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  • History of Jamaica Book Suggestions

    Posted by Dan from Madison on June 27th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Ladies and Gents,
    I am looking for recommendations on books about the history of Jamaica, told from a neutral standpoint if at all possible. If you know of a great history of the Caribbean in general that includes Jamaica that is also fine. I recently read James Michener’s “Caribbean” and very much enjoyed it and it inspired me to learn a bit more about the history of the area. Thanks in advance.


    6 Responses to “History of Jamaica Book Suggestions”

    1. Gringo Says:

      I don’t know offhand of a book on the history of Jamaica. Here is a book by Trini Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul.The Middle Passage: The Caribbean Revisited.

      The book covers a year-long trip through Trinidad, British Guiana, Suriname, Martinique, and Jamaica in 1961. As well as giving his own impressions, Naipaul refers to the work of earlier travellers such as Patrick Leigh Fermor, who described a similar itinerary in The Traveller’s Tree (1950). Naipaul addresses a range of topics including the legacy of slavery and colonialism, race relations, the roles of South Asian immigrants in the various countries, and differences in language, culture, and economics.

      I haven’t read it, but have read most of his books.

      Richard Dunn: A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia.

      Michael Bundock: The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel
      Johnson’s Heir
      Zora Neale Hurston: Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica
      (Her Barracoon tells the story of one of the last Africans captured and sent to the US in slavery- sent to the US in 1860, in a rogue slaver ship. As Africans sold him into slavery, he didn’t view Africans as only victims in the enterprise.)

    2. Anonymous Says:

      Eric Williams was Trinidad’s first Prime Minister. He was also a highly respected historian of the Caribbean. Look for some of his books that the Wiki article mentions. Though it appears that there is some disagreement on his idea in Capitalism and Slavery that the Brits freed the slaves when slavery became less profitable.

      When Eric Williams died, most expected the opposition party to win, because Williams’s last years in office, I hear, were not very impressive. It turned out that having the party machinery that has won elections for 2 decades counts for something, as the surprise winner of the 1981 election was his party, the People’s National Movement. The PNM has continued as the party in power for most of the subsequent elections. Not quite like Democrats in Boston, but close.

      Penguin’s Betty Goaty is a Soca (soul-calypso) song that discusses the PNM’s victory after Williams’s death. Betty Goaty is a childhood taunt- like nya nya nya nya in the US.

    3. Gringo Says:

      The anonymous comment- mine.

    4. David Foster Says:

      For a fictional portrait, one of the Hornblower books has the protagonist in Jamaica, where he is captured by pirates.

    5. Mike K Says:

      Sabatini’s “Captain Blood” has a theme of slaves kin Jamaica but the problem is they are white slaves, sentenced for being in Monmouth’s Rebellion.

      The novel is based on history.

      Sabatini based the first part of the story of Blood on Henry Pitman, a surgeon who tended the wounded Monmouth rebels and was sentenced to death by Judge Jeffreys, but whose sentence was commuted to penal transportation to Barbados where he escaped and was captured by pirates.[1] Unlike the fictional Blood, Pitman did not join them, and eventually made his way back to England where he wrote a popular account of his adventures.[3] For Blood’s life as a buccaneer, Sabatini used several models, including Henry Morgan and the work of Alexandre Exquemelin, for historical details.

      Barbados has an interesting history, both of slavery and the consequences of ending it.

      Many of the Panama Canal workers were from Barbados.

      The French had employed many from Jamaica but when the Americans began, the Jamaica workers were unwilling.

    6. Gringo Says:

      Link corrected. Eric Williams.

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