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West Indies

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
St. George's Town, from Barrack Hill
Sandy Point, St. Kitts. [Engraved by C. Hunt]
A Negro
America Sive Novi Orbis Nova Descriptio
Friedensfeld auf St. Prix
The fire-ship sailing before the rest fell presently upon the great ship.
Cocoanut Palms, Falmouth, Jamaica
Front Cover
San Pedro Sula
Curaçao - Waaigat en Stadswal
Constant Spring, Jamaica
A Jockey at Cumberland Pen, Jamaica
Teatro de Tacon y parte del Paseo de Isabel II. Vista tomada des de la puerta del Monserrate
A Plantation Laborer
Dia de Reyes. The Holy Kings Day.
Cargo Boats
Flandria
Indiae Orientalis Insularumque Adiacientium Typus
Court House, Saint John's, Antigua
The Roseau Valley from the Hospital, Morne Bruce
asseterre auf St. Kitts
Morgan dividing the treasure taken at Maracaibo
Brimstone Hill, St. Kitts. [Engraved by J. Harris]
The Market, Mandeville
They boarded the ship with great agility
A Diagram of the Botanic Garden in the Island of St. Vincent
Front Cover
Sunrise over the Hills, Jamaica
Franciae Orientalis Monasteriensis
Exterior of a Distillery on Weatherell's Estate, Antigua
Typus Orbis Terrarum
Bonaire
St. Ann's Garrison in Barbados
St. Martin - Baai en Stad
Roseau, Dominica. [Engraved by J. Harris]
Generale Verzamelkaart der Nederlandsche Westindische Bezittingen
Diving Boys, off Barbadoes
Resting by the Way, Jamaica
Gelriae, Cliviae Finitimorumque Locorumverissima Descriptio
Port Antonio, Jamaica at Sunrise from the Sea
West End of Hamilton Warf
Saxoniae
Kingston Harbour and Port Henderson
Indian Woman, Costa Rica
Front Cover
The Caribee Islands Traced from a Manuscript Chart of the World
N.E. view of Fort Louis in the Island of Martinique
Front Cover
A Garden Terrace, Jamaica
Graeciae Universae
Planting the Sugar Cane on Bodkins Estate, Antigua
Chart Showing the Track of the Floating Dock
A House near the Bog Walk, Jamaica
Nevis
Galliae Regni Potentiss
Title Page
Ireland Isle, 1856, Summer Sleeping Tents
A Gingerbread-seller, St. Lucia
Pierre le Grand commanding the Spanish captain to surrender the ship
Sunset over the Hills
Emmaus auf St. Jan
Hibiscus Grandiflora
Transilvania
Regionis Biturigum Limaniae
Dockyard, Camder Hulks and Barracks
Europae
Diana
Going to Work, Barbadoes
An Old Woman
Spring Garden Estate, St. George's
Een Arowakka Indianenkamp
Williamsfield Estate, St. Thomas in the Vale
Fuente de la India en El Paseo de Isabell II
A Martinique Lady
The Squadron founding Catherine's Point, Bermuda
Huts on a Country Road, Jamaica
Lolonois with those that remained had much ado to escape aboard their boats
Trinidad
Cartagena Bird Seller
Vista de la Habana parte de Estramuros. Tomada des de la entrada del Puerto
Portugalliae
HMS Nile; Grassy Bay from the Commissioner's Hous
Caletensium Verom.
Main Street of Bocas del Toro
Cascade on the Windward Road, near Kingston
The Commissioner's House
Title Page
Martinique Fashions
Pedemontanae
Daniae Regni Typus
Cutting the Sugar-Cane on Delap's Estate, Antigua
Title Page
Blue Basin, Trinidad
Joden Savannah : gezigt op sijnagoge en kerkhof van de zijde van het militair cordonpad gezien
Title Page
Back Cover

Maps

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

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