An Observer (UK) Best History Book of the Year A Hudson Booksellers' Best Nonfiction Book of the Year “Gibson knows how to hold a reader’s interest with gems of fact and sometimes poetic prose.” New York Times Book Review , “Editors’ Choice” “Carrie Gibson has written a judicious, readable and extremely well-informed account of a part of the world whose history is seldom acknowledged. Too many people know the Caribbean only as a tourist destination; she takes us, instead, into its fascinating, complex and often tragic past. No vacation there will ever feel quite the same again.” Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars and King Leopold’s Ghost “Ambitious. . . . With rare narrative verve and a gift for synthesis, Gibson compresses the islands’ histories into a wide-ranging, vivid narrative.” Observer (UK), “Best History Books of 2014” “A rich and thorough history of the Caribbean from colonialism to the present day . . . Carrie Gibson’s thoughtful and extensively researched Empire’s Crossroads is a revelation. It is both a readable and in-depth study . . . a valuable work that is required reading for scholars and students . . . impassioned and anecdotally rich.” Christian Science Monitor “Gibson’s social history focuses heavily on the destructive legacy of slavery, the bitter divisiveness of racism, and the brutality and inequalities of the opulent sugar plantations that dominated Caribbean economies for 300 years . . . Gibson tells [the story] in fluid, colorful prose peppered with telling anecdotes.” Foreign Affairs “Required reading for everyone with a fascination for the Caribbean; recommended for all who wish to acquire one.” Peter Chapman, author of Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World “A marvelously rich and inclusive panorama of five centuries of Caribbean history. . . . A work that brings fresh energy, assurance and insight to an area that is not often the focus of historians. Gibson’s study is sure to gratify academics, history buffs, and anyone intrigued by the Caribbean’s colorful, volatile, and multifaceted societies.” Library Journal (starred review) “Gibson synthesizes and integrates some of the most important insights from recent historical scholarship on slavery, capitalism, and empire into an accessible survey of over five centuries of Caribbean history. The Cambridge-educated author combines the careful reflexivity and nuance of a seasoned historian with the verbal dexterity and attention to current events of an accomplished journalist, producing a book that is both readable and thought provoking, regionally specific and globally aware, historical yet exceedingly relevant to today’s most pressing issues. . . . An excellent introduction to Caribbean history for non-specialists.” Choice “Gibson manages to weave 500 years of complex history into a brilliantly coherent and thematic narrative. . . . [A] strikingly assured debut.” Observer (UK) “[An] epic history of the Caribbean . . . vivid and thought-provoking.” Spectator (UK) “Who knew that King James (the Bible one) was one of history’s first anti-smoking activists? Who could have guessed in advance that tourist promoters would turn a desolate isle in Haiti, the hemisphere’s poorest nation, into ‘paradise’ behind a chain link fence? In Empire’s Crossroads , Carrie Gibson shows how seemingly isolated anecdotes, in the right hands, can be used to form a mosaic that shows us the meaning of history.” T.D. Allman, author of Finding Florida “Carrie Gibson asks not just how Europe shaped the Caribbean, but how the islands in turn shaped Europe and the rest of the world. Her approach is fresh and important. Empire’s Crossroads skillfully shows the complexity of the Caribbean and its striking ability to adapt to and push back against the forces that have shaped the region.” Michele Wucker, author of Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola “A panoramic view of this complex region and its rich history.” Publishers Weekly “An ambitious work bringing together fragmented histories of more than 20 different islands across an area of 3,000 miles . . . bolstered by her travel experiences in St. Martin, Trinidad, Guyana and other places.” Kirkus Reviews “With such variegated histories, the islands of the Caribbean would seem to defy a unified treatment, yet Gibson identifies themes common to large ones, such as Hispaniola, and small ones, such as Montserrat. . . . Sympathetically attuned to the hard actualities of life in ostensibly paradisiacal tropics, Gibson delivers a fine, faceted history for general-interest readers.” Booklist “[A] sharp, gripping new overview of the region’s history. . . . Empire’s Crossroads is a great read about some fantastically absorbingand to many people, little-knownhistory. . . . An exceptionally impressive debut.” Literary Review (UK) “Carrie Gibson has written a compelling history of the Caribbean, rightly placing it at the heart of European imperialism. This is a gripping account by a gifted scholar and story-teller.” Tristram Hunt, British Shadow Secretary of State for Education and author of Marx’s General, The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels “There can never be too many books about the Caribbean, a region whose diversity and cultural richness is unparalleled, and Carrie Gibson’s new offering is a welcome addition to the canon.” BBC History (UK)
Gibson's research is thorough…And there is much for the historian and academic to chew on…But the nonspecialist need not be daunted; Gibson knows how to hold the reader's interest, and before you get too entangled in her meticulous research, she offers gems, sometimes poetic prose, often fascinating facts…[Gibson] counters V. S. Naipaul's oft-quoted contention in
The Middle Passage that "nothing was created in the West Indies," with an assertion of her own: " Everything was created in the West Indies." Her book, a tribute to a place that "remains in the middle of it all," convincingly defends this position.
