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West Indies

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West Indies Collection

History Archive - West Indies Collection

The West Indies is a region of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean that includes the island countries and surrounding waters of three major archipelagos: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles and the Lucayan Archipelago.

The region includes all the islands in or bordering the Caribbean Sea, plus The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, which are in the Atlantic Ocean. Depending on the context, some references to the West Indies may include some nations of northern South America that share the history and culture of the West Indian islands.

Indigenous peoples were the first inhabitants of the West Indies. In 1492, Christopher Columbus became the first European to arrive at the islands, where he is believed by historians to have first set foot on land in the Bahamas. After the first of the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Americas, Europeans began to use the term West Indies to distinguish the region from the East Indies of South Asia and Southeast Asia.

In the late sixteenth century, French, English and Dutch merchants and privateers began their operations in the Caribbean Sea, attacking Spanish and Portuguese shipping and coastal areas. They often took refuge and refitted their ships in the areas the Spanish could not conquer, including the islands of the Lesser Antilles, the northern coast of South America including the mouth of the Orinoco, and the Atlantic Coast of Central America.

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In the Lesser Antilles they managed to establish a foothold following the colonization of St Kitts in 1624 and Barbados in 1626, and when the Sugar Revolution took off in the mid-seventeenth century, they brought in thousands of Africans to work the fields and mills as slave laborers. These Africans wrought a demographic revolution, replacing or joining with either the indigenous Caribs or the European settlers who were there as indentured servants.

The struggle between the northern Europeans and the Spanish spread southward in the mid to late seventeenth century, as English, Dutch, French and Spanish colonists, and in many cases their slaves from Africa first entered and then occupied the coast of The Guianas (which fell to the French, English and Dutch) and the Orinoco valley, which fell to the Spanish. The Dutch, allied with the Caribs of the Orinoco, would eventually carry the struggles deep into South America, first along the Orinoco and then along the northern reaches of the Amazon.

Since no European country had occupied much of Central America, gradually the English of Jamaica established alliances with the Miskito Kingdom of modern-day Nicaragua and Honduras, and then began logging on the coast of modern-day Belize. These interconnected commercial and diplomatic relations made up the Western Caribbean Zone which was in place in the early eighteenth century. In the Miskito Kingdom, the rise to power of the Miskito-Zambos, who originated in the survivors of a rebellion aboard a slave ship in the 1640s and the introduction of African slaves by British settlers within the Miskito area and in Belize, also transformed this area into one with a high percentage of persons of African descent as was found in most of the rest of the Caribbean.

From the 17th through the 19th century, the European colonial territories of the West Indies were the French West Indies, British West Indies, the Danish West Indies, the Netherlands Antilles (Dutch West Indies), and the Spanish West Indies. In 1916, Denmark sold the Danish West Indies to the United States for US $25 million in gold, per the Treaty of the Danish West Indies. The Danish West Indies became an insular area of the U.S., called the United States Virgin Islands.

Between 1958 and 1962, the United Kingdom reorganized all their West Indies island territories (except the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas) into the West Indies Federation. They hoped that the Federation would coalesce into a single, independent nation. However, the Federation had limited powers, numerous practical problems, and a lack of popular support; consequently, it was dissolved by the British in 1963, with nine provinces eventually becoming independent sovereign states and four becoming current British Overseas Territories.

West Indies or West India was the namesake of several companies of the 17th and 18th centuries, including the Danish West India Company, the Dutch West India Company, the French West India Company, and the Swedish West India Company. West Indian is the official term used by the U.S. government to refer to people of the West Indies.

