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The book From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean, 1492-1969 was written by Eric Williams and first published in 1970. He was one of the few statesmen who were involved in historical research. This book plays two major roles, that is, it can be used as a historical task of nationalist reconstruction and as an analysis of key issues in the Caribbean experience. William seems to be concerned with the entire Caribbean community evolution and expresses this evolution without showing his territorial political histories. He does this in an introspective and comparative conceptual frame work.
Many of the historic and contemporary issues that happened in Caribbean are brought into focus. Some of these issues include: immigration and emigration; constitutional diversity; slavery; political and psychological dependence on former imperial powers; the economics of plantations; racial tension; colonial domination; social and economic fragmentation; revolution and counterrevolution; the continued process of imperial disengagement; internal political; racial tension; chronic unemployment and underemployment; exploitation by multinational corporations; 1970s competitive rather than cooperative strategies of economic development; and Yankee-phobia that had spread all through. Although some of these things have been expressed by other authors, Williams had employed a rhythmic between what had happened before 1970s and what was happening by then and delivers the whole in incisive prose.
The second level of perceptive of this book is highly involved since it apprehends Williams’ dual role of Caribbean nationalist and professional historian. His perspective on the Caribbean is well done, and he has elaborated on historical issues that took place in Caribbean. The last two chapters talking about Castorism and the future of Caribbean are put in a manner that the reader cannot easily understand which side the author was supporting. He managed to make predictions concerning the future of Cuba in last chapters; some of these predictions came true whereas some did not.
The book is dominated by the history of the sugar industry as well as slavery history. It accounts on how the sugar industry and the slave trade influenced the development of Cuba. It contains a lot of numerical data concerning the exportations which were done. For instance, the reader is in a position to know how many barrels, tierces and hogsheads of sugar were exported by each island in a particular year. The book is presented from a Cuban perspective, and the reader cannot easily understand why Cuba is so determinedly anti-American. Everything concerning the interaction between the US and Cuba is well put. This includes the takeover of the Cuban sugar industry by US business, the US annexation after the Spanish-American war, and the poor living and social conditions that occurred during the US-supported Batista regime. Castro’s revolution was somehow justified, but the problem is that he refused to rectify or acknowledge the mistakes he made in his first few years of leading the nation. This book gives the reader a sufficient background to know where Cuba went wrong and may be how someone can assist them get back on track.
Williams has provided a bold and erudite analysis of diverse economic, cultural and political forces operating through time in the Caribbean. The objective of the book as put by the author in his introduction is to provide a study, through a synthesis of existing information associated with Caribbean, which would contribute to the cultural integration of the Caribbean region. The author a clear knowledge on how Caribbean has been battered by the great powers of every century and in his writing he has provided a history awareness of that influence. The history provided by this author places the emphasis on the creative forces within the Caribbean itself.