The History of the Caribby-Islands


This early study of the Caribbean is an English translation of a French work published anonymously in Rotterdam in 1658 under the title Histoire naturelle et morale des iles Antilles de l'Amerique (Natural and moral history of the Antilles). The original author was Charles de Rochefort (1605-83), who identified himself in subsequent editions of the book. Not much is known about de Rochefort. The available evidence suggests he was a Protestant pastor sent to be a minister or chaplain to French-speaking Protestants in the Caribbean. He based his work on his own observations and the writings of previous authors, notably the Dominican priest Jean-Baptiste Du Terte (1610-87). De Rochefort’s work is in two parts, the first dealing with the geographical features and the second with the people of the Caribbean. The islands covered are listed and briefly described in chapters 3-5 of Book I. De Rochefort was interested in indigenous peoples and languages, and the book includes a detailed chapter on the Apalachee Indians as well as a vocabulary of the Caraïbe language prepared by Raymond Breton (1609-79), a Jesuit priest sent by Cardinal Richelieu (with Du Terte) to Guadeloupe in the 1630s. The work contains a few illustrations, mainly of animals, fish, and shells.

Last updated: September 18, 2015