Interdisciplinary Environmental History of Martinique
The term environment in a broad perspective relates to the surroundings of an object, a country, a region and an individual. It could also mean a constructed region that an individual or a society lives in. Another definition of the environment is the flora and fauna. On a totally different perspective, environment could mean the culture that has been adopted by a certain group of people.The environment is an interdisciplinary concept meaning the entire make up of a country; the culture, the flora and the fauna, the industries, the political make up, the wars, the humanitarian and the general livelihood of the citizens.
The environment also encompasses the general historical background of a country.Humans have for many years and many generations been able to exist and to multiply in different environments of the earth. The environment has been affected by human and in turn human have affected the environment. The study of human interactions with the environment is referred to as anthropology. Anthropology is the study of the material, the genetic and the societal scope of the human connections with the environment either presently or in the past.Anthropologists have strived to fuse the concepts of culture to the concepts of environmental changes.
Different branches of anthropology, have discussed issues on the environment and humans. The aspect of the environment that deals with the evolution humans within an environment over a long period of time is referred to as archeology. The adaptation of humans to their environment is captured under biological anthropology. Cultural anthropologists have sought to discover the behavior of the society in relation to the happenings of the environment whereas the linguistic anthropologists have researched and developed the concept of language and the environment. The language that a certain group of people use to refer to the environment or within an environment echoes their interaction to that environment.The aim of this essay is to fully capture the interdisciplinary environmental history of Martinique. The aspects in which the Martinique environment and the generations of the humans have existed and have influenced each other will be discussed in depth.
Overview of Martinique
Martinique is the metropolitan of France. It is located in the western part of Europe. It borders the Mediterranean Sea to the North West, Italy to the West, to the East it borders Bay of Biscay, to the South East it borders the English Channel and Germany to the South West. Martinique is the out of country department and the administration section of France. According to a survey that was carried out in the year 2005, Martinique holds a population of approximately 400,000 people. It has an area of approximately 1100 square kilometers. Its capital is called Fort-de-France. (Richard, 1978)Martinique is an island that resulted from a volcanic eruption. It is a very hilly and a very rocky island with its highest point being Mount Pelee. The religion that dominates in the Island is Roman Catholic by the Africans. Languages that are spoken are French and Creole Patois. Agriculture is the main activity in the Island. It is practiced in the valleys and the coastal regions of the Island.
The main commercial crop is sugarcane which is mainly grown at the coast due to the water mass borders. The sugar cane that is produce is used for the manufacture of Rum which is the country’s chief exports. Other agricultural products grown in the island are Bananas and pineapples. Industries that have come up in the Island are those that deal with the crops produced; these are fruit canning industries, sugar production industries and petroleum refineries. Tourism is also a major activity in the Island. Being an island it attracts tourists from far and wide. The Tourism sector is also the industry that has employed the largest number of people in the Island.
History of Martinique
The history of Martinique can be traced back to the period between 100-1450. At this period of time the Island was populated by the Arawak and the Caribs. The term is of the origins of the Arawakan family that stands for a type of cassava flour. They are a group of very primitive people who first inhibited Lesser Antilles. The Arawaks were alleged to have migrated from South America. (Reno, 1995)The Carib are the reason as to the development of the name Caribbean Sea. They spoke the Cariban language or the pidgin language. The Carib people were very hostile and they often took over their fellow Anawaks for slavery. The Caribs were also cannibals, they ate out a piece of human flesh from one of the warriors who they killed or was killed by others during the wars and they spat the piece of flesh on the ground, as a ritual to transfer the courage and the bravery of this people to them. They could also come home with limbs of the warriors and hang them up in their houses as a ritual to the gods to protect them from any harm.
The Island at this historic time was reeking of the rotten human pieces that were hanging up as rituals.By the year 295 CE, Mount Pelee erupted and led to the migration of most of the Arawaks and the Caribs. It reduced the population of the Island greatly. After a period of 150 years after the Island was deemed safe from further eruptions the Arawaks repopulated the Island. It did not take a long period of time before the Caribs returned into the Island, they fought the Arawaks and they eradicated all other individuals who did not speak their language, making others their slaves and possessing the Island. They took full governance of the Island for the next couple of years. (William, 2002)Christopher Columbus noticed the Island in the year 1495.