Regional Sub-Divisions

Available Books

Book Title Date
Haiti - A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica 1825
Haiti - Ten Views in the Island of Antigua Ten Views in the Island of Antigua 1823
Haiti - La Guadeloupe Pittoresque La Guadeloupe Pittoresque 1863
Haiti - Album Pintoresco de la Isla de Cuba Album Pintoresco de la Isla de Cuba 1855
Haiti - Scenery of the Windward and Leeward Islands Scenery of the Windward and Leeward Islands 1837
Haiti - An Account of the Botanic Garden in the Island of St. Vincent An Account of the Botanic Garden in the Island of St. Vincent 1825
Haiti - A Voyage in the West Indies A Voyage in the West Indies 1820
Haiti - Narrative of the Voyage of H.M. Floating Dock Narrative of the Voyage of H.M. Floating Dock "Bermuda" 1870
Haiti - The History of Barbados The History of Barbados 1848
Haiti - A Tour Through the Island of Jamaica A Tour Through the Island of Jamaica 1826
Haiti - Map of the British Empire in America Map of the British Empire in America 1746
Haiti - Illustrations of the Birds of Jamaica Illustrations of the Birds of Jamaica 1849
Haiti - Central American and West Indian Archaeology Central American and West Indian Archaeology 1916
Haiti - A Description of the Spanish Islands and Settlements A Description of the Spanish Islands and Settlements 1762
Haiti - The West-India Atlas The West-India Atlas 1775
Haiti - The American Atlas The American Atlas 1776
Haiti - The English in the West Indies The English in the West Indies 1888
Haiti - A Svmmarie and Trve Discovrse of Sir Frances Drakes West Indian Voyage A Svmmarie and Trve Discovrse of Sir Frances Drakes West Indian Voyage 1589
Haiti - The West Indies and the Spanish Main The West Indies and the Spanish Main 1896
Haiti - Sport, Travel, and Adventure in Newfoundland and the West Indies Sport, Travel, and Adventure in Newfoundland and the West Indies 1885
Haiti - Jamaica, Painted and Described Jamaica, Painted and Described 1906
Haiti - The West Indies, Painted and Described The West Indies, Painted and Described 1905
Haiti - Bermuda, a Colony, a Fortress, and a Prison Bermuda, a Colony, a Fortress, and a Prison 1857
Haiti - The Martinique Horror and St. Vincent Calamity The Martinique Horror and St. Vincent Calamity 1902
Haiti - Drake and His Yeomen Drake and His Yeomen 1899
Haiti - Gezigten uit Neerland's West-Indien Gezigten uit Neerland's West-Indien 1860
Haiti - Views of the Island of Dominica Views of the Island of Dominica 1849
Haiti - Views in the Vicinity of the City of Kingston, Jamaica Views in the Vicinity of the City of Kingston, Jamaica 1839
Haiti - An Account of the Campaign in the West Indies An Account of the Campaign in the West Indies 1796
Haiti - An Historical and Descriptive Account of Antigua An Historical and Descriptive Account of Antigua 1830
Haiti - The History of the Island of Antigua Vol. 1 The History of the Island of Antigua Vol. 1 1894
Haiti - The History of the Island of Antigua Vol. 2 The History of the Island of Antigua Vol. 2 1896
Haiti - The History of the Island of Antigua Vol. 3 The History of the Island of Antigua Vol. 3 1899
Haiti - Bucaniers of America Vol. I Bucaniers of America Vol. I 1684
Haiti - Bucaniers of America Vol. II Bucaniers of America Vol. II 1685
Haiti - A General History of Pyrates Vol. I A General History of Pyrates Vol. I 1724
Haiti - A General History of Pyrates Vol. II A General History of Pyrates Vol. II 1724
Haiti - Five Views in Baptist Chapels in Jamaica Five Views in Baptist Chapels in Jamaica 1840
Haiti - Picturesque Views of the Diamond Rock Picturesque Views of the Diamond Rock 1805
Haiti - Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Theatrum Orbis Terrarum 1570
Haiti - The Pirates of Panama The Pirates of Panama 1914
Haiti - Sketches of Character in Jamaica Sketches of Character in Jamaica 1837
Haiti - Bilder ans Westindien Bilder ans Westindien 1861
Haiti - Back to Sunny Seas Back to Sunny Seas 1905
Haiti - The Golden Caribbean The Golden Caribbean 1900

