Libraries & Culture 39.1 (2004) 109-111
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A Guide to Source Materials for the Study of Barbados History, 1627-1834. By Jerome S. Handler. New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 2002. 222 pp. $29.95. ISBN 1-58456-064-9.
A testament to the value of Jerome Handler's work as a Caribbean studies archivist is the reprinting of his original Guide to Source Materials for the Study of [End Page 109] Barbados History (1971) in 2002. As the U.S. academy increasingly explores the field of cultural studies, it is not difficult to realize that the Caribbean region generally goes more unnoticed than other marginalized regions and/or groups, especially those that perhaps possess more controversial prominence than the unassuming string of islands between Florida and Venezuela. Thus the republishing of Handler's impressive bibliographical guide is welcome to those interested in Barbadian and Caribbean history, society, politics, economies, and culture.
In the preface to his guide, Handler acknowledges Barbados's importance in British colonial history, as it was once "the richest of Britain's Caribbean possessions" (vii) and to this day is known to many as "Little England." Beyond Barbados's importance with regard to this colonial history is its importance with regard to understanding the British West Indies as a whole. Handler's initial projects sought to use the rich African culture of the formerly enslaved Afro-Caribbean population of Barbados as a vehicle for understanding the island's society, its Creole culture, and by extension the larger picture of these societies and cultures throughout the formerly British Caribbean. This bibliographical guide was a by-product of this research, which has been "offered for the benefit of other scholars who might be concerned with Barbadian and West Indian history" (ix).
The guide was developed with the citation of material from three major and already extensive sources: Frank Cundall's Bibliography of the West Indies, Excluding Jamaica (Institute of Jamaica, 1909; reprinted by Martino Publishing, 1998); Graham Cruickshank's "A Bibliography of Barbados" (Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society 2 : 155-65, 220-25, and 3 : 20-25); and, perhaps most importantly, Lowell J. Ragatz's Guide for the Study of British Caribbean History, 1763-1834 (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932; reprinted by Tate Gallery Publishing, 2000). Using the latter as the model for his own guide, Handler improves upon the errors and shortcomings of these publications. To those interested in the range of significant library sources used for this text, it should be noted that he includes material from libraries globally situated, including the Library of Congress, the British Museum, the Barbados Public Library, Harvard University, the University of Edinburgh, and the New York Public Library, the result being the compilation of an unparalleled and comprehensive list of research material that includes printed books, pamphlets, and broadsheets from 1630 to 1968. Of even more importance is the inclusion of rare material from parliamentary papers of the British House of Commons, newspapers from Barbados and the Caribbean region, prints located in the Barbados Museum and Historical Society in St. Michael, Barbados, and insightful manuscripts located in Barbados, other islands of the West Indies, England, Ireland, Scotland, France, and the United States. His list thus strives to include a host of treasures that otherwise would be very difficult to locate.
In addition, Handler's widely acclaimed Supplement to a Guide to Source Materials for the Study of Barbados History, 1627-1834 (Oak Knoll Press, 1991) is also easily available. It contains 270 new entries not included in the approximately 650 entries of the original guide. This vast number alone speaks to its value. The guide also possesses annotations (where possible), author and publication information, and the locations of the reference material. In the sphere of Caribbean studies, Handler's reference guide and its supplement stand alone and unchallenged.
Handler admits that the list—not initially compiled for publication—was really his own "working bibliography" and that "many of the works offer sparse and cursory information" (xi). This aspect...