Taking advantage of Quincentennial momentum, scholars from the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico and the Comisión Puertorriqueña del Quinto Centenario convened some two dozen top-flight historians in 1987 to assemble “a more complete vision” of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century social and commercial interchange in the Spanish Caribbean (pp. x, xviii). Composed of 23 articles, this anthology presents the results of that conference.

Read topically from an economic perspective, the volume is largely a collection of essays on commerce, political economies, and financial institutions. Enriqueta Vila Vilar and Ivette Pérez Vega, for example, examine the Caribbean slave trade. Allan Kuethe, John Fisher, and Javier Ortiz de la Tabla Ducasse describe imperial free trade policies. Several others—Ernesto de la Torre Villar, Anne Pérotin-Dumon, Eduardo Arcila Farías, Alfredo Castillero Calvo, Adam Szaszdi, Manuel Lucena Salmoral, and Mafalda Victoria Díaz Melián—analyze regional political economies particular to their respective specializations. Horst Pietschmann sketches early nineteenth-century trade relations between Hamburg and Latin America, and Luis E. González Vales and Francisco Morales Padrón study financial structures. Approached from more of a social orientation, the themes of slavery—the slave trade, slave societies (Ermila Troconis de Veracoechea and Germán Colmenares), and abolitionism (Luis M. Díaz Soler)—economic behavior, and social organization (Dora León Borja de Szaszdi and Francisco de Solano on immigration, Franklin Knight on Creole society, and Magnus Mörner on stratification) predominate.

Regardless of the reader’s hermeneutical tack, however, the essays easily connect. Together they provide a perceptive summary of signal features of socioeconomic Caribbean history, circa 1750 to 1850. The collected articles thereby make a worthwhile contribution to Quincentenary and Caribbean historiography. Readers should note, however, that only one author—Solano—extends his chronology to 1898, and two others—de la Torre and Castillero—begin their presentations on Spanish colonial history with the sixteenth century.

The component chapters fall into three equal geographical categories that cut across topical and chronological divisions: Puerto Rico, the Caribbean islands (overwhelmingly Spanish) as a whole, and, significantly, the “basin” territories—Venezuela, New Granada, and Mexico. The third cluster is especially appropriate to the focus and purpose of this book. The inclusion of the coastal colonies in which both Caribbean and mainland components of Spanish imperialism were articulated—evidenced by Demetrio Ramos’ study of Viceroy Antonio Caballero y Góngora—supports the volume’s assertion that the Caribbean was a crucial imperial nexus of trade, social evolution, and political development in the Americas. While the book centers the Caribbean in Puerto Rico and Cuba, it portrays the region as an integrated whole that rightfully includes the littoral areas in its economic and social networks. Therein lies the anthology’s other principal contribution. The incorrect and inconsistent spelling of several contributors’ names, however, is a distraction.