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In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thousands of British West Indians migrated within the Americas, to destinations including the Caribbean islands, Latin America, and the United States. They laboured in the construction of the Panama Canal, on Cuban and Dominican sugar plantations, in Central American banana plantations, and in Venezuelan goldfields.
A brief survey of the recent academic literature on global history reveals an academy that is still trying to define a historiographical movement.
Why are so many West Indians who were born in the first half of the 20th century so enamoured with Britain, British culture and its monarchy, even in the early 21st century?
Denise Blum spent 15 months in Cuba in 1998–9 researching the question of how socialist ideology is taught, and how young people react to the teaching. Her research was focused primarily on a 9th-grade class in a poor neighborhood that was mostly black.
I was worried when I saw the title of this book. Was it a history of publishing? Or a history of Arif Ali? And does ‘tribute’ mean when it was published by the object of the accolade? An autobiography?
Following an initial irritation, I found myself warming to this book. At first sight, it seems to uncritically support the Cuban Revolution. However, as one progresses the tone becomes much more nuanced. There emerges a basic sympathy for the aims and objects of the revolution, clearly announced in the introduction, without hiding areas where Cuba has not lived up to these expectations.
The proliferation of computer databases and the digitization of sources online are transforming the profession. Scholars can now do substantial original research without needing to travel to distant archives. Massive collections of documents are at our fingertips. Online databases are encouraging the democratization of historical research.
This is an important volume that hopefully will disseminate new ideas and stimulate new research outside and beyond the communities of Enlightenment and Atlantic historians that have contributed to it. The Southern Atlantic has been the site of some of the most interesting recent work in Atlantic history.
The growth of academic interest in the ‘Iberian Atlantic World’ during the last decade has also witnessed the expansion of scholarship on the presence of, and role played in it by, Judeoconversos (or ‘New Christians’): the descendants of Jews who were converted (often by force) to Christianity in the 14th and 15th centuries.
This year (2010), the world has seen a number of big earthquake disasters, like those that hit Haiti in January and Chile a month later. Disasters strike when least expected, and the death and destruction that follows represents critical tests of the ability of cities and nations to handle crises and to rebuild.