The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 46, Issue 1

Article 4
“But Darkness Is a Subject of History”: The Development of African Studies in Barbados (West Indies) in an Age of Globalization

Richard A. Goodridge


This is an attempt at chronicling the sustained commitment of the Department of History at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies to initiate and promote the study of African history in this part of the Atlantic. That commitment was driven in part by the ideological need to refute the idea that Africa, and the peoples of African diaspora had no “history” prior to the Euro- African contact. The central theme is the consideration of forces behind the development of greater interest in African history and culture in Barbados (and the Anglophone Caribbean). This is developed by exploring Africa-consciousness in Barbados, history curricula development and reform at the Cave Hill campus, the public outreach activities of the Cave Hill campus, and collaboration with local and international bodies to promote African history.

The article recognizes that Afro-Barbadians have created their own history, which will inform their present and future as well as their perception of the past. It further recognizes that identities respond to changing circumstances, and almost always in opposition to other identities. To that extent, the article is devoid of any attempt to place — wittingly or unwittingly — an ideological burden on African history. The article raises the question of the ideological stance of the Barbados state, especially as Barbados was the first “modern” society in the New World in which European capital and power dominated a system based on the exploitation of enslaved Africans. Finally, the article — while calling for “new education approaches” — suggests that the diaspora experience may be utilized to enrich the interpretation of both African and New World history.