A Concise History of the Caribbean
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.