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Volume 60 / Humanities


EDWARD L. COX, Associate Professor of History, Rice University, Houston
ANNE PÉROTIN-DUMON, Professor of History, Universidad Jesuita Alberto Hurtado
JOHN D. GARRIGUS, Professor of History, Jacksonville University
JOSÉ M. HERNÁNDEZ, Professor Emeritus of History, Georgetown University
ROSEMARIJN HOEFTE, Head, Department of Caribbean Studies, Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology, The Netherlands
TERESITA MARTÍNEZ-VERGNE, Professor of History, Macalester College
FÉLIX V. MATOS-RODRÍGUEZ, Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College


SCHOLARLY INTEREST IN THE BRITISH CARIBBEAN during the past biennium remained strong. A decline in the number of truly excellent monographs published has been compensated for by the emergence of edited volumes and highly original and important articles in major scholarly journals. Taken together, they reveal a renewed interest in familiar territory and recognition of the need to navigate previously uncharted waters.

Slavery and plantation studies continue to dominate the scholarly literature. The richness and scope of the collection of essays in Craton's Empire, Enslavement, and Freedom open the way for others to analyze more fruitfully the identities and ideologies of different hegemonic groups in the region over time and place (item #bi 99009233#). Drawing heavily on wills, inventories, and contemporary accounts, Welch provides useful glimpses of slaveholding patterns and slave life, showing planter assumptions and the recreation of slave communities in the urban context (item #bi 99008974#). Handler offers a fresh perspective on the nuanced nature of marronage on Barbados over time (item #bi 98006218#), while Beckles focuses on the attitudes of the slave elite towards slave insurrections (item #bi 98012812#).

Military history has been the subject of several highly significant studies. In an important break with the past, though, the authors beautifully combine social history with the traditional institutional history. Buckley's path-breaking works on the British army in the Caribbean show the social and political implications of war and the military presence in the region (items #bi 99009232# and #bi 97017431#). Concentrating on World War I, Howe examines health factors affecting soldiers (item #bi 2001002661#), and how the selection process exposed the prevalence of diseases in West Indian societies, leading to renewed efforts by colonial authorities to improve health conditions in the colonies (item #bi 99004690#). Combined with the useful article by Simmonds on health factors affecting Jamaican slaves (item #bi 2001003758#), we see an emerging emphasis on health and epidemiology in British Caribbean history. Healey reminds us of how racial considerations by British officials and military leaders adversely affected the Caribbean Regiment's ability to see military action in World War II (item #bi 00003569#).

In a continuation of a trend noted in previous HLAS volumes, women's history and gender studies continue to attract scholars. Shepherd examines the important role indentured Indian women played in Jamaica's economy (item #bi 99006467#), while Reddock's work on Trinidad points to considerable overlap in the private and public realms as planters supported and reinforced the notion of male dominance (item #bi 99006466#). Through an examination of plantation inventories, Mathurin-Mair notes the centrality of slave women's contributions to the Jamaican economy (item #bi 99006442#). Hutton's fascinatingly important study of women in Jamaica's Morant Bay Rebellion reminds us of the active participation of women in efforts to enhance their political and social well being (item #bi 98009340#). Finally, Saunders brings contemporary women to the forefront by presenting an excellent portrait gallery of Bahamian women who were leaders in their chosen fields (item #bi 98009062#).

While previous volumes have shown a predisposition of scholars to concentrate on the African and Indian dimensions of British Caribbean history, the current biennium has witnessed a felicitous shift highlighting other minorities. Johnson and Watson have edited a volume of highly original essays that reintroduces the white minority into the mainstream of scholarly discourse by showing the ways in which it maintained its elite position by uniting its ethnic and social groups whenever its dominance was challenged (item #bi 99009268#). The behavior of different groups of whites is the subject that Acheson engages quite skillfully when, debunking the myth of the "nice" slaveholder, he shows that in the Caribbean the Irish were equally as harsh as masters as the English and Scottish (item #bi 99009236#). Look Lai's excellent collection of important documents relating to the Chinese presence in the Caribbean promises to enhance considerably research and writing on this significant group (item #bi 99009231#). [EC]


What has been often remarked of French Caribbean and Guyanese culture is also true of its historical research: isolation and fragmentation translate into a great diversity of approaches combining various intellectual traditions.

In the publications annotated for HLAS 60, three trends are noticeable: the bulk of the research concentrates on the 19th century (as elsewhere in the Caribbean) with Haiti coming at the forefront; an Atlantic and comparative framework is gaining ground; and the liveliness of local historical research in historical and genealogical societies is bringing together the public and academics.

