Higman, B(arry) W(illiam) 1943-
HIGMAN, B(arry) W(illiam) 1943-
PERSONAL: Born September 30, 1943, in Wagga Wagga, Australia; son of William James (a farmer) and Ida (a teacher and writer; maiden name, Jordan) Higman. Education: University of Sydney, B.A., 1967; University of the West Indies, Ph.D. (history), 1969; University of Liverpool, Ph.D., 1971. Hobbies and other interests: Papermaking experiments.
CAREER: University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica, lecturer, 1971-83, professor of history, 1983-96; Australian National University, Canberra, professor and head of history program at Research School of Social Sciences, 1996—, William Keith Hancock Professor of Australian History, beginning 1998. Owner of Caldwell Press. Research fellow at Princeton University, 1976-77.
MEMBER: Economic History Society, Economic History Association, Caribbean Historians Association, American Archaeological Society, Society for Historical Archaeology.
AWARDS, HONORS: Bancroft Prize in American History, Columbia University, 1976, for Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica, 1807-1834; Gordon K. Lewis Memorial Award, 2000, for Writing West Indian Histories.
The Caribbean, 1975, Social Development Commission of Jamaica, 1975.
(Editor) Trade, Government, and Society in Caribbean History, 1700-1920: Essays Presented to Douglas Hall, Heinemann (Kingston, Jamaica), 1983.
Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1984, with a new introduction by Higman, University of the West Indies (Kingston, Jamaica), 1995.
Jamaica Surveyed: Plantation Maps and Plans of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Institute of Jamaica Publications (San Francisco, CA), 1988.
(Editor) Neville A. T. Hall, Slave Society in the Danish West Indies: St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1992.
Montpellier, Jamaica: A Plantation Community in Slavery and Freedom, 1739-1912, University Press of the West Indies (Kingston, Jamaica), 1998.
Writing West Indian Histories, Heinemann (London, England), 1999.
(Editor) Methodology and Historiography of the Caribbean, Macmillan (London, England), 1999.
Domestic Service in Australia, Melbourne University Press (Melbourne, Australia), 2002.
Contributor to history, geography, Caribbean studies, and population-studies journals.
SIDELIGHTS: A scholar of the slave history of the British Caribbean as well as that of domestic workers in his native Australia, B. W. Higman has written several titles exploring the economy, demographics, and culture of the slave societies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. "When we open any book published by B. W. Higman," noted Gwendolyn Midlo Hall in the Journal of Social History, "we can expect a thoroughly researched, well conceived, and clearly written work." Higman's best-known work is 1984's Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834, called "a massive demographic, environmental, economic, and social profile of slavery in the Englishspeaking Caribbean" by reviewer Robert Forster in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History. His Domestic Service in Australia was similarly praised by Australian Humanities Review contributor Maree Murray, who called the 2002 work "a useful and impressive addition to scholarship in Australian History."
In Montpellier, Jamaica: A Plantation Community in Slavery and Freedom, 1739-1912 Higman presents the history of a particular plantation community using an interdisciplinary approach. Hall noted that the book is "a case study of one of the largest, most populated, and best documented estates in Jamaica, discussing its creation and development over an extended period of time. The analytic tools of several disciplines are applied: history, geography, historical demography, and archaeology." Hall concluded in the Journal of Social History that Montpellier, Jamaica is "a fine book which will surely stand the test of time."
Higman has also written about the theoretical bases for writing history. In the first half of his award-winning Writing West Indian Histories he chronicles the various histories that have been written about the West Indies, both by professional historians and amateur enthusiasts. In the second half, "Higman departs from the history of history writing to explore perspectives, metaphors, and models that have shaped British Caribbean history," as Forster explained. Here he reveals the various biases to be found even in historic documents, the limitations of Marxist and other predetermined historical approaches, and the still overwhelming number of foreign universities granting degrees in West Indies history, a situation that causes foreign perspectives to dominate the region's written history. Higman concludes by calling upon historians to "enrich Caribbean history by offering more imaginative approaches," Forster recounted.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, June, 1985, William A. Green, review of Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834, p. 795; October, 1991, Sidney W. Mintz, review of Jamaica Surveyed: Plantation Maps and Plans of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, p. 1331.
Australian Humanities Review, January, 2003, Maree Murray, review of Domestic Service in Australia.
Handbook of Latin American Studies, Volume 58, 1995.
Journal of American History, September, 1985, Sidney W. Mintz, review of Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834, p. 401; March, 1994, Johannes Postma, review of Slave Society in the Danish West Indies, p. 1442.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, autumn, 2000, Robert Forster, review of Writing West Indian Histories, p. 316.
Journal of Social History, winter, 2000, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, review of Montpellier Jamaica: A Plantation Community in Slavery and Freedom, 1739-1912, p. 478.
Journal of Southern History, February, 1990, Edward L. Cox, review of Jamaica Surveyed: Plantation Maps and Plans of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, p. 167.*