the study of the Lesser Antilles and French Guiana in the 17th century (item #bi 99005881#).

Fresh avenues of research have been opened for the further exploration of 18th-century French Caribbean slave society and the impact of revolutionary upheaval. Geggus delineates the place of females within the slave population and shows that sexuality placed them in an ambiguous position with respect to their masters (item #bi 96022974#). He also skillfully traces the origins of the naming of Haiti (item #bi 98003357#). Combining the resources of social, economic, and cultural history, Garrigus describes a landed, rural, free-colored elite threatened by rising racial prejudice (item #bi 96010424#), while Pérotin-Dumon stresses the political nature of claims, strategies, and alliances made by Guadeloupian slaves and free-coloreds in the 1790s (item #bi 99006807#). Sugar and Slavery, Family and Race makes a felicitous selection in English of Dessalles' testimony on the end of a planter elite in Martinique (item #bi 99007134#). To Nelly Schmidt we owe the authoritative biography of the famous abolitionist Victor Schoelcher (item #bi 97002493#); her editing of his correspondence throws light on his private persona (item #bi 99007108#). Cottias and Fitte-Duval have begun exploring the origins of the persistent political marginalization of Caribbean women by analyzing the legal and cultural meaning of the abolition of slavery from a gender perspective (item #bi 97003037#).

Turning to other areas of research, ecobiologist Hatzenberger shows the importance of imported species in Guadeloupe's flora during the 1790s, even in woods that were not cleared (item #bi 99006791#); her study exemplifies a recent trend toward environmental history. So, too, does Bégot's sophisticated reading of reactions to the tropical landscape of Martinique in the early 1800s, exhibiting both physiocratic interest and emerging romanticism (item #bi 99006891#).

The origins of Caribbean history-writing and the meaning of the past during different eras are topics receiving more attention, as shown by three works: Buffon's insightful account of the work of Lacour, Guadeloupe's most prominent 19th-century historian (item #bi 99007099#); Pérotin-Dumon's article on 20th-century French Caribbean historiography, its plantation society paradigm, and Haitian nationalism in contrast to the quests of Martinique and Guadeloupe for identity (item #bi 99005623#); and Nesbitt's survey on the treatment of Delgrès, a key military figure in the Guadeloupe uprising of 1802, in historical and political literature (item #bi 99005622#).

To the historiography of the 20th century, a lasting contribution has been made by Dash's Haiti and the United States: National Stereotypes and the Literary Imagination (item #bi 99005615#), which places Haitian and US perceptions of each other in political context. By focusing on the Church in politics, Chathuant documents a shady page of Guadeloupe's past during World War II (item #bi 96010468#). Finally, we are grateful to publishing houses that have reprinted a number of classics, each with a scholarly introduction; in particular: Capt. Bruneau's Histoire véritable de certains voyages périlleux et hasardeux sur la mer, 1599, the oldest narrative of a French voyage to the Caribbean (item #bi 99005771#); Baron de Wimpffen's travel in St. Domingue at the end of the ancien régime, Haïti au XVIIIe siècle (item #bi 97008239#); and Lacroix's lucid memoirs of the war of Haitian independence, La Révolution de Haïti (item #bi 97014481#). [APD & JDG]


THE DUTCH CARIBBEAN

In the last decade or so, important gaps in the extant historiography have been filled by a remarkable number of informative dissertations on various socioeconomic and cultural topics. During the last couple of years this trend has been even more pronounced: not one senior scholar has recently produced a monograph of any historiographical importance.

Archeological studies of the precolumbian period on the Dutch Caribbean islands form one of the most fruitful areas of research. See for example Versteeg and Ruiz (HLAS 55:521) and Versteeg and Rostain (HLAS 57:336) for the results of excavations on Aruba.

