The Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period

David Wheat

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:
The Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period

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  • History of the Americas


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From the late 15th to the late 19th centuries, Spain controlled extensive territories in and around the Caribbean Sea, including the Greater Antilles, the mainland and islands along the Caribbean’s southern littoral, and the entire Gulf of Mexico. However, unlike the British West Indies, the French Caribbean, or the Dutch Antilles, Spain’s circum-Caribbean colonies have rarely been analyzed as a geographical unit. Jamaica, Trinidad, Saint-Domingue, Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire are generally thought of as English, French, and Dutch colonies, though each was previously colonized by Spain for a century or longer. Although the modern nations of Colombia and Venezuela may be justifiably viewed as Andean, each also contains vast stretches of low-lying, coastal areas that were historically and culturally very much part of the Caribbean. Many historians make a similar argument for former Spanish territories along the Gulf Coast regions of present-day Mexico and the United States. If subsequent European claims in the region and modern national boundaries make the Spanish Caribbean’s geographical expanse somewhat difficult to discern, its chronological parameters are quite clear. Spain’s American empire began and ended in the Caribbean, with the settlement of Española during the 1490s, and the final loss of Cuba and Puerto Rico, four centuries later, in 1898. Relatively few monographs are devoted to the first 250 years of colonial Spanish Caribbean history; while older studies of this period describe Crown policy, imperial rivalries, and the evolution of colonial institutions, recent works emphasize maritime economies and social formations within the region’s major port cities. The vast majority of scholarship on the colonial Spanish Caribbean focuses on the late 18th and 19th centuries, addressing core themes such as the growth of the sugar plantation complex, slave resistance, and abolition, primarily in Cuba. Other studies of the late colonial period examine the end of Spanish colonial rule, the growing influence of the United States, and the rise of national identities, particularly in relation to ideologies of race.

Article.  14144 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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