In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Caribbean

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies and Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Amerindians and Europeans
  • Sugar and Slavery
  • Slave Resistance
  • The Haitian Revolution
  • Economics and Abolition
  • Women, Slavery, and Emancipation
  • Free People of Color
  • Creolization
  • Post-Emancipation Societies
  • Rastafarians and Race Consciousness
  • Labor Protest and Caribbean Revolutions

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section

  • Ecology and Nineteenth-Century Anglophone Atlantic Literature
  • Science and Technology (in Literature of the Atlantic World)
  • The Danish Atlantic World
  • Find more forthcoming articles...


Atlantic History The Caribbean
Gad Heuman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 June 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0098


The Caribbean includes the arc of islands in the Caribbean Sea but also the Guianas (Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana) on the mainland of South America and Belize in Central America. The region has been dominated by outsiders. Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492, and he and his successors effectively destroyed the Amerindian population. In addition to the Spanish, there have been English, French, Dutch, and American colonies in the region. For the colonizers, sugar and slavery were crucial to the Caribbean. Outside of Brazil, the Caribbean imported more African slaves than anywhere else in the Americas. This has had lasting effects, as the culture of the Caribbean has been largely dominated by the presence of Africans and their descendants. This helps to explain the large number of revolts against slavery in the Caribbean, including the one successful slave revolt in the Americas, in Haiti. Slave resistance was also significant in the abolition of slavery. In the aftermath of emancipation, the Caribbean witnessed the introduction of new people into the society, largely dominated by indentured laborers from India. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, ideas of race consciousness were prominent in the region. However, the major developments in the region in the last century were the coming of independence for many of the former colonies and the Cuban Revolution. For a relatively small region, the Caribbean’s historical impact has therefore been immense.

General Overviews

The best general treatment of the Caribbean is Knight 1990. Heuman 2006 provides a useful brief history of the region. Richardson 1992 deals primarily with the geography and environment of the Caribbean. The large collection of essays in Beckles and Shepherd 1991 and Beckles and Shepherd 1993 cover both the slave and the post-emancipation periods. There are also relevant essays on slavery in the Caribbean in Heuman and Walvin 2003; on gender in Shepherd, et al. 1995; and on the aftermath of emancipation in Moore and Wilmot 1998.

  • Beckles, Hilary, and Verene Shepherd, eds. Caribbean Slave Society and Economy: A Student Reader. New York: New Press, 1991.

    Wide-ranging collection of essays on slavery in the Caribbean.

  • Beckles, Hilary, and Verene Shepherd, eds. Caribbean Freedom: Economy and Society to the Present. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 1993.

    Very useful collection of essays on the aftermath of emancipation, including coverage of important developments in the 20th century.

  • Heuman, Gad. The Caribbean. London: Hodder Arnold, 2006.

    A useful brief history of the region.

  • Heuman, Gad, and James Walvin. The Slavery Reader. London: Routledge: 2003.

    Includes significant essays on slavery in the Caribbean.

  • Knight, Franklin W. The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

    The best general textbook on the Caribbean. Especially good on the 20th-century Caribbean.

  • Moore, Brian, and Swithin Wilmot. Before and After 1865: Education, Politics, and Regionalism in the Caribbean. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 1998.

    Has helpful essays on the aftermath of emancipation, with coverage of developments in the 20th century, including the West Indian Federation and Caribbean Integration.

  • Richardson, Bonham. The Caribbean in the Wider World, 1492–1992: A Regional Geography. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

    A helpful survey of Caribbean history, focusing on the environment, the economy, and migration.

  • Shepherd, Verene, Bridget Brereton, and Barbara Bailey, eds. Engendering History: Caribbean Women in Historical Perspective. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995.

    Contains important essays on women during slavery and after emancipation in the Caribbean.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.