Historiography of the Leeward Islands and the Virgin Islands
The islands under discussion in this chapter, the British Leeward and the Virgin Islands, were settled during the seventeenth century in what has been described as the first phase of British colonial expansion.1 They were at various stages the scene of European rivalry in the West Indies but, by the time of the sugar revolution, the Leeward Islands, in particular, were important sugar colonies. One finds, however, that for a long time, the islands, either individually or as a group, failed to attract the particular attention of chroniclers and scholars. Their history was for the most part submerged within the history-writing of the region as a whole. In one sense there was an assumption that they did not offer much by way of subject matter. In some cases, what was written about them in early periods was largely propagandistic. There have been significant developments in the historiography of these islands as groups since the beginning of the twentieth century, and individual islands have become the focus of study within more recent times. These changes have come about as political, social and economic developments both within and without the region have shaped the focus and direction of scholarship. This chapter examines some of the major historical works concerned with the Leeward Islands and the Virgin Islands against the context of the political, historical and social events which have, directly or indirectly, affected the output of history-writing about the islands.
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