HomeSubject SamplersAgriculture and the Environment

Agriculture and the Environment

The importance of the natural world to the production of sustenance and wealth in the Caribbean meant it was a frequent subject of writing, by everyone from farmers to geologists.

Featured Items



 This encyclopedia (sadly without illustration) describes the numerous plants native to the western hemisphere, including South America, but particularly focused on Jamaica. The author focuses on the “uses in medicine, diet, and mechanics” of each plant, and in so doing reveals the relationship between humans and the natural world in the pre-eighteenth-century Caribbean. Particularly rich indices at the back include a Linnaean index and an index of diseases with their associated remedies. 

A large, folio-bound volume from the mid-eighteenth century dedicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury, this thorough listing of the natural environment of the island of Barbados cites both previous scholarship and scripture as its sources. With large illustrated plates of both locations and species, this book robustly illustrates some of the most striking natural features of Barbados, from topography and marine life to plants and their uses.

(In French) A beautifully bound eighteenth-century volume printed in both Haiti and France. It tells the story of a botantist who travels through the West Indies and Mexico to examine the nopal cactus and the cochineal insect. A fascinating look at the way scientific exploration and investigation was performed in the eighteenth-century Caribbean.

Part political history, part natural history of half the island of Hispaniola, this book features here in this sampler for its descriptions of the natural factors present on the islands, from the richness of the soil to the winds that come off the sea.

A comprehensive look at the state of the island of Trinidad in 1841, this volume is comprised of a series of interviews with experts in a variety of fields, including five planters and two surveyors. The environmental estimations of the island of Trinidad from this variety of perspectives is a valuable insight into the methodology of environmental evaluation and recommendation in the mid-nineteenth century.

A short but detailed physical description with a map of a Haitian plantation consisting of 225 acres and 10 buildings as surveyed in 1785. The plantation was primarily woodland but also produced bananas, yuccas, sweet potatoes, and more. 

(In Spanish) This 1845 pamphlet published in Cuba includes methodology for best practices of tobacco cultivation, as well as cost estimates for growing a successful crop, based on prices for land, labor, water, and more.  A New York publication intended to interest the American public in the Mineral, Agricultural, Commercial and other resources of Dominica. The author urges the Yankee to exploit the great resources lying dormant there, primarily its mineral and agricultural capabilities. This text functions therefore as both a study of the Caribbean agricultural environment and as an enticement to American prospectors, highlighting the intersection and close relationship the history of one had on the other. 

The plantation was for centuries the most important, and most profitable, method of organizing land and property. The economic, political, and environmental implications of the plantation were myriad, and this book reflects specifically on the structure of the Jamaican plantation - how they were comprised, where they were located, and especially how the system had been changed in the century prior to the book's writing in 1864.

This volume is actually two lectures, bound as one and printed in Jamaica, on the geology and mining of Jamaica. It is unusual for its interest in the material resources of Jamaica not for agricultural or plantation purposes, but for its mineral resources and mining potential. 

Published a year after the lectures On Geology of Jamaica, this text presents a very different take on the same question—how best to leverage Jamaica’s natural resources to produce profitability and prosperity. This author calls attention to Jamaica’s numerous healing mineral springs, and expresses his wish to make them accessible and well known to a global audience.