The New York Times Book Review - Elizabeth Nunez
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.)
Independent historian Gibson's nonfiction debut is a marvelously rich and inclusive panorama of five centuries of Caribbean history. The author characterizes the Caribbean region as a global crossroads (hence the title) where Africans, Asians, Europeans, and indigenous peoples collided and intermingled to form syncretic creole societies. The Spanish, French, British, and Dutch battled rebels and rival empires as they built exploitative colonial economies powered by slavery and sugar plantations, followed by 20th-century interventions and eventual profiteering by American interests. Also spotlighted is the disconnect between the poverty and joblessness gripping the largely Afro-Caribbean islanders and the walled-off enclaves and luxury cruises that sustain the complacent fantasy of the Caribbean as a playground for mostly white tourists. Gibson is judicious in her sympathies, decrying the region's persistent homophobia and corruption while highlighting the cultural vitality of the calypso musicians and the nuances of Cuba's decades-long communist experiment. Omission of the islands' indigenous past proves only a minor shortcoming in a work that brings fresh energy, assurance, and insight to an area that is not often the focus of historians. VERDICT Gibson's study is sure to gratify academics, history buffs, and anyone intrigued by the Caribbean's colorful, volatile, and multifaceted societies.—Michael Rodriguez, Hodges Univ. Lib., Naples, FL
How 500 years of European rule in the Caribbean helped determine the patterns of "human malfeasance" repeated globally to the present day. In an ambitious work bringing together fragmented histories of more than 20 different islands across an area of 3,000 miles, journalist Gibson, a scholar of the Spanish Caribbean trained at Cambridge University, finds in the unifying theme of a colonial heritage the sobering legacy of exploitation, greed and inequality. A drive for "grain, gold and God" seized the first Portuguese explorers, while Christopher Columbus, infused in the work of Marco Polo, was so certain that he could navigate a passage to the East that when he landed at "San Salvador," he was sure he had struck Polo's Cipango—Japan. Yet this was not a land of Oriental splendor but rather islands occupied by humble indigenous peoples; nonetheless, "desire would triumph over reason," which became a recurrent theme for hundreds of years. Sugar production—rendered profitable by the Portuguese and Genoese on the Atlantic islands of Madeira and the Canaries—was quickly established in these new colonies of the West Indies, along with tobacco, salt, coffee, cacao and, later, cotton. The distinctive and organized indigenous people were enslaved, killed by new diseases or converted, and new plants and animals were introduced, including farm animals, grapes and wheat (in addition to all manner of insects and microbes). A globalized factory system was thus put into place on Hispaniola, Cuba, Barbados and elsewhere, and the use of indentured servants was discarded in favor of African slaves. The hunger for luxury goods created a "growing global commodity chain" that would define the region, spurring world warfare and revolution once inequality between the haves and have-nots grew unsustainable. Bolstered by her travel experiences in St. Martin, Trinidad, Guyana and other places, Gibson delivers a useful, manageable history of the region. Judicious chronicles of individual islands (Haiti, Cuba) emerge from a larger, bleak picture of an "invented paradise."