A Concise History of the Caribbean

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Cambridge University Press, Dec 13, 2010 - History
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A Concise History of the Caribbean presents a general history of the Caribbean islands from the beginning of human settlement about seven thousand years ago to the present. It narrates processes of early human migration, the disastrous consequences of European colonization, the development of slavery and the slave trade, the extraordinary profits earned by the plantation economy, the great revolution in Haiti, movements toward political independence, the Cuban Revolution, and the diaspora of Caribbean people. Written in a lively and accessible style yet current with the most recent research, the book provides a compelling narrative of Caribbean history essential for students and visitors.

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Higman aims to provide a succinct and abridged history of the Caribbean to a general audience, from pre-Columbian times to the present. Acknowledging first the problems that confront any attempt at coherently defining “the Caribbean,” he limits his survey to the island societies of Spanish, Dutch, French, and English heritage, omitting such territories as Florida or the Guyanas.
Higman organizes the matter chronologically, starting with a synopsis of the region’s formative and ongoing geological activity and a brief biogeography. Maps and graphics of prehistoric Taíno artifacts are used to help illustrate this “ancient archipelago.” Columbus’s four journeys to the Caribbean introduce consequences of culture-contact and prepare for environmental, economic, and social transformations that become more apparent at the end of the “second sixteenth century” (1530-1630). Slavery and its ends on plantations, backed with some demographic considerations, ground Higman’s brief primer on the two prevailing models of framing the Caribbean – plural or creole societies. Higman also traces developments from abolition to the present, using the events from the English Caribbean as a guidepost, but notes important departures in the stories of Cuba and Haiti, respectively.
This nooks-and-crannies book is a fine reference textbook, and appears to streamline current opinion on the state of research on the region well – it is a friendly and intelligent digest. Its deliberate omission of in-text documentation, however, is frustrating. Finally, the absence of both the Cayman Islands and Bermuda is puzzling, considering the former’s proximity to Jamaica and the latter’s resemblance in form and function to the ABC islands of the Dutch.


a history of islands
ancient archipelago 7200 bpad 1492
columbian cataclysm 14921630
plantation peoples 16301770
rebels and revolutionaries 17701870
democrats and dictators 18701945
the caribbean since 1945
canoe caravel container ship
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About the author (2010)

B. W. Higman is the William Keith Hancock Professor of History at the Australian National University. He is the author of ten books on Caribbean history, archaeology and geography, including Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica, 1807–1834 (Cambridge University Press, 1976, awarded the Bancroft Prize), Plantation Jamaica 1750–1850: Capital and Control in a Colonial Economy (2005) and Jamaican Food: History, Biology, Culture (2008). Higman is Professor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, Jamaica.

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