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Sea and Land

An Environmental History of the Caribbean

Philip J. Morgan, John R. McNeill, Matthew Mulcahy, and Stuart B. Schwartz

Publication Date - May 2022

ISBN: 9780197555453

464 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


Sea and Land provides an in-depth environmental history of the Caribbean to ca 1850, with a coda that takes the story into the modern era. It explores the mixing, movement, and displacement of peoples and the parallel ecological mixing of animals, plants, microbes from Africa, Europe, elsewhere in the Americas, and as far away as Asia. It examines first the arrival of Native American to the region and the environmental transformations that followed. It then turns to the even more dramatic changes that accompanied the arrival of Europeans and Africans in the fifteenth century. Throughout it argues that the constant arrival, dispersal, and mingling of new plants and animals gave rise to a creole ecology. Particular attention is given to the emergence of Black slavery, sugarcane, and the plantation system, an unholy trinity that thoroughly transformed the region's demographic and physical landscapes and made the Caribbean a vital site in the creation of the modern western world.

Increased attention to issues concerning natural resources, conservation, epidemiology, and climate have now made the environment and ecology of the Caribbean a central historical concern. Sea and Land is an effort to integrate that research in a new general environmental history of the region. Intended for scholars and students alike, it aims to foster both a fuller appreciation of the extent to which environmental factors shaped historical developments in the Caribbean, and the extent to which human actions have transformed the biophysical environment of the region over time.

The combined work of eminent authors of environment and Latin American and Caribbean history, Sea and Land offers a unique approach to a region characterized by Edenic nature and paradisiacal qualities, as well as dangers, diseases, and disasters.


  • A magisterial synthetic work about one of the richest environments in the world
  • Co-authored by eminent historians of the environment and Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Covers the pre-Columbian period to the mid-nineteenth century in-depth, with a coda on the modern era

About the Author(s)

Philip D. Morgan is the Harry C. Black Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University and the author of Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry, among other books.

J.R. McNeill is University Professor at Georgetown University and the author of numerous works, including Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914.

Matthew Mulcahy is Professor of History at Loyola University Maryland, whose work includes Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean, 1624-1783.

Stuart B. Schwartz is George Burton Adams Professor of History at Yale University and the author of many books, including Sea of Storms. A History of Hurricanes in the Greater Caribbean.


"... it is an essential guide to the dynamics of the Caribbean in a larger global system." -- Trevor Burnard, Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull, Hull U.K., New West Indian Guide

"In sum, this book provides a standard account of Caribbean history but one that is done with such verve and with such authority that it is an essential guide to the dynamics of the Caribbean in a larger global system." -- Trevor Burnard, New West Indian Guide

"...it is an essential guide to the dynamics of the Caribbean in a larger global system." -- Trevor Burnard, New West Indian Guide

"This enticing and coherent volume is environmental history at its best, gracefully moving in scale from microscopic insects to massive global transformations during the last five hundred years. The research is innovative and the writing stellar. Together, the authors illustrate the centrality of the Caribbean to global phenomena such as slavery and the Atlantic world, ecological exchanges, and pandemics." -- Charles F. Walker, University of California, Davis

"This exceptional work brims with the richness, exuberance, and fragility of the creole ecologies of the Caribbean. Through its focus on the multifarious physical environments of the region and their amalgams of global biota, this volume fills a significant gap in the region's historiography. It demonstrates that thinking with the environment is essential for the historical understanding of the Caribbean and the violent worlds of modern colonialism, capitalism, and extractivism that emerged from the region." -- Pablo F. Gómez, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Table of Contents

    Preface and Acknowledgments
    Introduction- Philip D. Morgan
    Chapter 1: The Caribbean Environment to ca. 1850- Philip D. Morgan
    Chapter 2: Disease Environments of the Caribbean, 5000 BCE to 1850 CE- J. R. McNeill
    Chapter 3: Natural Disasters in the Early Modern Caribbean- Stuart B. Schwartz and Matthew Mulcahy
    Conclusion: Caribbean Environmental History since 1850- Philip D. Morgan, J.R. McNeill, Matthew Mulcahy, and Stuart B. Schwartz