Among the increasingly abundant scholarship on the 19th-century Caribbean, Sheller's recent publications stand out for their breadth and creativity: "The Army of Sufferers" and Democracy after Slavery analyze a 19th-century political culture of resistance built by peasants and their idea of a democracy (items #bi 00006734# and #bi2002005376#, respectively). "The 'Haitian Fear'" reveals connections with Jamaican blacks (item #bi2003005264#). "Sword-Bearing Citizens" is a seminal reflection on the militarized and masculine ethos inherited by the Haitian nation from its veterans of the wars of independence (item #bi 98010104#).

While the importance of approaching the French-speaking Caribbean and Guyana within a broader framework has long been advocated, the benefit of such a perspective is now apparent in works mentioned below on labor-migrations, the church's missionary task, and peasants' political culture. La ville aux Îles by Pérotin-Dumon resurrects a multifaceted colonial Caribbean port-city that had been downplayed by the "plantation society" approach (item #bi2001003508#). This urban focus situates the Caribbean port-city within the range of similar settlements in the Americas and explains its role in the world of Atlantic trade, culture, and miscegenation. The same comprehensive treatment is applied to the beginnings of French, English, and Dutch settlements in the Caribbean from 1550–1650 (items #bi2003004763# and #bi2002000667#). Accounts of experimental research in tropical agronomy (items #bi 00003562# and #bi2003004787#) and state-sponsored scientific missions (items #bi2003004783# and #bi2003004790#) also reveal this interconnected world in which Caribbean colonies figured prominently. Two important compilations edited by Geggus and by Geggus and Gaspar demonstrate that the impact of the French and Haitian revolutions is best understood comparatively (items #bi2002004897# and #bi2003004789#, respectively). The works are particularly valuable for their inclusion of the Spanish Caribbean, Louisiana, and Florida.

Increasing interest in the formation of Creole identity across racial lines in Saint-Domingue can be seen in Ghachem (item #bi2003004779#) and Garrigus (item #bi2003004775#). Perhaps the most important work in this line of research is King's Blue Coat or Powdered Wig (item #bi2002000665#). Using thousands of notarized contracts, King advances the important hypothesis that prerevolutionary Saint-Domingue had a free colored "military leadership" class, with its own social networks separate from white colonists and the colony's wealthy free colored planters.

Almost alone in the field among English-language scholars, Geggus continues to enlarge our understanding of the slave population of prerevolutionary Saint-Domingue, describing slave life on different kinds of plantations (items #bi2003004777# and #bi 00006115#), and situating the French slave trade to this colony within the larger Atlantic context (item #bi2003004741#). Geggus has also written one of the most useful surveys of historiography on the Haitian Revolution (item #bi2003004778#).

Libraries will want to acquire several recent publications of use to researchers. Quite a few come from the region: 17th-century original narrative De Wilde (Martinique) (item #bi2003004761#), a new critical edition of Father Breton's Dictionnaire Cara&3x00EF;be-fran&3x00E7;ais (Guadeloupe) (item #bi2003004762#), and Carstens' superb description of St. Thomas in Early Danish Times (Virgin Islands) (item #bi 98011856#). The CTHS Éditions, the official publisher for the federation of French historical societies, now includes the French Caribbean (item #bi2003004758#). Dion and Tizon-Germe produced a Répertoire numérique immensely helpful for research in notarial archives housed at the French National Repository of Overseas Archives (item #bi2003004738#). Among local publishers committed to history, CARE stands out for producing books that are models of both critical editions and works of art (items #bi2003005274# and #bi2003005280#).

Departmental archives are important promoters of historical research and publications as shown by the 2001 exhibition organized by the Archives of Martinique (item #bi2003004739#). To commemorate the Montagne-Pelée's volcanic eruption (1902), an Internet site created jointly by genealogical and historical societies with the departmental archive is digitizing privately and publicly held testimonies about this traumatic experience. A genealogical association with a historical bent which attracts an enlightened and ethnically diverse public, Généalogie et Histoire de la Caraïbe, issues a publication under the name of the organization. The articles are challenging our acceptance that slaves' descendants cannot know their ancestors, by producing genealogies that reveal intricate patterns of white and nonwhite branches and elaborate strategies of social integration in racist societies (item #bi2003004754#). This is a promising development and quite unique in the Caribbean. More information about the association and some full-text issues of their publication are available at their website: http://www.ghcaraibe.org/.

