The History of the Caribbean since 1898


Rutgers University-New Brunswick

School of Arts and Sciences

Department of History & Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies

Dr. Aldo A. Lauria Santiago
Contact info

Course Description 
Situated in the historical crossroads of Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States, the Caribbean has played a pivotal role in global transformations since 1492 and in the formation of the Americas. The Spanish-Cuban-American War of 1898 marks an important historical milestone in the region and serves as the starting point for this course. After this war, the United States took possession of Cuba and Puerto Rico (and the Philippines) and soon after expanded its role with direct interventions in Central America and the Caribbean while becoming the dominant power in the region in alliance with the older European empires. The region's past illuminates many of the critical junctures and central contradictions of modern history: colonialism and independence, slavery and freedom, racial hierarchy and political equality, despotism and revolution, nationalism and transnationalism, and migration and cultural creolization. Since the 16th century, the region’s role in the early and continued formation of Atlantic slavery, colonial empires and revolutionary responses cannot be overemphasized.

The Caribbean is almost as diverse as the world itself, gathering peoples, cultures and traditions from (nearly) the entire globe.  It has produced trillions in sugar, tourism, nickel, spices, bananas, tax havens, coffee, oil and many other products.  It has also produced diverse musical and cultural traditions.  As united by similar histories and as divided by distinct political, linguistic, and racial histories, the Caribbean—defined as a string of islands or a larger “Caribbean Basin”—constitutes a rich source of stories, ideas and people.  This course will introduce you to first hundred years of history after 1898.

Learning Goals 
This course satisfies the following SAS Core Learning Goals in Social and Historical Analysis:

Additionally, by the end of the semester students will be able to:

For general History Learning Goals, see

Course Requirements and Assessment 
Your participation in this class constitutes an agreement between us. I expect you to follow the guidelines presented below and I, in, turn will do my best to facilitate, in a variety of manners, a body of knowledge that can be polemical and open to interpretation, and that requires your work to process and analyze. Most important, I expect from all students a reasonable degree of enthusiasm and interest through active engagement with course materials. I expect you to come to all class sessions prepared and on time. I will provide you with feedback on your progress and present these materials to you in a coherent and organized manner.

Weekly Discussion assignments: Short written responses (1-2 pages) and/or blog entries will be essential to understanding the material and to fruitful class discussions. Topics and guidelines for these will be posted each week on Sakai. A total of 10 entries (worth 2 points each) are generally due on Thursday before class.

Class Participation: Class participation consists of attendance, thoughtful contributions to in­-class and on-line discussions, and class activities.  Having read the readings is a key part of this.

Midterm Exam: The in-class midterm exam will require you to demonstrate knowledge of Caribbean history, geography, and society through the middle of the twentieth century. It will consist of a map, fact-based short answer questions, and a primary source analysis. 

Final Exam: The take-home final exam will require you to provide in-depth, written analyses of major issues and concepts in Caribbean history and society using course materials.

Grading Scale
A=93-100, B+=89-92, B=81-88, C+=77-80, C=70-76, D=65-69, F=64 and below 
NOTE THAT 90-92 are a B+

Course Policies
Access. In accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, if you have special needs that require adaptations or accommodations, please make arrangements with the Services for Students with Disabilities. If you have medical information to share with me please communicate with me as soon as possible. All discussions will remain confidential.

Academic Integrity Policy.  Students are expected to abide by Rutgers University's policy on academic integrity:  Violations of the policy include: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, denying others access to information or material, and facilitating violations of academic integrity. 

Self-Reporting Absence.  Students are expected to attend all classes; if you expect to miss one or two classes, please use the University absence reporting website to indicate the date and reason for your absence. An email is automatically sent to me. 
Unjustified absences are not an option!  Students with more than three unexcused absences will have their final grade lowered. Students will not receive credit for late assignments.

Cell phone use is prohibited in class. Turn off and put away your phones before entering the classroom. Whatever call or message is coming in during class can wait until the end of class. Texting is not allowed, and neither is the use of mp3 players. Take your headphones off. If you are texting during class I will ask you to leave the room.

I discourage but do not prohibit use of laptops and tablets in the classroom. Taking notes by hand is much better for your learning and your brain…and has been proven by research.  I do however have absolutely no tolerance for texting during class. Don’t do it.  If you have a real problem with your phone turn it off completely when you come into the classroom.  I will ask you to leave if you disrupt the class by texting while in class.

Please bring readings to class in paper or tablet form.

Take deadlines seriously. All major assignments and deadlines are laid out in the class schedule so you can plan around them. Being crunched by several deadlines at once is no excuse for late assignments. If you must miss class when an assignment is due, arrange to get it to me by the due date. You will not receive credit for late assignments.
Please take advantage of office hours. Office hours are for your benefit: it is when we can assess how you’re doing in class, or go over questions and issues with class materials and assignments. I am also accessible via email and by appointment.  Office hours might very well be your most valuable resource while learning at Rutgers.

Changes to course schedule: I will adjust the course schedule or readings to provide the best learning experience possible, so this syllabus is not a final version.

Ordinarily I will lecture on Monday and leave Wednesday for discussion of readings, assignments, in-class exercises, and questions.


Readings, historic documents, websites, and newspaper and magazine articles are available on the Sakai Resources tab. Some of these will change.  I will note the changes well ahead of time.

Course Schedule

Week 1:  [9/4] Introduction: Caribbean Unity and Diversity--Geography, Cultures, Migrations, Chronologies

Week 2: [9/9 & 9/11] 400 Years of European Colonial Rule and Local Societies

Week 3: [9/16 & 9/18] War, Empire and the Transition from European to US Hegemony, 1898

Week 4:  [9/23 & 9/25] The Formation of a US Caribbean–Basin Empire, 1898-1940

Week 5: [9/30 & 10/2] Plantations, Banks, Commerce and Empire, 1898-1940

Week 6: [10/7 & 10/9] Peasants and Workers the Caribbean, 1898-1940

Week 7: [10/14 & 10/16] Haiti: US Occupation, Color Politics, and Dictatorship, 1930s-1960s

Week 8: [10/21 & 10/23] The Dominican Republic: Trujillo, US Intervention and his Authoritarian Legacy, 1930s-1970s

Week 9: [10/28 & 10/30] Jamaica: Racial Solidarity and Democracy, 1930s-1980

Week 10:  [11/4 & 11/6] Cuba: Neo Colonial Rule, Reform and Dictatorship, 1930s-1959

Week 11: [11/11 & 11/13] The Cuban Revolution, 1959-2000s

Week 12: [11/18 & 11/20] Puerto Rico: Colonialisms, Original and Reformed, 1930s-1952

Week 13:  [11/25] Puerto Rico: Rise and Collapse of the ELA, 1950s-2019

Week 14:  [12/2 & 12/4] Barbados and Trinidad/Tobago

Week 15:  [12/9 & 12/11] Caribbean Migrations and Diasporic Communities

Take home Exam due Date Friday Dec 18th by Midnight