As expected, slavery and plantation studies continue to dominate the historiographical scene. In his dissertation, Henk den Heijer studies an underexposed part of Dutch economic history: the vicissitudes of the West India Company (WIC) in West Africa (item #bi 99003837#). He challenges the notions that the slave trade was the WIC's raison d'etre and that the company was a commercial failure. Nevertheless, the WIC did transport many slaves to the Caribbean and Lenders' revised dissertation describes the efforts of the Moravians to preach the gospel to them (see HLAS 56:1837). Not all the Caribbean islands depended on plantations, as is shown by Luc Alofs, who chronicles slavery on Aruba (see HLAS 56:1805). A volume edited by Gert Oostindie for the first time examines antislavery and abolitionism in the Netherlands and the Dutch colonies in the Americas, Asia, and Africa (see HLAS 56:2143). In yet another dissertation, Ellen Klinkers looks at the transition from slavery to apprenticeship to full freedom in Suriname (item #bi 99004082#). The final volume on slavery is very different in character: Elmer Kolfin studies the visual representation of slavery in Suriname by analyzing contemporary engravings, lithos, and drawings (item #bi 99003838#).

Three studies fill gaps in the field of cultural history. Rutgers' revised dissertation is an extensive cultural history of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba concentrating on oral and written literature (item #bi 00005663#). Rosalia has written a dissertation on the repression of tambú in Curaçao and the impact of this censorship on Afro-Antillian life (item #bi 99003804#). Meel has done a masterful job editing, annotating, and introducing the writings of Jan Voorhoeve, a linguist, anthropologist, and cultural activist concerned with Suriname (item #bi 99004433#).

Two general histories of Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba are also reviewed this biennium. The history of Suriname by journalist Hans Buddingh' is not an unqualified success (item #bi 99003779#). Geschiedenis van de Antillen [History of the Antilles] thematically introduces the history of the six Dutch Antillian islands (item #bi 99003796#). This work is the sibling of Geschiedenis van Suriname [History of Suriname] (1993), which covers Suriname's history (see HLAS 55:4696). Finally, the Univ. of Suriname has launched a new journal entitled Journal of Social Sciences that includes English-language essays on the humanities and social sciences. [RH]


PUERTO RICO

With the recent centennial of the US invasion of Puerto Rico and Cuba, Puerto Rican historians decreased their output of studies on labor, migration, and status; made apparently permanent inroads into new research areas, such as women, urban life, and racial politics; and prepared for the plethora of works on discourse analysis that will ensue as the colonial relationship is re-examined.

Traditional themes continue to capture the attention of both established historians and some newcomers. Migration studies in the past few years include the conventional narratives of European insertion into the island's economy, such as works by Chinea (item #bi 96010504#), Cifre de Loubriel (item #bi 97001285#), and Casablanca (item #bi 97001277#), as well as interdisciplinary work on Puerto Rican migration to the US, namely The Commuter Nation: Perspectives on Puerto Rican Migration edited by Torre, Rodíguez Vecchini, and Burgos (item #bi 97001293#). The ever-present status issue is covered by Castro and Cubano Iguina, who discuss the economic considerations of 19th-century party affiliates (items #bi 97011851# and #bi 96001474#), while d'Alzina Guillermety looks at the juridical aspects of the autonomist position (item #bi 97001275#). Examining the more recent political scene, Mari Bras and Morris offer explanations for the intensity, if not the popularity, of the separatist position (items #bi 97001276# and #bi 97017505#). Almost as if to revive labor studies, Pérez Velasco and Baronov produced a lengthy unannotated bibliography of sources on the late-19th- and 20th-century labor movement (item #bi 97009587#).

In response to changing theoretical tendencies and to fill existing historical lacunae, a number of new themes have appeared over the past few years. In the field of women's studies, Barceló Miller (item #bi 97017509#) and Colón, Mergal, and Torres (item #bi 97001289#) have published, respectively, a narrowly focused account of the women's suffrage movement and a general history of women's political and economic participation in the early-20th century. Urban life, in its many manifestations but localized in San Juan, is explored by Ayala in his survey of masonic lodges (item #bi 94005811#), by Rivera Rivera in her narrative of the successes and failures of the charity system (item #bi 97009579#), by Kinsbruner in his exploration of racial prejudice through housing patterns (item #bi 97009580#), by Matos Rodríguez in his rich description of working class daily life (item #bi 97011754#), and by Mayo Santana, Negrón Portillo, and Mayo López in their ongoing analysis of the lives of slaves and freedmen and women (item #bi 97017505#). The last three works are outstanding in their use of sources, their insights into daily life, and their examination of the broader Latin American and Caribbean context.

