[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

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


Volume 62 / Humanities

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

JORGE L. CHINEA, Director, Center for Chicano-Boricua Studies, Wayne State University
EDWARD L. COX, Associate Professor of History, Rice University, Houston
JOHN D. GARRIGUS, Associate Professor of History, University of Texas at Arlington
JOSÉ M. HERNÁNDEZ, Professor Emeritus of History, Georgetown University
ROSEMARIJN HOEFTE, Head, Department of Collections Coordinator, Caribbean Expert Center, KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies
TERESITA MARTÍNEZ-VERGNE, Independent Scholar, Washington, DC

THE BRITISH CARIBBEAN

SCHOLARLY WRITING ON THE BRITISH CARIBBEAN continues to blossom. This cycle witnessed the publication of a number of highly commendable monographs and edited volumes that reveal maturity of the field. At least four excellent books chart new ground by pointing to previously unexplored territory in the field of Caribbean history. Taken together, the publications over the past biennium have added a great deal of sophistication to a growing field.

Slavery and race relations continue to attract the attention of scholars who seek to elucidate an important aspect of the Caribbean's past. Trevor Burnard provides a masterly treatment of the dynamics of race, power, and social conditions in 18th-century Jamaica (item #bi2004003581#), while Whittington Johnson's excellently crafted monograph examines the slow, gradual process from slavery to freedom when Bahamians clung doggedly, though ultimately unsuccessfully, to slavery despite Britain's urgings for change (item #bi2002005378#). Pedro Welch's superior analysis of the port city of Bridgetown, Barbados, elucidates the opportunities available to slaves and former slaves in an urban environment and demonstrates the differences between their experiences and those of their rural counterparts (item #bi2005000837#). Welch also concludes that free colored women on Barbados were able to improve their lives economically by successfully negotiating the limited space afforded them as shopkeepers, innkeepers, and casual laborers (item #bi2002005096#).

This biennium also saw the publication of two exceptional books on the Maroons of Jamaica. Karla Gottlieb (item #bi2002005379#) makes a passionate call for scholars to recognize the superior contributions of "Queen Nanny" as an 18th-century freedom fighter. Werner Zips (item #bi2002005370#) uses written and oral sources to elucidate important aspects of the military skills and social organization and structure of the Maroons, with Zips showing Marcus Garvey's impact on the group in the 20th century.

Postemancipation societies are covered in a number of important works. Roderick McDonald's edited and annotated version of Stipendiary Magistrate John Anderson's journal (item #bi2003001424#) during his residence on St. Vincent between 1836–38 brings us face to face with the challenges ex-slaves and ex-masters encountered while navigating the treacherous terrain of apprenticeship. Hilary Beckles (item #bi2005000948#) lucidly points out that pre-emancipation rules, assumptions, and structures remained firmly entrenched on the Barbadian postemancipation landscape, ensurimng that ex-slaves remained dependent on the plantation system well into the 20th century when worker protest belatedly induced change.

Various aspects of the Indian and Chinese presence during and after indentureship are elegantly covered in a number of monographs. Clem Seecharan's (item #bi2003001429#) first-rate study of the activities of Bechu reminds us of the radical nature of the Indian response to the harsh conditions under which they labored. Further, it suggests a long tradition of Indian radicalism and activism that antedates what has previously been assumed. Through the history of his own family, Lal Balkaran (item #bi2002005373#) fruitfully explores the impact of indentured experiences on traditional Indian family structures and culture. Laxmi Mansingh and Ajai Mansingh's (item #bi2002005361#) effort to reconstruct the experiences of Indians in Jamaica is evident in the useful interviews that he conducted with a number of families. His analysis of their efforts to retain important aspects of their Indian culture suggests tensions between Indian cultural nationalism and the larger Jamaican nationalism. Finally, Trev Sue-A-Quan's (item #bi2005000944#) wonderfully important collection of stories relating to the experiences of Chinese immigrants comes as a reminder of the importance of providing voice to the various population groups if we are to enhance our understanding of the entire immigrant experience.

