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Optional Modules

Centre of Latin American Studies


The Caribbean in World History

Dr Hank Gonzalez

This module is scheduled for 2020-2021, but has yet to be confirmed for 2021-22.

The initial site of European overseas colonization, and the earliest destination for Africans in the transatlantic slave trade, the Caribbean region was the central nexus for the emergence of the modern world capitalist market.  As the earliest point of contact in the ‘Columbian exchange’ of crops, peoples, diseases, and animal species, the birthplace of the Atlantic sugar plantation complex, and the so-called ‘cockpit’ of strategic conflict between European powers, the Caribbean is a natural point of focus for scholars of political economy, race, colonialism, ecology, and culture. This course traces the strategic global conflicts and key economic processes that have tied the Caribbean region to Western Europe, West Africa, and North America.  Beginning with Spanish conquest and European inter-imperial conflict, this course covers the Haitian Revolution by which the initial site of European colonization gave rise to history’s first postcolonial nation.  The course goes on to cover the emergence of U.S. hegemony in the Caribbean basin, the development of Caribbean nationalism, the Cuban Revolution, and the rise of neoliberalism.  From Cuba’s Castroist dictatorship, to Haiti’s neoliberal ‘failed-state’, to the colonial holdovers of Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe and Martinique, Caribbean societies have followed very different trajectories notwithstanding their shared histories of colonization, slavery and sugar.

Introductory Reading

  • Sidney Mintz, Three Ancient Colonies: Caribbean Themes and Variations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010)
  • Paul Cheney, Cul de Sac: Patrimony, Capitalism and Slavery in French Saint Domingue (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017)
  • Philip Curtin, The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998)
  • Laurent Dubois, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (New York: Picador, 2012)
  • Ada Ferrer, Insurgent Cuba: Race Nation and Revolution, 1868-1898 (Chapel Hill, UNC Press, 1999)
  • David Patrick Geggus, ‘Slavery, War, and Revolution in the Greater Caribbean, 1789-1815,’ in David Barry Gaspar and David Patrick Geggus eds. A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean (Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1997) pp. 1-32.
  • B. Higman, A Concise History of the Caribbean (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011)
  • Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince, 1831 

As this is a module borrowed from History, there is a limit on the number of CLAS students who may take it. If you have a particular interest in this module, you should let the MPhil Director know your reasons for wishing to take it, and priority may be given to those for whom it would be central to their dissertation topic.