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The Digitized Caribbeana 1900-1975: Preface

The Digitized Caribbeana 1900-1975 
A Bibliographic Guide to the Non-Hispanic Territories

Lambros Comitas


The Digitized Caribbeana: 1900-1975 is a bibliographic database topically organized to facilitate scholarly research on the non- Hispanic countries of the region. It contains over seventeen thousand complete references to authored publications such as monographs, readers, conference proceedings, doc toral dissertations, master’s theses, journal articles, reports, pamphlets, and other miscellaneous works. With the exception of a number of doctoral dissertations which were referenced through university abstracts reviewed before inclusion in the database. As a rule, publications were excluded if they were without indication of authorship or editor ship, such as the case in many government reports, or if they could not be physically located for purposes of verification and review. Unfortunately, this meant excluding more than several thousand possible entries known by title but not found in any of the many libraries searched. Also excluded, given their limited research value, were publications of two pages or less, particularly those printed after 1965. As noted in Caribbeana 1900-1965, no attempt was made to pass critical judgment about publications reviewed and listed. I see no reason in this digital database to change a perspective so aptly stated by H. Ian Hogbin in his introduction to C. R. H. Taylor’s A Pacific Bibliography: “Some of the minor publications, it may be thought, would have been decently left in oblivion.” But Mr. Taylor believes, in my opinion rightly, that we should not prejudge. “Subsequent generations may well discover significant material in the most unlikely places.”

Although so very much of value has been written about the non-Hispanic Caribbean in the twentieth century by both native and foreigner, it is remarkable how scattered and neglected much of it had been and how little had been done to locate and preserve it before it dis appeared. This lamentable fact was the rationale for initiating a major project in 1963 designed to provide bibliographic coverage of that region from the start of the century to the then “present’. The project concentrated on publications dealing with those mainland and insular possessions or former possessions of Great Britain, France, The Netherlands, and the United States in the Caribbean region. More specifically, the areas covered include Surinam, French Guiana, and Guyana in South America, Belize in Central America, The Bahamas and Bermuda in the more northerly reaches of the region, and the scores of inhabited islands of the Antillean archipelago. These were the areas most in need of systematic bibliographic exploration.   Publications on Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic (all in the Greater Antilles) were excluded from the project’s scope as considerable bibliographic coverage of these territories was already available to the public.

Over a decade and a half, my associates and I examined thousands of publications at a variety of sites in order to create bibliographies particularly useful to social science researchers. All of this was done systematically but “by hand” as the project was undertaken before computers and other electronic technology was readily available. It took some ten years, in two phases, to collect, review, prepare, and publish the materials that are now contained in this database. The first phase, from 1963 to 1967, resulted in a hard copy book Caribbeana 1900-1965 published in 1968. From late 1971 through early 1977, we worked to substantially expand the first collection, to extend the geographical coverage to include The Bahamas and Bermuda, and, most importantly, to deal with the decade 1966-75, a period which saw a veritable explosion of publications about the Caribbean region. That effort resulted in The Complete Caribbeana 1900-1975 published in 1977. These publications brought together citations of what I then considered to be a very large part of the scholarly writing in a variety of languages – English, French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Papiamento, Russian, Swedish, Danish, and Portuguese- on the non-Hispanic Caribbean. In book form, these publications have served as guides to seventy-five years of scholarly Caribbean literature. This is the digitalized version of these two publications and is being made available for all who would find useful a record of the scholarly probes of a seminal period of Caribbean history.

These published bibliographies and, therefore, the present digital database would never have come to fruition without the support of many individuals and institutions. In this context, I am much indebted to my fellow Caribbeanists for their generous response to requests in the 1960s for specialized bibliographies and reprints of their publications. Since well over two hundred replied at that time, I can only gratefully acknowledge them here collectively. Many of the articles, reports, bibliographies, and books that they sent would have been otherwise difficult to locate and, therefore, would have been missing from this compilation. These materials, after being processed for the database, were deposited in the Caribbean Library of the Research Institute for the Study of Man, a step that significantly helped define and expand a unique collection designed for public use. Inexplicably in 2005 this library with its invaluable holdings was dispersed and, regrettably, no longer serves as an important node for Caribbean research. 

A fundamental debt is owed also to the great libraries of New York City, Leiden, Los Angeles, and the West Indies, which so graciously cooperated in our search for relevant materials. To the staffs of these libraries, who so willingly and ably worked with us, I extend my most sincere appreciation. In this context, I must mention particularly the then librarians of the Research Institute for the Study of Man, Jane Lowenthal and Mei-Lin Tan, who went beyond professional courtesy and collegiality to facilitate in every way the successful completion of this work. Also giving generously of time and effort were the librarians and associated staff at the New York Academy of Medicine; the American Geographical Society; the American Journal of Nursing; the American Museum of Natural History; the Carnegie Endow ment for International Peace; Columbia University and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of that university; the International Planned Parenthood Federation; the New York Public Library and its Schomburg Collection; Teachers College, Columbia University; the United Nations; the Union Theological Seminary; the Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology in Leiden, The Netherlands; and the University of California, Los Angeles. 