Aspects of nation-building are covered in some excellent monographs. Clarence Alfred (item #bi2002005353#) exposes the venom with which the government of Forbes Burnham in Guyana ruthlessly silenced its political opponents, while John Hackshaw (item #bi2002006752#) provides a more general treatment of the growth of nationalism and the democratic struggle in Trinidad in the 20th century. Maurice St. Pierre's (item #bi2002005038#) useful analysis of resistance efforts to Imperial rule on Guyana beautifully uses political theory to explain the conflict that was often present in the Imperial-colonial relationship, while the contributions of Sir Ellis Clarke to the political development of Trinidad and Tobago are wonderfully chronicled and evaluated by Timothy Seigler (item #bi2005000828#) and George Collymore (item #bi2002005351#).

Two excellent monographs deserve special mention because of the void they fill in the current historiography and their contribution in pointing the way toward future research. Bonham Richardson's (item #bi2004003583#) analysis of the impact of fires on the history of the British Caribbean not only points to the nature of race relations that precipitated deliberate fire-setting as a form of protest, but suggests the need for other studies on the region's environmental history. Matthew Mulcahy's highly innovative, timely, and original work demonstrates the shaping influences of hurricanes on the lives and environment of colonial British Caribbean residents (item #bi2006000514#). [ELC]

THE FRENCH CARIBBEAN AND FRENCH GUIANA

The most important historical work published in this field during the past two years has focused on the revolutionary age. Three themes stand out: important new works of scholarship and synthesis were published on the Haitian Revolution, most notably in the US. At the same time, a number of important historical documents were published, aimed at both researchers and university students. Finally, the emergence of a new generation of academic historians and the commitment of local presses to disseminating their research resulted in new and important scholarship on the Lesser Antilles and Guyane, for the 18th century especially.

The 2004 bicentennial of Haitian independence from France produced a group of important books and articles. The various academic conferences held in France, the US, and the Caribbean commemorating the anniversary appears to have increased scholarly awareness of and interest in the Revolution. David Geggus' Haitian Revolutionary Studies gathered and updated some of the most important articles by this prolific scholar whose work dominates the field (item #bi2006001514#). The collection also contains new research by Geggus. Laurent Dubois' synthetic and widely praised narrative Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution has created a broader audience for the Revolution, with a reinterpretation that places it at the center of the history of global human rights (item #bi2006001509#). Jeremy Popkin's article on captivity narratives during the Haitian Revolution (item #bi2006001529#) is an important contribution to the literature, and also marks the way that colonial events are attracting the attention of prominent students of the French Revolution.

Historically, scholars in France have been less likely to celebrate Haitian independence than to study the flaws in colonial relations that led to this rupture. A collection of conference papers on the 1802 re-establishment of slavery in the French colonies edited by Yves Bénot and Marcel Dorigny examines this critical moment that led to Haitian independence (item #bi2006001503#). With contributors from among the most prominent historians of this period in the US, France, Canada, and the Caribbean, the volume illuminates the rise of planter interests in the early Napoleonic period, as well as the legacy of these years for future French colonialism.

During the biennial new collections of primary sources appeared in print. Bernard Camier and Marie-Christine Hazaël-Massieux's discovery and republication of the creole-language version of Rousseau's Le divin du village is one notable event (item #bi2006001505#). Jacques de Cauna's volume on Toussaint Louverture collects important primary texts and excerpts of secondary work on this figure (item #bi2006001520#). Laurent Dubois and John Garrigus published a collection of translated primary texts from the Revolution in Saint-Domingue and Guadeloupe designed for university classrooms, the first anthology of its kind to be widely distributed (item #bi2006002076#). Prerevolutionary diplomatic correspondence illuminating relations between Saint-Domingue and Santo Domingo has been published in the Dominican Republic (items #bi2006001526# and #bi2001002159#). Guadeloupe's active historical society has released a collection of primary documents from France's 1802 re-establishment of slavery on that island, with commentary by some of the most distinguished scholars of the period (item #bi2006001501#). Marie Polderman provides critical notes on the essential manuscript history of French Guiana written by a colonial doctor in the second half of the 18th century (item #bi2006002069#).

