SIUE professor featured on CSPAN history program

SIUE history professor Robert Paulett took a bit of a departure from a traditional class last September.

SIUE associate professor Robert Paulette's lecture on British colonialism and the sugar production in the Caribbean was broadcast on the C-SSPAN program "Lectures in History." (Photo by Joseph Lacdan)

He spoke to his students in his U.S. History and Constitution class with TV cameras rolling and a microphone strapped to his shirt. His lecture on the development of sugar plantations in the 17th century English Empire was aired on C-SPAN3 as part of the channel’s program “Lectures in History.”

The program aired on the channel Nov. 28. During the hour-long period, Paulett discussed the importance of sugar production of English colonies in the Caribbean islands including Barbados and Jamaica. Sugar production originally was sponsored by small companies and later grew into mass production as Royal colonies. Paulett said the lecture was part of a block in the course that laid the foundation for the majority of the course. About 75 percent of all African slaves in the Americas worked on a colony devoted to sugar production.

“The creation of these large sugar plantations in the English Caribbean, shaped the history of all the colonies in Eastern north America,” said Paulette, an associate professor that specializes in teaching American colonial history. “The rise of slavery in Virginia was shaped by what happened in the Caribbean. The development of New England’s economy was shaped by what happened in the Caribbean. The establishment of colonies such as South Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania was shaped by what happened in the Caribbean. So without those sugar islands, the entire history of the east coast of North America would be quite different.”

The demand for sugar created greater traffic between the 13 English colonies, the Caribbean and West Africa, further facilitating the slave trade. Paulette said that this led to the growth of the original colonials as well as the eventual progression into what would become the United States. Paulette said the discussion of the early sugar trade in the Caribbean is a subject not wholly discussed in some academic circles but has seen steady growth in the last couple of years. He added it is a subject not often discussed in traditional history courses.

“You here about the 13 that become the U.S. and don’t hear about the rest. More and more historians of early America are lecturing about the Caribbean, things about Latin America, places outside the 13 original colonies that still affected the development of those original 13.”

“The focus on how the Caribbean Islands both how they developed on their own and how they shaped history on the East coast of America.”

Paulette is currently working on a book on mapping science and religious mysticism in the 18th century and hopes to publish by 2018 or 2019. Paulette previously wrote a book, “An Empire of Small Places: Mapping the Southeastern Anglo-Indian Trade” published in 2012. The work discussed the importance of Britain’s social and political relationships with Native American confederacies in the American Southeast. Paulette earned his PhD at the College of William and Mary and has been teaching history at SIUE since 2008.  Paulette said he enjoyed the opportunity to have his lessons broadcast on the C-SPAN family of networks.

“Once I talked to them and confirmed who they were it was exciting,” Paulette said. “It’s not typical in this line of work to get a chance to be on television so it was nice to do that.”


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