cover image Empire's Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day

Empire's Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day

Carrie Gibson. Atlantic Monthly, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2614-6

Gibson, a former journalist for the British newspaper, the Guardian, offers a thoroughly-researched and meticulously-detailed history of the Caribbean. In its vivid descriptions, Gibson's book is a powerful indictment of the sad story of colonialism and equally powerful commentary on the savagery of slavery. Ever since the arrival of Columbus in 1492, Caribbean lands have been variously dominated by the colonial French, Portuguese, English, and Dutch empires. Thus, it has also been the site of wars over political control and natural resources, massive revolts (particularly by slaves), and revolutions. Because the Caribbean has historically been a microcosm of competing national interests, Gibson helpfully provides enough international history to place the region's experience firmly in a global context. For instance, she shows how in the 20th century the Cold War reached deep into the region, with the Cuban missile crisis a prime example. Gibson unblinkingly describes the challenges facing the region, among them Haiti's efforts to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake, Cuba's need to replace the economic support it lost upon the Soviet Union's collapse, and the West Indies's need to manage the economic distortions and contradictions inherent in the invasive tourist industry. Gibson demonstrates a deep affection for the region and captures its rich, complex history. (Nov.)