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The Caribbean in World History

Hank Gonzalez

The initial site of European overseas colonization, and the earliest destination for Africans in the transatlatic 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 poliical 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 interimperial 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.

Key Themes

  • Empire
  • Slavery

Selected Texts: