This essay explores the Black Trinidadian revolutionary historian C. L. R. James’s little-theorized engagement with questions of the environment and natural world from the 1930s to the 1980s, situating this within his wider oeuvre as a Marxist who not only experienced colonial domination in the Caribbean but also witnessed other catastrophes endemic to twentieth-century capitalism, from the Great War to the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and the Holocaust, the Second World War, and then the use of atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The essay first examines how James might be seen to have helped inspire contemporary theorizing around the “plantationocene” in his classic history of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins (1938). As early as 1951, James (and his fellow thinkers) noted: “It is not the world of nature that confronts man as an alien power to be overcome. It is the alien power that he has himself created.” The choice ahead, for James, was one of socialism or barbarism, rebellion or extinction. In 1958, evoking biblical language and imagery, he noted that we are already entering “the very valley of the shadow of death.”

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