As has been the case for several years, discourse analysis, subaltern studies, and other theoretical perspectives have promoted a rereading of familiar sources and revisiting of old affairs. Picó (item #bi 99004122#), Matos Rodríguez (item #bi 97006925#), Clark (item #bi 95014459#), Rigau-Pérez (item #bi 95018600#), and Santiago-Valles (item #bi 96024954#) have probed texts to explore such varied topics as the desires and expectations of common people, the impressions of a traveler, the debate over prohibition, the force of authoritarian politics, and resistance on the part of the marginalized classes. The status controversy has also benefitted from discourse analysis, less so in García-Passalacqua's Hegemón: otredad y mismidad de la otra cara (item #bi 97001288#), and enormously in Doris Sommer's "Puerto Rico a flote: desde Hostos hasta hoy" (item #bi 99004169#), an imaginative celebration of the Puerto Rican capacity for keeping options open. Finally, Fernández-Aponte (item #bi 97001282#) and García (item #bi 99004079#) offer a glimpse of the quality that one hopes will mark the inevitable copious production in the next few years. [TMV]


CUBA, THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, AND THE SPANISH BORDERLANDS

The material received for review this biennium exceeded 350 items, indeed an avalanche of historical writings, published sources, and historiographical essays. Unfortunately, quality did not entirely measure up to quantity and, for this reason, in addition to space limitations, only a portion of the items received will be reviewed here.

Despite the outpouring of average or below average publications, the biennium was graced by the appearance of the first biographies of Ernesto Che Guevara worthy of that name (items #bi 97013299# and #bi 97015399#). Curiously enough, both biographers, Jon Lee Anderson and Jorge Castañeda, are men who are sympathetic to the almost mythical guerrilla fighter. Both nonetheless resisted the temptation to write just another panegyric and honestly provided the readers with the pertinent facts, regardless of their nature. In due time their works will surely be superseded by others based on a broader documentation and a longer perspective. But both have made important contributions to the largely undistinguished historiography of the Cuban Revolution.

Significant biographies were also written on other figures, such as the legendary Spanish conqueror Hernando de Soto and his almost 4,000-mile expedition across the Southeastern US in the 16th century. With his monumental study, Hudson has made it possible for the first time to map De Soto's daring journey with a reasonable degree of approximation (item #bi 97013300#). Duncan, for his part, has produced the best biography of De Soto to date (item #bi 97012459#). Future investigators will no doubt improve on these two books, but these have set the current standard.

Those interested in pre-Castro Cuba will have to take into account Salwan's study of the corruption of the Cuban press (item #bi 96007341#), as well as Carr's article on sugar mill occupations and Soviets in Cuba after the 1933 fall of the Machado dictatorship (item #bi 96008189#). These two are noteworthy publications that certainly deserve to be singled out.

At the same level, generally speaking, is the output of Spanish historians, who have continued to examine various aspects of 19th-century Cuba. One of the most interesting of these studies is Paz Sánchez's long article on the inauspicious beginning of the 1895-98 Cuban War of Independence in the western half of the island (item #bi 97006311#). Nationalistic Cuban historians probably will not be pleased with some of Paz's disclosures, as they will most certainly reject the findings of Castellano Gil in his volume on Spanish Masonry in Cuba (item #bi 97012490#). Castellano, a member of the Center for Historical Studies on the Spanish Masonry, dismisses as tendentious and politically inspired most of what Cubans have written on the subject. As his conclusions gain currency, the history of the Masonry in Cuba will have to be rewritten. His work is based on a doctoral dissertation and his scholarly apparatus is impressive. No Cuban has ever researched the subject as thoroughly as he has.

In addition to the works of the Spaniards, valuable contributions were also made by Father Manuel Maza, S.J. (item #bi 95019726#) and Father José Luis Sáez, S.J. (items #bi 97004644#, #bi 97001188#, and #bi 95019726#), who have persevered in their efforts to fill gaps and break new ground in the histories of the Catholic Church in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. This biennium, however, they have not been alone and have been joined by Martínez-Fernández, who published a conscientious article on Church-state relations and nationality in 19th-century Dominican Republic (item #bi 95010693#). This is indeed a most welcome development. [JMH]


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