Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640 (Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History): David Wheat

This work resituates the Spanish Caribbean as an extension of the Luso-African Atlantic world from the late sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century, when the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns facilitated a surge in the transatlantic slave trade. After the catastrophic decline of Amerindian populations on the islands, two major African provenance zones, first Upper Guinea and then Angola, contributed forced migrant populations with distinct experiences to the Caribbean. They played a dynamic role in the social formation of early Spanish colonial society in the fortified port cities of Cartagena de Indias, Havana, Santo Domingo, and Panama City and their semirural hinterlands.

David Wheat is the first scholar to establish this early phase of the Africanization of the Spanish Caribbean two centuries before the rise of large-scale sugar plantations. With African migrants and their descendants comprising demographic majorities in core areas of Spanish settlement, Luso-Africans, Afro-Iberians, Latinized Africans, and free people of color acted more as colonists or settlers than as plantation slaves. These ethnically mixed and economically diversified societies constituted a region of overlapping Iberian and African worlds, while they made possible Spain’s colonization of the Caribbean.


Elegantly written and thoughtfully constructed. . . . Scholars interested in the early Spanish Caribbean and the Atlantic world will need to rethink how the two regions were interconnected and how free and unfree Africans created social and economic niches for themselves in their new environments.–Hispanic American Historical Review

[An] exceptional study that explains a misunderstood period in the early history of post-contact colonies in the Spanish Caribbean. Highly recommended.–Choice

[A] unique view into the archives and into a key but only partially understood early colonial period in this region [that] will interest both scholars of Iberian colonization and imperialism and students learning how to trace western Africa’s influence on the Spanish Caribbean.–The Americas
Because Wheat’s capacity to tell such nuanced and new stories is so meticulously buttressed by his sources that it leaves readers wanting him to go even further. . . . A vital contribution to the fields of Black/African history, Caribbean history, and early modern history more broadly.–Reviews in American History

Expertly and imaginatively transcends the conventional parameters not just of ‘Latin American’ and of ‘Atlantic’ history but also of the conceptual conventions of studying ‘slavery’ itself, as such. Do not miss it.–Slavery & Abolition

Extremely well documented and tightly argued. . . . A signal contribution that should reframe scholarly debates about slavery in the Caribbean for some time to come.–H-Net Reviews

Wheat’s innovative and deeply-researched book contributes to a growing body of work aimed at re-conceptualizing the Atlantic World and the roles of African people within it.–Almanack

About the Author

David Wheat is associate professor of history at Michigan State University.

Start reading Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640 on your Kindle in under a minute.

  • Publisher : Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press; Reprint edition (August 1, 2018)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1469647656
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1469647654
  • Item Weight : 1.14 pounds
  • Dimensions : 7.76 x 0.87 x 9.47 inches

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s