Images

Image Name
The Honduras Coast
Holeing a Cane-Piece on Weatherell's Estate, Antigua
Front Cover
Helvetiae Descriptio Aegidio
Bay of Maran, Martinique
Hibiscus Grandiflora
Ducatus Mediolanensis
Coloured Coquettes
A Gingerbread-seller, St. Lucia
Title Page
The Caribee Islands Traced from a Manuscript Chart of the World
Title Page
The Market-place, Barbadoes
Indian Woman and Children, Costa Rica
Book Display
The Plain of San Jose
Graeciae Universae
Port Antonio, Jamaica at Sunrise from the Sea
Government House from the Ruins of Old Government House
On the Beach, Barbadoes
Russiae, Moscoviae et Tartariae Descriptio
Bethanien auf St. Jan
Kingston and Port Royal from Windsor Farm
Sunrise over the Hills, Jamaica
View of the Botanic Garden, St. Vincent, taken from the Superintendent's House
El Zapateado. (The national dance.)
Steamers unloading, Barbadoes
Front Cover
Barbariae et Biledvlgerid Nova Descriptio
Belize (Washerwoman)
The Rabacca or Dry River, Soufriere Mountain in the distance, St. Vincent. [Engraved by W. Westall]
Rodney's Rock
Persicic Sive Sophorum Regni Typus
Vista general de la Ciudad y Montanas de Baracoa (Costa del Norte)
Prince Rupert's Bay
Cedarhall auf Antigua
Suriname - Plantaadges Jagtlust en Suzanna's Daal
Back Cover
A Street in Kingston, Jamaica
Dockyard, Camder Hulks and Barracks
On the Road to Market, Jamaica
Jamaican Boatman
Teatro de Tacon y parte del Paseo de Isabel II. Vista tomada des de la puerta del Monserrate
St. Thomas in the Vale, from Mount Diablo
Portuges made the best of his way to Del Golpho Triste
Macaw
To Major Hare, of the 12th Light Dragoons, This view of the Bay & Town of St Pierre is inscribed by his sincere & obliged Friend, Cooper Willyams
Title Page
Front Cover
Bridgetown in Barbados, taken from Grand View Villa
Pigeon Island, & Village of Gros Islet, St. Lucia. [Engraved by J. Harris]
Sandy Point, St. Kitts. [Engraved by C. Hunt]
Vista de la Habana. Tomada des de la entrada del Puerto No.1
Escape of the Buccaneers
Galliae Regni Potentiss
San Pedro Sula
Passengers embarking from a Quay, St Ann's Bay
Back Cover
A House on the Hills
Vtriusque
The Arrival of the Royal Mail Steamer, Dominic
A Waiter
Front Cover
The Town of Castries, St. Lucia. [Engraved by N. Fielding]
Slaves in Barbadoes
Franciae Orientalis Monasteriensis
Neu Herrnhut auf St. Thomas
Caletensium Verom.
Galliae Narbonensis et Sabaundiae et Burgundiae
An Evening Party, St. Thomas
Transilvania
Curaçao - Legplaats der Oorlogschepen in de Haven
Morro y Entrada Puerto de la Habana
Cercanias de Baracoa y modo de viajar de sus naturales
Septentrionalium Regionum Descrip
Port Royal, Jamaica
Dry Harbour, Jamaica
Mont Pelee, Martinique
Morgan re-entered the city with his troops
Back Cover
Back Cover
St. Ann's Garrison in Barbados
Indian Woman of Talamanca, Costa Rica
Palatinatus Bavariae Descriptio et Wirtenbergensis Duvatus Vera Descriptio
Countrywoman going to Market, Barbadoes
View from Morne Fortune, St. Lucia [Engraved by J. Harris]
El Quitrin
Hollandiae
Interior of a Boiling House on Delap's Estate, Antigua
Thusciae
Nevis
Dia de Reyes. The Holy Kings Day.
Africae Tabula Nova
A Milkmaid, Barbadoes
Bonaire
Illustrated Title Page

