Peter Russell's Henry 'the Navigator' is one of those rare books which has had classic, or rather legendary, status even before it was published.
The Caribbean is not only made up of the islands in the Caribbean Sea but also of the mainland territories of Belize, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana. The region is marked by diversity. Some territories are very small, such as St. Martin, which has a surface area of thirty-seven square miles and a population of 73,000.
As the bicentenary of the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade approached, the past few years saw a great outpouring of scholarship on subjects related to the relationship between Britain, slavery, race and empire, with particular focus upon Britain's entry into participation in the slave trade and plantation agriculture, and upon the rise of popular opposition to slavery.
In a seminal article on Portuguese merchants published 35 years ago (1), David Grant Smith suggested (on p. 247) that emigrants from Madeira ‘constituted a sort of gentile Diaspora’, highlighting how family ties and friendships originating on this small Portuguese Atlantic island ‘endured and formed the basis for a network of commercial relationships’.
Serge Gruzinski compares Cortés’s actions in Mexico with suggestions for the invasion of China, adumbrated by Portuguese captives in Canton in 1522–3.
It is difficult to believe now that generations of scholars in the 20th century argued with insistence that the indigenous cultures of the Americas were destroyed by European imperial expansion.