The Global Caribbean: Colonialism, Race and Revolutions 1780s-1980s

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible



This course is available on the BA in History, BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in History and Politics, BSc in International Relations and History, BSc in Politics and History and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available to General Course students.

Course content

The Caribbean, while geographically small, has played a major role in global history. Over the course of five-hundred-years the Caribbean has been at the centre of clashes and encounters between indigenous peoples, Europeans, Africans, and Asians all of which has led to momentous political, social, economic and cultural change.  Far from simply being a tropical tourist paradise or tax haven, the Caribbean is widely recognised as a key site of modernity through the role the region has played in global historical processes of exploration, colonialism, transatlantic slavery, capitalism, revolution, wars, migrations and diasporas. Critical movements have emerged from the Caribbean ranging from pan-Africanism, Garveyism, Rastafarianism, and multiculturalism all of which impacted Africa, Asia, the United States, Europe and Latin America. The Caribbean has spawned foundational writers, artists, and intellectuals like José Martí, C L R James, Una Marson, Eric Williams, Nicolás Guillén, Sam Selvon, Jean Price-Mars, Aimé Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, Fidel Castro, Claudia Jones, Walter Rodney, Bob Marley, Jamaica Kincaid, to name just a few who have provided critical commentary on the region and its links to the wider world.

This course presents an overview of Caribbean political, social and cultural history from the height of transatlantic slavery to the late twentieth century. It especially focuses on the three central themes of American and European colonialism, race and revolution and takes an expansive view of the Anglophone, Francophone, and Hispanic Caribbean. Wherever possible, comparisons and contrasts with Europe, the United States and Latin America are drawn upon. Weekly topics that will be explored in lectures and classes include: European Colonial Encounters; transatlantic slavery and the making of ‘race’; the structure of slave societies: plantations and Maroons; the Haitian Revolution; abolition, apprenticeship and emancipation in the British and French Caribbean; Asian Indentureship and the continuation of slavery in the Hispanic Caribbean; Independence, Wars, and the rise of US imperialism in the Hispanic Caribbean; inter-regional labour migrations and radicalism; the First World War; extra-regional labour migrations, Black Internationalism and Negritude; the US Occupation of the Dominican Republic and Haiti; economic Depression and Labour Rebellions; the Second World War and Departmentalisation; the Cold War; the Cuban Revolution and Caribbean Federation; Decolonization; the Black Power Movement; neo-colonialism, tourism, violence, and the politics of reparations.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the Michaelmas and the Lent Terms.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce one source analysis in the MT.

Indicative reading

• Bolland, O Nigel, On the March: Labour Rebellions in the British Caribbean, 1934-39 (Kingston: Ian Randle, 1995).

• Childers, Kristen Stromberg, Seeking Imperialism’s Embrace: national identity, decolonization and assimilation in the French Caribbean (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

• Duke, Eric D, Building a Nation: Caribbean federation in the black diaspora (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2016)

• Dubois, L. Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).

• Dubois, L, and Garrigus, J (eds)., Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804: A History in Documents (New York: Bedford Press, 2006).

• Holt, Thomas, The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832-1938 (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).

• Parker, Jason, Brother’s Keeper: The United States, Race and Empire in the British Caribbean 1927-1962 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

• Putnam, Lara, The Company they Kept: Migrants and the Politics of Gender in Caribbean Costa Rica, 1870-1960 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

• Renda, Mary L, Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of US Imperialism 1915-1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).

• Quinn, Kate, (ed), Black Power in the Caribbean (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014).


Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the LT.
Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the ST.
Class participation (15%) in the MT and LT.
Source analysis (15%) in the MT.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2021/22: 29

Average class size 2021/22: 14

Capped 2021/22: Yes (30)

Value: One Unit

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Course selection videos

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Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills