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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
Jamaican Boatman
Roseau, Dominica. [Engraved by J. Harris]
Going to Church
Back Cover
Back Cover
Title Page - Silk Cotton Tree, Jamaica
Spring Garden Estate, St. George's
Point Michell and Scott's Head, from the Magazine Battery
Insularum Aliquot Maris Mediterranei Descriptio
Washing-Day
Typus Orbis Terrarum
Nevis
Mountain Crater, Dominica
Suriname - Gouvernements-huis en Plein te Paramaribo
Front Cover
Pierre le Grand commanding the Spanish captain to surrender the ship
Neu Herrnhut auf St. Thomas
The Old Crater of the Soufriere, St. Vincent. [Engraved by W. Westall]
Stalls outside the Market, Mandeville
Thietmarsiae
Port au Prince, Hayti
Lolonois with those that remained had much ado to escape aboard their boats
A Chief of the Bosjesmans or Bush Negroes on a Visit to the Governor of Paramaribo Arwawkas, and Charibes or Caribbee Indians at Surinam
Pigeon Island, Martinique
Sunrise over the Hills, Jamaica
Morro y entrada del Puerto de Santiago de Cuba
Palatinatus Bavariae Descriptio et Wirtenbergensis Duvatus Vera Descriptio
Front Cover
Ireland Isle, 1856, Summer Sleeping Tents
A Jockey at Cumberland Pen, Jamaica
Resting by the Way, Jamaica
Title Page - Part I
Outhouses near Kingston, Jamaica
Going Ashore
Descriptio Germaniae Inferioris
Russiae, Moscoviae et Tartariae Descriptio
Hibiscus Grandiflora
Corrida de Toros
Regionis Biturigum Limaniae
A Garden Terrace, Jamaica
Morne Daniole from King's Hill
Huts on a Country Road, Jamaica
Waiting Maids
Habana. Third vista tomada des de Casa-Blanca
The Bog Walk
Interior of a Distillery, on Delap's Estate, Antigua
The Roseau Valley from the Hospital, Morne Bruce
Alameda de Paula
Dockyard, Camder Hulks and Barracks
Off Trinidad
The Capital of St. Thomas
Back Cover
Teatro de Tacon y parte del Paseo de Isabel II. Vista tomada des de la puerta del Monserrate
Shipping Sugar, Willoughby Bay, Antigua
Africae Tabula Nova
Vtriusque
Government House from the Ruins of Old Government House
Back Cover
El Casero
Morgan re-entered the city with his troops
Suriname - Gezigt op de Waterkant en de reede van Paramaribo
Morgan dividing the treasure taken at Maracaibo
Title Page
Street in Belize (British Honduras)
Silesiae Typus
The Plain of San Jose
Kingstown / St. Vincent's from Cane-Garden Point. [Engraved by J. Harris]
Indiae Orientalis Insularumque Adiacientium Typus
Matanzas
Basaltic Rocks in Washilabou or Cumberland Valley, St. Vincent. [Engraved by W. Westall]
Coloured Coquettes
Galliae Regni Potentiss
Exterior of a Boiling House, on Weatherell's Estate, Antigua
Indian Woman and Children, Costa Rica
An Old Gateway, Kingston
Captain Morgan recruiting his forces
Antique Indian Costa Rican Pottery
Map of Bermuda
Castries Bay, St. Lucia
Title Page
A Tropical Landscape near Castleton
Trinidad
Puertas de Monserrate
View on Montego Bay from Reading Hill
Friedenstal auf St. Croix
The Caribee Islands Traced from a Manuscript Chart of the World
Belize (Washerwoman)
Dry Harbour, Jamaica
Barbariae et Biledvlgerid Nova Descriptio
A Fruit-seller, Barbadoes
Roseau from the Sea
An Old Man, St. Thomas
Bridge over the Rio Cobre, at Spanish Town
Indian Woman of Talamanca, Costa Rica
A Street in Kingston, Jamaica
A Guadeloupe Lady

Maps

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

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