He had a troop of soldiers among which was Cortes a very strong warrior. Cortes was at a very tender age when he started involving himself with the warfare of the Spanish. He was twenty two when he joined the group of Spanish soldiers. He was however ordered by Christopher Columbus to stay back and settle in a small land that he had been awarded by the Indians and not go to seek gold like the other soldiers. (Brading, 1993)Despite the fact that Christopher Columbus noticed the Island in 1495, he only got to visit it during his fourth voyage in the year 1502. Other soldiers and Spaniards including Cortes ignored the Island since according to them other areas of the world were more important.Taking an example of Cortes, in the year 1510, he went into Cuba and he joined forces with Diego Velasquez and together they fought the war and he proved to be a competent warrior and once they came back from the war, Velasquez awarded him with an even larger piece of land and more slaves under his rule. In the period or 1518, it was claimed that Yucatan had traces of gold and silver.
Therefore it became very important that the Spanish should move them and to conquer them and to come back home with the gold. (Hugh, 1993)Velasquez made Cortes, his assistant in this endeavor. In the preparation for the war, Cortez used his own finances to purchase what he needed. He bought steers, masks among others and when his was deprived off his money he borrowed. According to Velasquez this was too much and he sent a messenger withdrawing Cortez from the position that he had been given, but the messenger never arrived because he was killed on the way. (Matthew, 2003)In his journey to Cuba, Cortez found a fellow Spaniard who joined him in the expedition. The Spaniard helped Cortez interpret the language of the Maya since he could understand. When they got to Yucatan they effused to peacefully trade with the Spaniards and this resulted to war.
The Mayas surrendered and they offered Cortez food and other gifts and they also offered him women who could fend for his and among the women was Malintzin a woman who become of great help when it came to the war with the Aztecs.According to some of the writings that were retrieved from Tenochtitlan which was among one of the empires of the Aztecs Alliance, Cortez destroyed the entire of the alliance by bombing and the use of gun powder. He destroyed buildings and replaced them with churches and he settled in Mexico with his troop. By the year 1522, Cortez was named the Governor in Mesoamerica. (Hugh, 1993)Being the only one who was interested in the Island, Christopher Columbus took the advantage and as he proceeded with his voyages, he left his goats and his pigs in Martinique. Before he left, Christopher noted the cannibalism that was inevitable among the Caribs and he jotted this down in his accounts as one of the key aspects among the Caribs.
The 17th Century in Martinique
The Company of the Isles of America was created in the year 1635, as a successor of the Company of Saint Christopher. It was created by Cardinal Richelieu. The founders of the company made an agreement with the then governors to absorb and to oversee the Caribbean Islands that at time belonged to the French crown. As a result of this contract Pierre Belain landed into Martinique with a group of almost a hundred French settlers. These French settlers were part of the Company of Saint Cristophe. Some resistance was experienced from the Caribs who were the main occupants of the Island at that time but the French settlers were able to defeat them due to their artillery and body armor. After winning over the Caribs, the French settled in the North West part of the Island which was later named St. Pierre. St. Pierre was at the source of the River Roxelane; they later constructed the Fort Saint Pierre at the same location. (Ruben, 2006)In the next year, that is the year 1636, Pierre fell ill and he therefore decided to pass the authority of the French settlers to Jacques Parquet who was his nephew. At this point in time the number of the French settlers in the Island of Martinique had risen to an average of seven hundred.The French settlers started engaging themselves in agriculture, producing potatoes and manioc for their own consumption and at the same time producing tobacco, cotton and indigo for commercial basis.
As a result of the commercial products that were being produce many traders traveled into the Island to purchase some of their prestigious products making the Island prosperous and well known by both French and foreign merchants. (Cosmos, 2007)Other than the Fort Saint Pierre the French colonialists constructed another Fort known as the Fort Saint Louis which was put up in the year 1638. At this point in time the forts were simple and they were constructed using wood; but with time the French colonialists improved them to include stone walls, a waterway and twenty six guns.In the next twenty five years the French were able to fully colonize the Island and the Caribs who showed resistance were killed brutally and the rest were forced to go and live at the side of the Island that did not receive so much rain; the leeward side of the mountains. This leeward side of the mountain was known as Caravelle Peninsula. (Hillman, 2003)In the year 1636 as the production of the cotton and tobacco ad the other substantial crops the production of sugar in the Island become very productive and very profitable. Sugarcane farming being labor intensive, it probed the French colonialists to seek for labor to work at the firms.
