History, Culture, and Globalization
Kevin A. Yelvington
In the present age of globalization, it is often forgotten that these world-encompassing processes were initiated with European expansion into the Caribbean beginning more than five hundred years ago. We now see the proliferation of overseas factories enabling owners, producers, and consumers of products to be in widely distant locales. It seems to us that in the search for profits, commercial activity has recently spread to every corner of the earth. We observe that the continual movement of humans across borders results in new forms of hybrid and creolized cultures. And, we feel that the world around us is moving faster and faster: the rapid circulation of images and information, the advent of cheap long-distance travel, and the attendant quickened workplace demands all give us the impression that time is actually speeding up.
Rather than the beginning of something new, these global processes can be traced to when the Caribbean became the site of Europe's first industries, starting in the sixteenth century. At that time, industrial techniques and a rational approach to time management were applied to the production and export of sugar, tobacco, and other commodities to be consumed by the burgeoning European urban bourgeois, artisan, and working-classes. These industries, in the forms of plantations and haciendas of various sizes, presaged and enabled Europe's Industrial Revolution.
These new enterprises were worked by millions of enslaved Africans hauled from diverse West African societies from present-day Senegal all the way down to Angola; before them, by thousands of native slaves and European indentured workers; and, after them, by hundreds of thousands of indentured workers from Africa, Europe's periphery, India, China, and even Java. Not only was it in the Caribbean where the first sustained European external colonizations occurred, but these colonies required and stimulated... [continues]
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