The history of the early Spanish Caribbean is often viewed through a sugar-centered framework, in which the historiography of the region foregrounds the experience of enslaved Africans and their descendants laboring on sugar plantations. Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean challenges this assumption on two levels: economic activity throughout the Caribbean was not limited to sugar cultivation and its attendant production, and African slaves were not used solely in large-scale export-oriented industries, such as sugar or mining. David Wheat's book convincingly argues that early Spanish Caribbean society—during the era of the Iberian Union (1580–1640)—was shaped by cross-cultural exchanges in Upper Guinea that linked Africans to the Iberian world and was sustained by population growth resulting from Iberian expansion in Angola. Free and unfree Africans and people of African descent participated extensively in Iberian efforts to colonize the Spanish circum-Caribbean, not as workers...

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