An order by King Louis the XIII required that African be picked from their firms to come into the country to work as slaves in the sugarcane firms. For the next couple of years the Island was involved with slavery and slave related wrangles that affected its economy and politics in the 17th century. The culture of the Martinique Island was based on the relationship that existed between the slaves and the French colonialists. (Reno, 1995)The French colonialists who operated in the firms operated on half truths. They promised the servants who volunteered to work in the firms, a piece of land of their own after they had worked on the firm for more than three years. This did not happen however since the French colonialists ensured that the servants who had volunteered for the positions where immigrated and others were put on the job with the same false promises.The economy of the Martinique Island increased a great deal due to the exports that were made to the French, the Dutch and other neighboring countries.
At period of time the Island was under the Pierre’s Nephew and in the year 1645, the Company of Isles of America was beginning to wind up their operation on the island and they sold the Island to Pierre’s Nephew. (William, 2002)Jacques Parquet in the year 1650 came up with a brilliant plan that involved the covering of the sugar cane waste which a long period of time fermented into molasses. This product became a lucrative export also. This invention by the Pierre’s Nephew was among the greatest inventions that were made in the Island very lucrative.In the year 1654, a war erupted in the Dutch empire and all the Jews from Dutch migrated into the Island. The Dutch were migrating from Brazil as a result of the Portuguese invasion. The Dutch Jews were involved in the sugarcane plantations which made the export of sugar the principal export in Martinique. (Ruben, 2006)Jacques Parquet passed away soon after the migration of the Dutch but since his siblings were still young his widow reigned for the next four years then handed over the reign to Louis XIV.
The children of Jacques were compensated a large amount for the loss of their father. At this point in time the population capacity in the Island ranged at about 5000 early settlers with a minority of Carib Indians who were eradicated by the year 1660. (Wim, 1998)A very successful priest was sovereign in Martinique Island at that time. Other Dominican Fathers built him an estate where he used to live for the period of twelve years till 1705. The priest was of great influence to the people due to his nature and temperament. He was a warrior, a draftsman, engineer, and historian. (Gad, 2006)In the year 1664, Louis XIV conveyed the Island to another company. Another war erupted in Dutch and a great number of the settlers there moved into the Island. A misfortune struck the Island when an earthquake occurred and killed a huge number of the settlers in the Island at that time. The disaster’s effects were felt in the Island for many years to come. The Island was however attacked by a group of British colonialists later in the year 1666, but the Martinique settlers won over them. A treaty that was signed by the British and the Martinique’s ended the Anglo-Dutch war in the year 1667. (Maingot, 1995)Another Fort was constructed on order by Louis XIV at the coastal region of the Island that served as a protection of the island from illegitimate entrants.
The Company that was reigning in the Island at that time decided to come up with a town near the bay, the region was however infested with mosquitoes and therefore their construction came to a fatal end. The administration of the Island was then reverted back to the French Crown in the year 1674, the King was the head of the council and he had the power to appoint his administration and council members. (Neely, 2008)In the year 1675, a governor form West Indies came to reign over the Island this was after the war Third Anglo-Dutch War. The governor did not reign for a long time and he was soon after succeeded by Charles de La Roche. La Roche is the figure behind the successes of the Island. It is during his reign that the wall around the Fort was built. The wall was very strong with a height of about four meters and a width of about two meters. The wall stood as a protection of the settlers in the Island from outsiders.
La Roche served in Martinique for a long period till his death in the year 1696. (William, 2002)The Island of Martinique continued to grow at a tremendous rate. This growth led to the drainage of the Mosquito infested swamp in the coastal region. Towns started developing and the Fort Pierre remained the administrative council of the Island. Governors and all the administrative members had there offices in the Fort and it remained the capital of the Island. (Richard, 1978)In 1685, a chattel was signed by the French to govern the slavery in the Island. The Chattel was aimed at reducing the malicious acts against the workers in the sugarcane farms. Since the workers were mainly the Africans the chattel was referred to as Code des Noires. Slavery was however not made illegal but was only regulated. The same French general who came up with the Slavery Chattel also ordered that the Dutch Jews who had migrated to the Island during the wars should be moved. They were migrated into the Dutch Island where the flourished and established their lives. In the year 1692, La Roche announced Fort Royal as the capital city of Martinique. The British took another trial at colonizing the Island but they failed once again. (Curtis, 1958)
Martinique in 1700-1788
Many activities took place in the environment of the Island within this period of time. The agricultural sector of the Island was highly improved when a governor from the French transported coffee seedlings from Paris to the Island of Martinique and planted them. The first harvest took place after a period of six years. The plantation took place around the Mount Pelee since it was the highest point of the Island and coffee requires very high temperatures to sprout. A census that was carried out in the Island in the year 1736 indicated that the number of slaves working in the plantations of the Island was a huge number of almost 60,000. The Forts were most populated having a total of about 20,000 inhabitants.