The themes of migration and ethnicity run throughout Caribbean history. Recent scholarship has been focused on minorities and "intermediary groups." Topics include occupations and demography, and also collective identity, meaningful experience, and political discourse.

Plummer's Between Privilege and Opprobrium provides an insightful view of Jewish trade communities, from colonial (Portuguese Jews from Bordeaux) to modern times (German and Palestinian Jews) (item #bi 98009213#). Garrigus locates the struggle for integration by Jews in Saint Domingue into the political agenda of a prerevolutionary French world—the formation of a nation's body of citizens (item #bi2003004774#). The social contours and culture of the free-colored group in Saint Domingue are being increasingly documented (items #bi2003004766# and #bi2002000665#). Garrigus' latest research on the group draws on a gender perspective to tie together convincingly the redrawing of the "color line" by white Creoles, free-coloreds' political struggle for civil rights, and the colony's politics at the end of the ancien régime (items #bi2003004775# and #bi2003004776#). Lafleur, who pioneered research on Protestant and Jewish minorities, documents the place of Lebanese and Syrians in the 20th-century economies of Guadeloupe and Martinique, using oral testimonies to trace their evolving sense of identity (item #bi2003004743#). A comprehensive study of 19th-century indentured labor migrations to the French Caribbean by Northrup substantially revises previous interpretations, which treated indentured labor as another form of bondage (item #bi2003005260#). White colonists—always a demographic minority—are receiving more attention: immigrants from the southwest of France (the single most important group), and the diaspora caused by the Revolution (items #bi 00000059# and #bi2003004784#, respectively). Diplomatic, political, economic, and religious history are not particularly "trendy" in general. Yet they fare surprisingly well here.

In recent years, historians have reassessed Haiti's 19th- and 20th-century history of dependence and dictatorship. Un siècle de relations financières by Blancpain shows the debt contracted toward the former metropolis in exchange for Haiti's independence was only marginal economically but decisive in fostering foreign intervention (item #bi2003004729#). New light is shed on the period of US occupation by Haïti et les États-Unis 1915–1934, which looks at presidential politics (item #bi2003005270#) and Taking Haiti in which Renda captures the experience of soldiers in the occupation force (item #bi2003005279#). Papers from the US naval mission open up unusual vistas on Duvalierism (item #bi 00007287#), a political phenomenon that receives its best treatment to date in Etzer's Le pouvoir politique (item #bi2003005271#).

More facets of 19th-century politics and political culture in Guadeloupe and Martinique are being explored: France's reformist agenda and the stubborn resistance enlightened officials met from the oligarchy; (items #bi2002000663# and #bi2003005267#) the steady ascent of "men of color" into the islands' political institutions and politics from the 1840s onwards (items #bi2003005252# and #bi2003005257#); women's political hopes and actions in the years surrounding 1848 (item #bi2003005261#); and emotional and personalistic mechanisms of allegiance toward local caciques like Légitimus, Guadeloupe's first black representative in the French parliament (item #bi2003005253#).

The commemoration of 1848 spurred methodical research on French abolitionism, beginning with its emergence with Abbé Grégoire and Sonthonax during the French Revolution (item #bi 00007289#). With French Anti-Slavery, Jennings has written the definitive study on abolitionist societies (and the Creole lobbies that relentlessly opposed them) (item #bi2003005257#). Schmidt has edited an authoritative collection of writings by French abolitionists: Abolitionnistes de l'esclavage (item #bi2003005265#). Creative research is emerging on the views whites held in the 19th century about colonial society and environment, and their various blends of racist ideology, particularly that of Corre (items #bi2002000660#, #bibi2003005255#, and #bi2003005273#).

The final century of the sugar industry and its aftermath are particularly well documented in the case of Guadeloupe. Schnakenbourg's most recent studies depict an inexorable worsening from one world financial crisis to the next in spite of major technological advances and new heights of sugar production (items #bi2003004752#, #bi2003004750#, and #bi2003005262#). Research revealing the diligent and creative strategies employed by small peasants and the French government in the 20th century also emphasizes the impossible challenge of integrating a small island's economy into a powerful European one (items #bi2003004734# and #bi2003006201#).

As shown in Delisle's Histoire religieuse (item #bi2003004736#), church history increasingly focuses on a second missionary age beginning in 1848 with the creation of dioceses (item #bi2003004736#), and the controversial tasks of catechizing and educating "new citizens" as well as indentured workers (item #bi2003005250#). There is also valuable research on early female missionary work in Guyana (items #bi 99006455# and #bi 98016308#). [JG and APD]

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