Alexander von
Essai politique sur l'île de Cuba
Librairie de Gide Fils
Ensayo político sobre la isla de Cuba, por el baron A. De Humboldt (Paris: Jules Renouard, 1827). Spanish. The Island of Cuba, by Alexander Humboldt, translated from the Spanish, with notes and a preliminary essay, by J. S. Thrasher (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1856). English.
Travel Writings
Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Kongelige Bibliotek, Danmark. Biblioteca Nacional de España. British Library. Goldsmiths' Library of Economic Literature, University of London.
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Political Essay Island Cuba Travel Naturalist Population Geography Slavery Americas Caribbean
Humboldt visited Cuba in 1800 and again in 1804, as part of a five-year scientific exploration of the Americas, which he undertook with the French naturalist Aimé Bonpland. This essay gives a detailed account of Cuba's geographical position, population, agricultural and commerce. Humboldt's controversial chapter on slavery, which caused the book to be banned in Cuba, argues that: "slavery is the greatest of all evils to have plagued mankind" (I, 309). Comparing Jamaican and Cuban plantation regimes, Humboldt suggests that the latter was less harsh, but he points that any comparison of the death tolls in the colonies of these two "Christian and civilized nations" was a shameful exercise (I, 174). He calls for an end to slavery, but suggests this would only be effective if colonial assemblies would cooperate in making the legislative changes needed.
Two volumes. Volume II is also available online: http://www.archive.org/stream/essaipolitiques06humbgoog#page/n8/mode/2up Includes a map of Cuba, geographical tables and population figures. Originally published in the multi-volume compendium of Humboldt's travels: Voyage aux régions équinoxiales du Nouveau-continent (1814-). This text was banned in nineteenth-century Cuba, and the 1856 American translation omitted the key chapter on slavery, causing Humboldt to write a letter of complaint to the German newspaper Spenersche Zeitung, accusing the translator of censoring important parts of his work.