Several libraries in the Caribbean region also contributed heavily to our effort especially during the early phase of collection. I am grateful to Judith E. Richards of the West Indian Reference Library in Jamaica, to Stella E. Merriman of the Public Library in Georgetown, Guyana, and to Mrs. M. Prescod of the Public Library in Castries, St. Lucia, for their able assistance. The late Neville Connell, Director of The Barbados Museum and Historical Society, generously offered the facilities of the Society’s library during my stay on the island in 1964. Valerie Bloomfield, Librarian of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, kindly made available West Indian materials for our use. In particular, however, I must acknowledge my debt and deep appreciation to the late Marjorie Lumsden, for years the Chief Librarian of the Central Library of Trinidad and Tobago. Miss Lumsden made scarce publications available to us on loan, expedited the forwarding of valuable West Indian reference lists compiled by her staff, and gave much of her valuable time when on leave in New York City to review, comment, and advise on many matters pertaining to this collection. 

A large number of interlibrary loans from West Indian libraries considerably eased our task and were made possible by the governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. For these extraordinary courtesies, I am happy to acknowledge the good offices of His Excellency, the former President of Trinidad and Tobago, Sir Ellis Clarke, C.M.G., then the Ambassador of his country to the United States of America; Mr. Charles Archibald, then Deputy Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations; His Excellency Mr. E. R. Richardson, C.M.G., then Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations; and Valerie C. Nelson, then Registrar/Librarian of the Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations. I am most appreciative of their generous cooperation in this work. 

A special word of gratitude must be tendered to my colleague, Professor David Lowenthal, University College, London, who made available his extensive West Indian collection and who so often assisted and encouraged us in many of the tasks leading to publication. Thanks are also extended to my colleagues, Professor Jerome Handler, Southern Illinois University, for work on sources in Barbados; Dr. David Harrison, University of Sussex, for identifying and cataloguing doctoral dissertations on Caribbean themes accepted by universities in the United Kingdom; and Professor George Roberts, University of the West Indies, for identifying doctoral dissertations on Caribbean themes accepted by the University of the West Indies. 

Many individuals, both volunteers and staff, participated at various times in the arduous and time consuming tasks of identifying and searching for relevant publica­ tions, cataloguing these sources, typing the citations, filing, proofreading, and preparing copy. To this most capable bibliographic team–June Arkoulis, Linda Cagin, Robin Geller, Frances Hulser, Joan Jackson, Patricia Munro, Susan Ochshorn, Monica Olivier, Celia Orgel, Kristin Rauch, Florence Rivera, Claudia Rogers, Davida Scharf, and Susan King Sée–I express my thanks. 

During the first phase of the work, Professor Annemarie de Waal Malefijt, Hunter College, City University of New York, accepted the responsibility of reviewing publications in the Dutch language. During the more extended second phase, this work was undertaken by Ineke Otter, who also dealt with other foreign language publications. The expertise and thoroughness of both are amply evident throughout this collection. Ineke Otter also produced the cartography which graced the end pages of the several volumes produced by the team. 

Throughout the first part of this project, I was ably seconded by Carol Feist Dickert who was integrally involved with every phase of the operation. During a major part of the second phase, including the vital last two years, this responsibility was shouldered by Georganne Chapin who carried out with competence and dedication the myriad tasks of research and administration so necessary to the successful completion of these volumes. To both, I express my appreciation. 

As might well be imagined, a large scale project such as this, involving many people over a number of years and at a time when electronic and digital technology was unavailable, required considerable financial support. For the first phase, the costs of the undertaking were borne primarily by the Research Institute for the Study of Man and partly by a grant (GN-401) from the Office of Science Information Service, National Science Foundation. The second phase was supported almost entirely by a generous grant from the Samuel Rubin Foundation, which considered a reference work of this nature on the Caribbean to be of value and made the necessary resources available for its completion. For these expressions of trust and support, I am honored and grateful. 

What was owed to the Research Institute for the Study of Man of the 1960s and 1970s and its then Director, the late Dr. Vera Rubin, goes beyond expressions of gratitude. Being one of the very few American foundations interested in the advancement of Caribbean studies at that time and with an already distinguished history of scholarly service to the area, the Institute under her direction sponsored and nurtured the project that led to two major publications and ultimately to this digitalized resource.

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