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Drawing historical climatology, environmental history, and Cuban and American colonial history, Sherry Johnson innovatively integrates the history of the Spanish Caribbean and the Atlantic world during the Age of Revolution (1750-1800) with the period's extreme weather patterns and finds that weather-induced environmental crises played an inextricable and largely unacknowledged role in charting the course of this period as a critical juncture in Atlantic world history. Johnson reviews recent scientific discoveries in paleoclimatology and, combining them with archival materials, identifies an historic weather pattern--in particular, a fifty-year warming trend--that lead to a cycle of severe drought alternating with an increased number of hurricanes, what we know now as the El Nino/La Nina weather cycle. By superimposing this history of natural disasters over the conventional timeline of socio-political and economic events in Caribbean colonial history--involving such major themes as mercantalism, imperial business, rebellion, and repression--Johnson argues for an alternate chronology based on environmental and weather events in which the signal events of the Age of Revolution are seen as consequences of ecological crisis. In particular, Johnson finds that the the general adoption of free trade by the European powers in the Americas, esp. in the key imperial outposts in the Caribbean and the North Atlantic basin, was catalyzed by a recognition of the harsh realities of food scarcity and the complementary needs of local colonists reeling from a series of unrelenting natural disasters. The environmental crisis, and Spain's slow response in assisting its colonists, also raised levels of resentment on the island against the motherland, adding to slowly building revolutionary sentiments.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Contents/Figures and Maps
  2. pp. vii-ix
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. xi-xiii
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  1. ONE: Cursed by Nature
  2. pp. 1-20
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  1. TWO: Be Content with Things at Which Nature Almost Revolted
  2. pp. 21-59
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  1. THREE: It Appeared as If the World Were Ending
  2. pp. 60-91
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  1. FOUR: The Violence Done to Our Interests
  2. pp. 92-122
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  1. FIVE: In a Common Catastrophe All Men Should Be Brothers
  2. pp. 123-153
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  1. SIX: The Tomb That Is the Almendares River
  2. pp. 154-192
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  1. SEVEN: So Contrary to Sound Policy and Reason
  2. pp. 193-202
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  1. APPENDIX 2. Sources for the Maps
  2. pp. 207-209
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 211-273
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  1. Bibliography
  2. pp. 275-297
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 299-306
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