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Seminar: Studying the Caribbean

After considering why the history of the Caribbean might matter, we will discuss how and why the Caribbean can be thought of as a coherent region – and where it might actually be!

Seminar questions

  • Why does Caribbean history matter? Does the answer look different from a British or other European perspective, rather than an US one?
  • Where is the Caribbean?!
  • In what ways can the Caribbean be considered as a coherent region?
  • What characteristics, processes and/or institutions define the Caribbean?
  • What were the main similarities and differences between colonialism in the Caribbean and that in either North America or Latin America? What were the consequences of the differences?
  • Why does Sidney Mintz argue that the Caribbean should not be thought of as a 'cultural area'?

Required reading

If you haven't already done so, please start with this short piece:

Guerra, Lillian, 'Why Caribbean History Matters', Perspectives on History (March 2014),

Then everyone should read the following two pieces:

Mintz, Sidney W., ‘The Caribbean as a Sociocultural Area’, Journal of World History, 9 (1966), pp. 912-37.

Girvan, N., ‘Reinterpreting the Caribbean’, in B. Meeks and F. Lindahl (eds), New Caribbean Thought: A Reader (Kingston, Jamaica, 2001), pp. 3-23.

Additional Readings:

Barker, David, ‘Geographies of Opportunity, Geographies of Constraint’ in Stephan Palmié and Francisco A. Scarano (eds), The Caribbean: A History of the Region and its Peoples (Chicago, 2011), pp. 22-38.

Boswell, T. D., ‘The Caribbean: A Geographic Preface’, in R. S. Hillman and T. J. D’Agostino (eds), Understanding the Contemporary Caribbean (London, 2003), pp. 19-50.

Hulme, Peter, Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean (London, 1986), Introduction.

Moya Pons, Frank, History of the Caribbean: Plantations, Trade, and War in the Atlantic World (London, 2007), chapter 20 (‘Epilogue: Why the Sugar Plantation?’).

Richardson, Bonham C., The Caribbean in the Wider World, 1492-1992: A Regional Geography (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 1-12.

Sheller, Mimi, Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies (London, 2003), pp. 1-19.

Skelton, Tracy (ed.), Introduction to the Pan-Caribbean (London, 2004), chapter 1.