New Book—“The Torrid Zone: Caribbean Colonization. . .”


H. Roper’s collection of essays The Torrid Zone: Caribbean Colonization and Cultural Interaction in the Long Seventeenth Century was published earlier this year by the University of South Carolina Press. It has been described as “the first comparative treatment of settlers’ trading, pirating, and colonizing activities in the Caribbean.”

Description: Brimming with new perspectives and cutting-edge research, the essays collected in The Torrid Zone explore colonization and cultural interaction in the Caribbean from the late 1600s to the early 1800s—a period known as the “long” seventeenth century—a time when these encounters varied widely and the diverse actors were not yet fully enmeshed in the culture and power dynamics of master-slave relations. The events of this era would profoundly affect the social and political development of both the colonies that Europeans established in the Caribbean and the wider world.

This book is the first to offer comparative treatments of Danish, Dutch, English, and French trading, pirating, and colonizing activities in the Caribbean and analysis of the corresponding interactions among people of African, European, and Native origin. The contributions range from an investigation of the indigenous colonization of the Lesser Antilles by the Kalinago to a look at how the Anglo-Dutch wars in Europe affected relations between the English inhabitants and the Dutch government of Suriname. Among the other essays are incisive examinations of the often-neglected history of Danish settlement in the Virgin Islands, attempts to establish French colonial authority over the pirates of Saint-Domingue, and how the Caribbean blueprint for colonization manifested itself in South Carolina through enslavement of Amerindians and the establishment of plantation agriculture.

The extensive geographic, demographic, and thematic concerns of this collection shed a clear light on the socioeconomic character of the “Torrid Zone” before and during the emergence and extension of the sugar-and-slaves complex that came to define this region. The book is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the social, political, and economic sensibilities to which the operators around the Caribbean subscribed as well as to our understanding of their actions, offering in turn a better comprehension of the consequences of their behavior.

  1. H. Roperis a professor of history at the State University of New York at New Paltz and coeditor in chief of the Journal of Early American History. His most recent publications are Advancing Empire: English Interest and Overseas Expansion, 16131688and The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley, a volume for which he is a coeditor. Roper was a 2015 winner of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Work.


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