Unless otherwise indicated, all OI books are distributed by The University of North Carolina Press.

Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570–1640

David Wheat

Cloth: 978-1-4696-2341-2 ($45.00)
Paper: 978-1-4696-4765-4 ($29.95)

Copyright 2016
University of North Carolina Press

A Prize-Winning Book

  • Jamestown Prize (2015)
  • James A. Rawley Prize, American Historical Association (2017)
  • Harriet Tubman Book Prize, Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery (2017)

This work resituates the Spanish Caribbean as an extension of the Luso-African Atlantic world from the late sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century, when the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns facilitated a surge in the transatlantic slave trade. After the catastrophic decline of Amerindian populations on the islands, two major African provenance zones, first Upper Guinea and then Angola, contributed forced migrant populations with distinct experiences to the Caribbean. They played a dynamic role in the social formation of early Spanish colonial society in the fortified port cities of Cartagena de Indias, Havana, Santo Domingo, and Panama City and their semirural hinterlands.

David Wheat is the first scholar to establish this early phase of the "Africanization" of the Spanish Caribbean two centuries before the rise of large-scale sugar plantations. With African migrants and their descendants comprising demographic majorities in core areas of Spanish settlement, Luso-Africans, Afro-Iberians, Latinized Africans, and free people of color acted more as colonists or settlers than as plantation slaves. These ethnically mixed and economically diversified societies constituted a region of overlapping Iberian and African worlds, while they made possible Spain's colonization of the Caribbean.

About the Author

David Wheat is assistant professor of history at Michigan State University.


Wheat makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the Atlantic slave trade and the experiences of Africans and African-descended peoples in the Caribbean. The work underscores the continuing importance of the Spanish Caribbean in the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and suggests that the ‘Africanization’ of the Caribbean began well before the rise of sugar economies in British, French, and Dutch colonies.

--Ida Altman, University of Florida