FROM COLUMBUS TO CASTRO: The History of the Caribbean 1492-1969 by Eric Williams

FROM COLUMBUS TO CASTRO: The History of the Caribbean 1492-1969

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Williams brings a considerable reputation as both scholar and chief of state of Trinidad-Tobago to this fifth book on the Caribbean, which offers a competent, diagrammatic survey rather than interpretive innovation. Its chronological emphasis falls on the periods from the first sugar plantation to the era of Yankee manifest destiny. Williams reviews Indian and African labor and slave disturbances, reiterating his view of emancipation as located in the developing free-trade ethic of British capitalism and its need for cheaper food, and showing that nominally free contract labor by indentured servants from India and England was competitive with slave labor. The difference between the several mother countries' treatment of their colonies is not pursued, nor does Williams delineate the system of forced loans, especially by the U.S., which prevailed after the 1890's; he has few comments on the post-World War II period except to scold Castro, originally a great nationalist, for turning into a dupe and totalitarian. The book says little about the author's own role in Trinidad-Tobago; for the Caribbean he prescribes a regional free trade area and development bank. Less exciting than Williams' classic Capitalism and Slavery, less comprehensive and detailed than Hugh Thomas' Cuba (p. 226), less acute than Rotberg's & Clague's Haiti (p. 94), this is a useful overview inasmuch as, in Williams' words, ""There is no history of the Caribbean area as a whole.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1971
ISBN: 0394715020
Publisher: Harper & Row