Although written from different points-of-view and with different emphases, these two books complement each other in several ways. Both are important contributions embodying new material, and both provide valuable insights into the development of Cuba between 1845 and 1902. A three year gap exists between the end of Foner’s volume and the beginning of Healy’s, but the broad outlines of the period emerge from a study of both.
These works complement each other in another respect. Each helps to remedy deficiencies in the other. Foner supplies material relative to developments in Cuba and in the area of U. S. imperialism which is lacking in Healy’s background chapter. Healy, however, provides material analyzing the complexities of U. S. foreign policy decisions which adds needed depth to Foner’s more restricted view of the motives behind U. S. policy. Foner concentrates on the economic aspects involved in U. S. policy while Healy primarily stresses “decision making” and the role of various officials.
The study of Philip Foner is the second in his multi-volume history of Cuba and its relations with the United States, and covers the period 1845-1895. It is the most detailed analysis available in English, and to this reviewer it is superior in quality to volume I (1492-1845). This is probably due to several factors. There is more material available for this period, and the shorter time span enables Foner to present a much more detailed analysis. In addition, the theme of slavery (which has been stressed in both volumes) is more relevant to this period; especially in terms of the relationship between slavery and U. S. foreign policy.
Basically this book is a history of Cuban struggles against Spanish rule, and the way the goals of these struggles changed. Foner characterizes the conflicts of the 1840’s and 1850’s as the “Era of Annexationism,” since the primary goal of most of the Cuban insurgents was annexation to the United States. In this section he takes issue with Herminio Portell-Vilá’s interpretation of Narciso López, and presents considerable evidence to show that López was not fighting for pure independence. The discussion of U. S. foreign policy during this period has several flaws. In discussing the expansionism of the Polk administration, Foner ignores the role of California which has been analyzed by Norman Graebner, and attributes too much influence to the slave interests of the South. The discussion of the proposed tripartite agreement of 1852 to guarantee Spanish possession of Cuba ignores Amos Ettinger’s monograph which clearly showed that Daniel Webster and Milliard Fillmore seriously considered accepting this Anglo-French proposal.
Foner’s analysis of the Ten Years War and the interim between 1878 and 1895 is quite complete. The analysis of U. S. policy during the Ten Years War is excellent, and the internal conflicts between the Cuban leadership are illuminated in depth. In discussing the latter topic, Foner also takes issue with those Cuban historians who have denied the element of conflict between the various revolutionary groups.
This book will undoubtedly stir up controversies among historians, but it is solidly based upon archival and manuscript material, and upon a wide selection of secondary works. The books of Cuban historians have been utilized extensively and this factor alone makes this book a valuable contribution.
The sub-title of David Healy’s book (Generals, Politicians, and the Search for Policy) indicates the major concentration. The author discusses in detail the maneuvers and arguments which characterized the pragmatic search for a means to insure the permanent pacification of Cuba. The end result was that: “In Cuba, where the circumstances prevented quick annexation, American leaders had time to learn from experience and to develop methods of indirect control which avoided many of the burdens and pitfalls of traditional colonial rule.” Thus, according to Healy, the Cuban “solution to the problem of overseas expansion” involved the establishment of informal protectorates, the establishment (by official means) of strong economic ties, and the economic penetration of the area.
Healy has done an excellent job of analyzing the interrelated roles of various officials, and describing the changes which took place in their interpretation of the Cuban situation. This analysis is based on extensive work in archival and manuscript sources. Books by Cuban historians are also utilized, but Healy tends to slight those historians who have been quite critical in their interpretation of U. S. policy and the Cuban leaders who cooperated with the U. S.
Healy and Foner have presented two different perspectives on Cuba, but after all—to usurp a phrase usurped by Crane Brinton—in Clio’s house there are “many mansions.” Within the walls of his “mansion” each author has made a valid contribution to historical knowledge.