4 Comments

Very interesting!

Just 3 remarks:

1. you said "From the perspective of those with the guns—the Europeans—, the number one role of the Caribbean was not to generate wealth. (...) Most islands are small and don’t have enough resources or good arable land. Their function was to provide bases for European powers to control the sea trade flows. (...) As time passed, however, tropical crops became more and more interesting. Sugarcane and tobacco (and other goods such as coffee or indigo) were expensive enough in Europe, and grew well enough in the Caribbean, that Europeans started plantations in the Caribbean to exploit them, even if that was a distant second goal compared to the continental silver."

- Well, a distant goal for the Spaniards indeed, but not for the other Europeans as they didn't really have access to that silver anyway. Consider Barbados for instance which became a very important generator of wealth for England, if not the ultimate one in the Americas :

"Barbados quickly acquired the largest white population of any of the English colonies in the Americas. In many respects, Barbados became the springboard for English colonisation in the Americas, playing a leading role in the settlement of Jamaica and the Carolinas, and sending a constant flow of settlers to other areas throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries." http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/barbados_01.shtml

"By 1660, Barbados generated more trade than all the other English colonies combined. This remained so until it was eventually surpassed by geographically larger islands like Jamaica in 1713. But even so, the estimated value of the colony of Barbados in 1730–1731 was as much as £5,500,000.[11] Bridgetown, the capital, was one of the three largest cities in English America (the other two being Boston, Massachusetts and Port Royal, Jamaica.)" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Barbados#Early_history

- We can also consider Haiti : While Napoléon had sold Louisiana to the United States for 15 million francs, "On April 17, 1825, the French king Charles X (...) issued a decree stating France would recognize Haitian independence but only at the price of 150 million francs – or 10 times the amount the U.S. had paid for the Louisiana territory. The sum was meant to compensate the French colonists for their lost revenues from slavery."

-The Elysée Palace, where the French President stays today, was financed by Antoine Crozat, someone who benefited massively from the Slave Trade and Haiti, and became the wealthiest Frenchman by the beginning of the 18th century, he was worth around 20 millions pounds in 1715 (300 billion Euros in today's money)

https://www.franceculture.fr/histoire/lelysee-le-plus-grand-symbole-a-paris-du-passe-esclavagiste-de-la-france

2. You said "That’s why there’s so few black people in the Spanish Main (the continental piece): slavery was not as widespread there, and where it was, the Spaniards used the populous natives."

but talking about the continent, maybe you should have said a word about the massive inflows of blacks slaves into then Portugal's Brazil. Today's, around 7% of Brasilians, Ecuadorians and Colombians are black, this proportion reaches 21% in Suriname, almost 30% in Guyana and nearly 14% in the USA. And this is not counting people of mixed ethnicity, which counts for 43.13% of the population of Brazil for instance!

3. In your 14th note, you could have said a word about the Scottish attempt at colonizing the Americas, in particular the ill-fated Darien scheme : "In 1696, 2,500 Scottish settlers, in two expeditions, set out to found a Scottish trading colony at Darién on the isthmus of Panama. These settlers were made up of ex-soldiers, ministers of religion, merchants, sailors and the younger sons of the gentry, to receive 50 to 150 acres (0.61 km2) each. (...) In 1699, (...) the Spanish mounted an expedition of 500 men to wipe out the Scots. This was effective, as most settlers had already succumbed to disease or starvation."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_colonization_of_the_Americas#Darien_Scheme_(1695)

Thanks again for your blog !

Thomas Jestin

https://twitter.com/thomasjestin

https://www.thomasjestin.com/

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author

Lots of thoughts! Super interesting. Thanks for sharing!

Commenting one by one:

1.

- You're right. I said for Europeans the goal of the Caribbean was to be a base. As you say, what I meant was for the Spaniards. For France, the UK and NL, definitely true that sugar / tobacco were the goals.

- I didn't know about Crozat. Crazy!

2. Yes, you're right on Brazil / USA / Suriname / Guyana. But none of them are the Spanish Main. They were Portuguese, English, Dutch, and English respectively. As for Ecuador (5%) and Colombia (9%) I didn't mean to say there weren't any Blacks in these countries, but rather substantially fewer than in the ones you quote. That said, I didn't realize Colombia had such a high % of Blacks. Thanks for pointing it out.

3. I didn't know about the Scottish! Damn... Not surprised though, given that everybody wanted in.

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Next time, look at Colombia's men's national soccer team. ;)

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Jun 24, 2021Liked by Tomas Pueyo

Thanks for improving my knowledge and understanding of Caribbean history, I think my Australian school teaching on the subject was precisely zero. Thanks also for using more accurate terms such as accumulating wealth or extracting it (a nice way of saying taking it by force). As you say, if we don't understand the way the world works we can't make it better.

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