Although the histories of French Guiana, Martinique, and Guadeloupe are little known in the Anglophone world, except to specialists, the biennium saw a host of new volumes on the subject, especially by local presses. The best of them were drawn from doctoral dissertations, adapted for publication. Laurent Dubois' much celebrated A Colony of Citizens has already awakened more North American historians to Guadeloupe's experiment with slave emancipation and universal citizenship in the 1790s, and France's severe repression of that experiment (item #bi2006001508#). While Dubois links this small island to hemispheric themes, Frédéric Régent, in Esclavage, métissage, liberté, plunges deep into Guadeloupe's notarial archives (item #bi2006001530#), creating an unprecedentedly rich portrait of social relations before, during, and after the Revolution. Focusing on the century before the Revolution, one of Martinique's most prominent historians, Léo Elisabeth, illuminates the ways in which racial prejudice did and did not divide that island's free population (item #bi2004002063#). Like her colleagues working on the more intensively studied Lesser Antilles, Marie Polderman reveals that creole society in 18th-century French Guiana was far more complex than its racial categories would suggest (item #bi2006001528#). [JDG]

PUERTO RICO

The first few years of the new millennium have seen a diverse stream of books and articles on Puerto Rican history. Sued Badillo convincingly shows that Puerto Rico (along with Cuba and Hispaniola) produced a large quantity of gold around 1500–50, challenging previous scholarship assigning the islands an economically peripheral role during the Caribbean phase of the Spanish colonial expansion into the Americas (item #bi2005002198#). The 17th-century writings of Bishop Damián López de Haro, better known for his 1644 Carta a Juan Díez de la Calle, expose several claims either erroneously attributed or not properly credited to the Spanish friar (item #bi2005002135#). A brief, sweeping essay sketches the institutional subordination of women and the subaltern activism of several female Creole luminaries (item #bi2002004900#). Capt. Antonio de los Reyes Correa, a revered Creole official who foiled a 1702 British attempt to ransack the coastal town of Arecibo, is the subject of De Jesús Rodríguez's biographical and genealogical profile (item #bi2005002141#).

The pluricultural ethnic and racial composition of the population of Spanish colonial Puerto Rico continues to draw interest, as shown by Chinea (items #bi2005004204#, #bi2005004209#, and #bi2005004219#) and Sonesson (item #bi2005002139#). Grosfoguel inserts emigration, a standard staple of investigation, into its wider Antillean and global context (item #bi2006001755#). The urban historiography of the island is centered on broad studies of specific towns. Quintero-Rivera analyzes how a militant, autonomous citizenry shaped Ponce's unique social, cultural, and political history (item #bi2005002192#). By contrast, Lluch Mora emphasizes Iberian contributions and selective institutional developments in Ponce, a perspective also shared by Negroni's book on Yauco (item #bi2005002134#). Marrero criticizes the elitist, Hispanophile, imbalanced bent of previous histories of Morovis (item #bi2005002142#). Rosario Natal provides a biographical profile of the residents of Villalba (item #bi2005002142#) and chronicles the post-1940s modernization of Ponce (item #bi2005002193#), while Sepúlveda Rivera addresses state initiatives that have an impact on San Juan's historical district. Nonurban topics include the rise of Puerto Rico's working class from 1815 to 1910 (item #bi2005002140#), a history of hacienda "La Enriqueta" (item #bi2006001756#), and the mechanization of sugar plantations in the late-19th century, with special attention to Hormigueros' hacienda "Josefa" (item #bi2005002138#).