(Reno, 2003)A war erupted in the Island as the British wanted to take over the Island. The French were against the take over since they did not want to stand to lose the Island due to the sugar plantation. The French therefore made a treaty with the Britain where they agreed that the French would let go of Canada and give it to the British and in return the British would grant them full custody of Martinique and Guadeloupe. This treaty was known as the Treaty of Paris.A Yellow Fever epidemic hit the Island of Martinique in the year 1763 which led to the deaths of significant number of the settlers specifically the slaves who worked in the coffee firms. Later in the following year the government of the Island separated Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The two separate towns were granted separate governments with different councils. (Ruben, 2006)In the Island of Martinique was born Saint Pierre de Louis Delgres who was of the mixed race. He was born of a French father and an African mother. The child was supposed to fight in the French army when he grew up a war against the British who wanted to instill the ill treatment of the slaves against the treaty that had been signed against that kind of treatment. The born leader was also supposed to help the people of Guadeloupe out of the oppression that they were going through under the leadership of General Richepance who had been sent by Napoleon.In the year 1766, an earthquake combined with a hurricane hit the Island which led to the death of many of the settlers. Once again the settlement was reduced by a significant amount of about 1500 people. By the end of the year 1788, the Island of Martinique had very many sugar mills and the coffee plantations were also plenty by this time. (Reno, 1995)
The French revolution took effect between the years of (1789-1799). The revolution brought about both political and economic turmoil in all the French territories. The French Revolution as a war among the French citizens who complained that the prices of the food stuff was going up and at the same time they were criticizing the reign of Louis the XIV and they wanted him to step down from the throne. The settlers of the French territories wanted the current system for government that was monarchy system to come to an end and instead employ a more democratic way of life. (Richard, 1978)As a result of the demands of the settlers during the wars the slavery and the slave trade that was now very common was abolished and the Africans were given the right to only work at there own will.
20th Century changes in Martinique
The abolition of slavery in Martinique did not however stop the suffering that the workers of the firms went through. At the beginning of the 20th century the workers at one of the firms demonstrated due to the slavery, they were shot dead by the police. Soon after in the year 1902, Mount Pelee erupted once again but this time round it killed all the inhabitants of the Saint Pierre but leaving out only two people a shoe maker and a prisoner to survive. Being the capital of Martinique, which was now destroyed, the settlers who remained and the French military ordered that another Fort be named as the capital and that was done. Soon afterwards a hurricane hit the Island killing more people in the Island. The town then had to be reconstructed all over again due to the damage that had been caused by the two misfortunes. (Lester, 1998)By the year 1913, the war between the French and the Germans was looming therefore the French summoned the Martinique’s to give them soldiers every year. Most of these soldiers were killed in the war reducing the population of the Island even further.Soon after the World War I had already started and therefore the Martinique settlers were required by the French to join and be part of the French military to protect the French territories from any form of invasion.
Many of the Martinique settlers participated in the war and out of those who were part of the army more than 1000 were killed while at war. As the war progressed the production of the Rum from the sugarcane increased due to the use of the product by the soldiers during the war. (Ruben, 2006)In the year 1921 and 1922, the market for the sugar decline and it finally came to a stand still and the people of Martinique had to come with another crop that they could produce both substantially and commercially. They decided on bananas and the production was introduced all over Martinique.Soon later in the year 1929, Mount Pelle got active once again but it took the settlers an extra three year to purchase a seismometer. Many of the settlers were evacuated once more from Saint Pierre to avoid more deaths.In 1946, Martinique was transformed from the colony of the French and it was made a department instead. Martinique remained one of the high standards islands in the Caribbean due to the funding of the French. (Reno, 1995)
Humans have for many years and many generations been able to exist and to multiply in different environments of the earth. The environment has been affected by human and in turn humans have affected the environment. In the Martinique Island the humans were affected by the eruptions of the Mount Pelee and also by the earthquakes and the hurricanes that affected the Island. In turn the humans also affected the environment of the Island in such as they were involved in the plantation of sugar, coffee and also the bananas making the island a tourist attraction and famous for exports. The leadership in the Island also affected the environment since they help build and shape the towns and also decided on who should inhibit the island and who should not on the other hand. This explains why the Caribs were totally exterminated. Therefore the essay has answered the question and it is true that the co-existence between the human beings and the environment is a true feature of anthropology.
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