Caribbean history to 1800: slavery, colonization, and international conflict

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LAH 4471, Section 1637. Fall 2012


MWF 7 (1.55-2.45pm)

Office Hours: F 3-5pm

Rm FLI 111

Grinter Hall 333

Prof. D. Geggus

or by appointment


tel: 392-6543

        No other part of the world has been shaped so completely as the Caribbean by the two institutions of European colonialism and plantation slavery. This course, which covers the development of colonization in the Caribbean until the end of the 18th century, is designed to give students an understanding of the making of the Caribbean and the role of African slavery in its evolution. It begins with the Amerindian societies that welcomed Columbus and ends with the slave revolution that created Haiti. view

        We will focus on the types of society that evolved in the region and the internal and external forces that influenced their development. The region will be approached from the inside and the outside, and placed in comparative perspective. Approximately equal attention will be given to the Spanish and North European colonies, and to economics, politics, and society. Underlying themes will include agriculture, disease, language, and law, and particular stress is placed on plantation slavery. The intention is to provide a composite analysis of life in the colonial Caribbean and the influences that shaped it.

        Instruction is primarily by lectures, though some classes will be devoted to the discussion of course texts. Regular attendance and good note-taking are essential to passing the exams. Students are expected to attend all classes, having read carefully the reading assignments for that session. The University of Florida Library has one of the best Caribbean collections in the world, especially strong on Haiti; students are encouraged to take advantage of its resources in books, manuscripts, newspapers, and microfilm.

    Course objectives: 1) to provide an understanding of the making of the colonial Caribbean, and to familiarize students with the main topics and debates in the region's history until 1800  2) to develop students’ ability to analyze critically historical problems and to debate the causes of historical change  3) to improve students’ writing skills.

    Course Requirements: Three exams on lecture content and readings (in ink, in bluebooks, please); an essay (10<12 typed pages) written in the second half of the semester on a subject of the student's choice approved by the professor (due in my office Fri., Dec. 7, by 5pm). The exams account for 20%, 25% and 30% of the final grade; the term paper, 25%.

    Required Reading:

1) J. Rogozinski, Brief History of the Caribbean.  A standard narrative history. pages 1-180. planting

2) C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins.  The classic interpretation of the Haitian Revolution.

    Both from local bookstores; new & used copies available.

3) Package of extracts, about 60 pages, from M. Craton, et al., Slavery, Abolition and Emancipation: A Thematic Documentary, (a collection of contemporary sources concerning the slave trade and plantation slavery); and from Douglas Hall, In Miserable Slavery (a plantation manager’s diary). From Target Copy, University Ave.

    Recommended Reading (for those interested):

 Carl Sauer, Early Spanish Main (Amerindian/Spanish contact)

 Kenneth Andrews, Spanish Caribbean (16th century privateering)

Richard Dunn, Sugar and Slaves (17th century sugar revolution)

 Richard Price, Maroon Societies (fugitive slave settlements)

 Douglas Hall, In Miserable Slavery (plantation manager’s diary)

    Other: Students area expected to familiarize themselves with the University’s honesty policy regarding cheating and use of copyrighted materials.  Those requesting classroom accommodation due to a disability must register with the Dean of Students Office and should see me at the beginning of semester.  Students taking the class for graduate credit as LAH 5476 will write an extra paper.

    If you are a history major or minor, and wish to receive important announcements on courses, scholarships and awards at your email address, please sign on to the History Department listserv. Send an email message to: and in the text of the message type the following: subscribe

LAH 4471. COURSE OUTLINE (subject to change)

Week 1) What is the Caribbean? Why study it? How to define the Caribbean What is distinctive about it? Its role in history.

       2/3)Amerindian society and its destruction. (Rogozinski ch 1-2)  What differentiated Arawak and Carib society? How large was the pre-Columbian population of the West Indies? Why was it decimated? What legacy has it left? Click on this link.

          4)Spain's Caribbean Empire in the 16th Century. (Rogozinski, ch 3-4; Craton, pp. 6-8) How far did the Spanish change/adapt to what they found in the Caribbean? How did they organize their empire? Why did both the mining and plantation economies fail?

         5)Beginnings of North European Colonization. (Rogozinski, ch 5-6; Craton, pp. 8-9) What were the necessary preconditions for North European settlement in the region? What was special about the 1620s? How did European and local factors shape the pattern of settlement?

FIRST EXAM. approx. Sept. 23

           6)Privateers & Buccaneers (Rogozinski, ch 7) Why were they so important in this period? Why did they disappear?

           7)The Sugar Revolution. (Rogozinski, ch 6; Craton, pp. 9-10)  Why were sugar and slavery linked? How did slavery and indentured servitude differ? In what ways did sugar change the Caribbean?

           8)The Slave Trade and Africa. (Rogozinski, ch 10; Craton, pp.11-24)  How was the trade organized? What changes did it undergo in this period? What on a Caribbean plantation would have been familiar and unfamiliar to an enslaved African?

      9/12)Plantation Slavery and Slave Culture. (Craton, pp. 25- 51; James, ch. 1; Rogozinski ch 10, 12; Thistlewood extract) How did different crop types affect the nature of plantation life? To what extent did slavery vary between the colonies of different countries? Why were Caribbean slave populations unable to reproduce themselves? (social structure sheet; demography sheet)

SECOND EXAM. approx. Nov. 2. Includes quiz on Thistlewood journal.

     13/14) Plantation Slavery and Slave Culture (cont'd). Which aspects of African culture were best able to survive under slavery? Was the experience of slavey different for men and woment? Which factors determined the incidence and nature of resistance?

          15) West Indian Society in the 18th Century (Rogozinski, ch 9-13) What roles did the Caribbean colonies of Britain, France, Spain, and the Netherlands play in the Atlantic economy? How did war affect them? Assess absenteeism's importance.

      15/16) The Haitian Revolution (James; Rogozinski, ch. 12) How far was the Haitian Revolution a product of the French Revolution? Why was it the sole successful slave revolt in world history? How did it affect the Caribbean?

TERM PAPER due Fri., Dec. 7. Late submissions will be penalized.

THIRD EXAM. Thursday, Dec 15, period E

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