Two publications on the 1898 US invasion of the island are particularly noteworthy because of their unconventional methodologies and implications. One is Dávila's multiarchival examination of the 1824 landing of armed US sailors in Fajardo, which suggests linkages to 1898 and beyond (item #bi2005002137#). The other is the recently uncovered 1898 novel Guerra, which mirrors the political disenfranchisement of Creoles in the transition from Spanish to US colonial rule (item #bi2006002077#). A large body of work addresses the impact of the US on land policy, public education, language, citizenship, identity, militarization, electoral politics, the Catholic Church, women, public health policy, agricultural decline of food crops, and the persecution of independence supporters (#bi2005002136#, #bi2003006884#, #bi2005002145#, #bi2003000054#, #bi2003000046#, #bi2005002221#, #bi2003006959#, #bi2003000049#, #bi2003000063#, #bi2002004739#, #bi2003000051#, #bi2002004742# and #bi2003000060#). Of special significance to politics inside and outside of Puerto Rico is the controversy surrounding the US navy's use of Vieques for bombing exercises (item #bi2006001754#).

A number of intellectually stimulating narratives deal with the transformation of Puerto Rican culture and identity after 1898. Rodríguez Juliá's San Juan: ciudad soñada takes the reader on a tour of the capital, examining the rampant Americanization through an autobiographical and postmodernist lens (item #bi2005002148#). García Passalacqua's Afirmación nacional boldly argues for the historical existence of a Puerto Rican collective culture of resistance that neither Spanish nor US colonial rulers could effectively repress (item #bi2005002197#). [JC]

CUBA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, AND THE SPANISH BORDERLANDS

Scholarly interest in Cuba's past remained strong during the last biennium among Cuban, Spanish, and US historians. Signs of growth and innovation are apparent in the significant number of books and articles they have produced. Some are truly groundbreaking. Hopefully they will give rise to tendencies apt to culminate in solid intellectual traditions.

Exiled Cubans, for example, have contributed two impressive works. One of them is Cuba mexicana: historia de una anexión imposible (item #bi2003001828#), by Rafael Rojas, a young scholar recently graduated from the Colegio de Mexico. The other is Episcopologio cubano II: Miguel Rodriguez de Salamanca, segundo obispo de Cuba, 1527–1534 (item #bi2004001423#), by Reinerio Lebroc Martínez, a priest who lives in northern California and who has a doctorate in Church history from the Gregorian University of Rome. To be sure, Cuban-Mexican relations have been thoroughly examined by Mexican scholars, but nothing as encompassing and intellectually exciting as Rojas' book has been published thus far. The same can be said of Lebroc's, which provides us with the story of the birth of Christianity in Cuba.

Cubans living in the island have also produced two surprising little books. The one written by Jorge Renato Ibarra Guitart, El fracaso de los moderados en Cuba: las alternativas reformistas de 1957 a 1958 (item #bi2003000140#), is praiseworthy for its subject matter alone. It is probably the first extensive study ever made in Cuba focused entirely on a process of conciliation rather than a revolution. The other work, Diarios de campaña, a study of the war diaries of General Antonio Maceo by Aisnara Perera Díaz is a sort of bombshell (item #bi2003000212#). It shows that sources on which Cuban historians have relied for a long time in order to narrate the wars of independence might not be as reliable as was thought.

Spanish historians, for their part, have continued to enlighten Cuba's 19th century. The best, by far, is Inés Roldán de Montaud's La Restauración en Cuba: el fracaso de un proceso reformista (item #bi2003001005#), a truly magnum opus, 669 pages long, by an author who has been consistently building an impressive legacy in the field. This does not mean, of course, that all the other works published in the period are not meritorius. Most of them are worthy of mention for the depth and breadth of their research, and, save for a few cases, for their balanced and objective approach to their subject matter.

As to the works published in the US, it will suffice to say that Louis A. Pérez's To Die in Cuba: Suicide and Society (item #bi2005006250#) is in a class by itself, not only because of its originality, but also because of the disciplined effort of the author to decipher the mystery of the Cuban emphasis on death as a way of influencing the course of life. [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 (07/03/14)