[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-LatAm]: Allain on Roper, 'The Torrid Zone: Caribbean Colonization and Cultural Interaction in the Long Seventeenth Century'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Mon Dec 3 07:50:36 MST 2018

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Date: December 3, 2018 at 9:38:45 AM EST
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-LatAm]:  Allain on Roper, 'The Torrid Zone: Caribbean Colonization and Cultural Interaction in the Long Seventeenth Century'
> Reply-To: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> L. H. Roper.  The Torrid Zone: Caribbean Colonization and Cultural
> Interaction in the Long Seventeenth Century.  Columbia  University of
> South Carolina Press, 2018.  273 pp.  $49.99 (cloth), ISBN
> 978-1-61117-890-6.
> Reviewed by Jacqueline Allain (Duke University)
> Published on H-LatAm (December, 2018)
> Commissioned by Casey M. Lurtz
> In his introduction to _The Torrid Zone_, Lou H. Roper describes this
> edited volume as an invitation "to consider the 'long'
> seventeenth-century Caribbean in an organic, transnational, holistic
> way that incorporates the diverse array of actors involved" (p. 3).
> With a heavy emphasis on the Dutch, English, and French empires, the
> essays in _The Torrid Zone_ show how European and indigenous trade,
> warfare, and empire-building in the seventeenth-century Caribbean--an
> understudied period--laid the groundwork for chattel slavery and the
> rise of plantation-based agriculture. Conceptualizing the Torrid Zone
> as a region whose reach extended beyond the Caribbean Sea to include
> Cayenne and Carolina, the book asks, "What made the Caribbean the
> Caribbean?" and contends that careful study of the long seventeenth
> century is crucial to answering this question (p. 3).
> With a few notable exceptions, Roper is right to note that "very
> little scholarship has concentrated on seventeenth-century
> Native-European relations in the Caribbean, especially in Native
> terms" (p. 3). Essays by Tessa Murphy, Carolyn Arena, and Sarah
> Barber in part 1 of this volume offer important preliminary steps in
> filling this gap. Placing indigenous peoples on "equal analytical
> footing" with European powers, Murphy's chapter highlights "decades
> of contestation and negotiation" between French and indigenous powers
> in the Lesser Antilles and attempts to explain why European
> domination in this region of the Caribbean took so long to achieve
> (pp. 18, 29). Arena, through her creative and attentive
> contextualization of Aphra Behn's Oroonoko, sheds light on the
> understudied topic of indigenous enslavement at Dutch hands in
> seventeenth-century Suriname. Barber's chapter investigates the
> entanglements of European-indigenous alliances in the Lesser Antilles
> through an examination of the career of Thomas Warner. These essays
> contribute to a growing body of scholarship that nuances commonplace
> understandings of indigenous Caribbean politics and society,
> indigenous-European conflict, and the trajectory of European conquest
> of the region.
> Part 2 analyzes settlement and warfare among competing colonial
> powers, emphasizing that in the seventeenth century, lines of
> imperial rule in the Caribbean were anything but certain. Together,
> these chapters demonstrate the contingency and variability of
> imperial strategy during this period. Jessica Vance Roitman explains
> why Dutch imperial ambitions in the so-called Wild Coast--the region
> of the South American mainland that is made up today of Suriname,
> Guyana, and French Guiana--were met with the limited success that
> they were. Drawing from private correspondence among Surinamese
> colonists, Suze Zijlstra and Tom Weterings explore the tumultuous
> impacts of imperial warfare on the daily lives of colonists. Amanda
> Snyder examines the events leading up to England's defeat of Spanish
> forces in Jamaica and its 1655 conquest of the colony. Picking up
> where Snyder's analysis ends, after the conquest, Robertson shows how
> English colonists in Jamaica--a colony that would eventually become
> one of England's most prosperous and populous in the
> Caribbean--struggled to mold the colony as English in character in
> law. "Being 'English' in late seventeenth-century Jamaica," he tells
> readers, "was often as much a goal as an achievement" (p. 117). Erik
> Gøbel continues with the theme of imperial rivalry in his chapter on
> the settlement of the Danish West Indies, ending with a helpful note
> about the research potential of the West India and Guinea Company
> archives, housed today at the Danish National Archives. Giovanni
> Venegoni describes the settlement of Saint Domingue by buccaneers
> (hunters, traders of meat and leather, and pirates), habitants
> (colonists who engaged in agriculture), and filibusiters
> ("freebooters" who based their trading operations at Caribbean
> ports), showing how by the end of the seventeenth century, the
> habitants had eclipsed the other two groups in political influence.
> The three chapters that make up part 3 highlight inter-imperial
> networks of trade and political influence. Laurie Wood examines the
> emergence of a "global judicial elite" out of seventeenth-century
> Martinique, emphasizing that studies of this period of French
> Caribbean history are crucial to understanding the rise of the
> plantation complex (p. 150). Barry Stiefel's fascinating chapter on
> Jewish merchants in the Anglophone Caribbean shows how colonial
> authorities sometimes practiced a form of religious tolerance when
> they believed that Jews could be of economic and political benefit to
> the colonies. Often multilingual and enmeshed in wide co-ethnic
> business networks, Jewish merchants "had skills and abilities
> difficult to find within the nation-state," and so were met with
> reluctant acceptance in the Caribbean (p. 163). Finally, in his own
> contribution to the collection, Lou Roper discusses the
> seventeenth-century Caribbean in relation to Carolina.
> The overwhelming majority of historical actors who make appearances
> in these pages are male. This is undoubtedly and understandably due
> in no small part to the book's focus on trade, treaty-making,
> warfare, and exploration. But in light of decades of insights by
> scholars of women's and gender history, is the justification that
> women simply did not leave a record good enough? And should not
> masculinity itself be historicized? As a whole, the essays in this
> collection neglect to engage these questions. Moreover, the
> overwhelming whiteness of the contributors gives this reader pause.
> As Roper rightly notes, the ramifications of the large-scale "shift
> to staple agricultural production and slave labor" in the early
> modern Caribbean "continue to ripple into the present day" (p. 13). I
> wonder if the racial inequalities that form the bulk of these
> ramifications are not exacerbated when all-white or majority-white
> teams of scholars are given a platform to represent the history of
> the Caribbean.
> Despite these shortcomings, _The Torrid Zone_ more than achieves its
> aim of illuminating an understudied epoch in early modern Caribbean
> history. A major strength of the collection lies in the sheer breadth
> of material covered. The skilled contributors to this volume draw
> collectively from source material in at least five languages, probing
> readers to consider the unpredictability and capriciousness of
> inter-European and European-indigenous relations during the
> Caribbean's long seventeenth century. Overall, the essays in this
> collection offer fresh insights that are sure to interest even
> seasoned scholars of Caribbean history.
> Citation: Jacqueline Allain. Review of Roper, L. H., _The Torrid
> Zone: Caribbean Colonization and Cultural Interaction in the Long
> Seventeenth Century_. H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews. December, 2018.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=53150
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
> License.
> --

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