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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Empire's Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day by Carrie Gibson

The Caribbean, a map.


Empire's Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day
by Carrie Gibson
Atlantic Monthly Press
Published November 11th, 2014
(BUY IT)

  Currently occupying the number one slot in the Amazon category for Caribbean & West Indies History category, Empire's Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day is a genuine hit in the category, and since Gibson is a sober, responsible scholar I'd feel remiss in doing anything other than giving it a hardy thumbs up.  I think probably the acknowledged touch stone for any scholarship, popular or scholarly (Empire's Crossroads is a kind of academic/popular hybrid title) on the Caribbean is Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History
by Daniel Mintz, Penguin Press (Non Classics Division) p. 1986.

  I read Sweetness and Power back in 2010.  Sweetness and Power isn't strictly speaking, a Caribbean history title, but rather a history of sugar.  But the history of sugar is the history of the Caribbean, so sugar, and Sweetness and Power are the foundational work for any understanding of the history of the Caribbean.  To her distinct credit, Gibson acknowledges the influence of Sweetness and Power but to her credit she tries to build on the approach and tells the story up the present day more or less.

  Some of the negative reviewers on Amazon have mentioned a "liberal bias" but you'd have to be a real tea party wacko to NOT see the Caribbean as a case study for many of the colonial and economic problems the face the developing world.  In a sense, the Caribbean is THE location to look at the "problems of globalization."    Any writer who tries to ignore the negative side of American and Western involvement in shaping the present of the Caribbean is missing out on a major, major theme of Caribbean history.

   It would have been nice to see a fuller treatment of Central America and the Yucatan of Mexico, which has MANY Caribbean features in terms of economy, culture and climate  and is ignored entirely. The narrative structure is strongest in the colonial period, after the fracture between independent and colonial populations makes Caribbean wide generalizations difficult. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yucatan shares some cultural and historical qualities to the antilles, but so does the entire east coast of central america, and northern coasts of venezuela, colombia, guyana etc. the islands have far more in common with each other. one unifying factor is the way native populations were destroyed. there are virtually no "mestizos" on the islands.

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