Maps

Map Name
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Silesiae Typus (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Palatinatus Bavariae Descriptio et Wirtenbergensis Duvatus Vera Descriptio (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Pedemontanae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Persicic Sive Sophorum Regni Typus (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Angliae, Scotiae et Hiberniae sive Britannicar Insularum Descriptio (1570)
A Svmmarie and Trve Discovrse of Sir Frances Drakes West Indian Voyage - Bird's Eye Battle Plan View of St. Augustine (1589)
Map of the British Empire in America - A Map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish Settlements adjacent thereto. by Henry Popple. (1746)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Septentrionalium Regionum Descrip (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Regni Bohemiae Descriptio (1570)
Gezigten uit Neerland's West-Indien - Generale Verzamelkaart der Nederlandsche Westindische Bezittingen (1860)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Transilvania (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Cyprus Insula (1570)
Narrative of the Voyage of H.M. Floating Dock
A Svmmarie and Trve Discovrse of Sir Frances Drakes West Indian Voyage - Bird's Eye Battle Plan View of Santiago (1589)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Insularum Aliquot Maris Mediterranei Descriptio (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Graeciae Universae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Germania (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Barbariae et Biledvlgerid Nova Descriptio (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Asiae Nova Descriptio (1570)
Bermuda, a Colony, a Fortress, and a Prison - Map of Bermuda (1857)
A Svmmarie and Trve Discovrse of Sir Frances Drakes West Indian Voyage - Map of Drake's Voyage Around the World (1589)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Regni Hispaniae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Gelriae, Cliviae Finitimorumque Locorumverissima Descriptio (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Regionis Biturigum Limaniae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Zelandicarum et Prussiae Descriptio (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Palestinae Sive Totius Terrae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Daniae Regni Typus (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Ducatus Mediolanensis (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Hollandiae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Europae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Turcici Imperii Descriptio (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Salisburgensis (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Portugalliae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - America Sive Novi Orbis Nova Descriptio (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Regni Neapolitani (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Typus Vindelicae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Galliae Narbonensis / Sabaundiae et Burgundiae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Flandria (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Brabantiae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Schlavoniae, Croatiae, Carniae, Istriae, Bosniae, Finitimarumque Regionum Nova Descriptio (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Hungariae Descriptio Wolfgang Lazio Auct. (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Franciae Orientalis Monasteriensis (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Saxoniae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Russiae, Moscoviae et Tartariae Descriptio (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Austriae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Galliae Regni Potentiss (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Typus Orbis Terrarum (1570)
A Voyage in the West Indies - Caribbee or Leeward Islands (1820)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Poloniae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Tartariae Sive Magni Chami Regni (1570)
A Svmmarie and Trve Discovrse of Sir Frances Drakes West Indian Voyage - Bird's Eye Battle Plan View of Cartagena (1589)
The History of Barbados - The Caribee Islands Traced from a Manuscript Chart of the World (1848)
A Svmmarie and Trve Discovrse of Sir Frances Drakes West Indian Voyage - Bird's Eye Battle Plan View of Santo Domingo (1589)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Natoliae / Aegypti, Recentior Descriptio / Carthaginis Celeberrim Sinus Typis (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Italia Novissima Descriptio (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Descriptio Germaniae Inferioris (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Thusciae (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Helvetiae Descriptio Aegidio (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Africae Tabula Nova (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Vtriusque (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Lakii Lacus Vulgo Terretorii Romani Descrip Fori Iulii (1570)
Gezigten uit Neerland's West-Indien - Schels Kaart van de Kolonie Suriname of Ned[erlan]sch Guiana (1860)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Caletensium / Verom. (1570)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum - Indiae Orientalis Insularumque Adiacientium Typus (1570)

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