The Occupation of Havana

War, Trade, and Slavery in the Atlantic World

By Elena A. Schneider

360 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 color plates., 35 halftones, 8 maps, notes, index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4535-3
    Published: November 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4536-0
    Published: October 2018

Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press

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Awards & distinctions

2019 James A. Rawley Prize, American Historical Association

2019 Murdo MacLeod Prize, Latin American and Caribbean Section, Southern Historical Association

2019 FEEGI Biennial Book Prize, Forum on European Expansion and Global Interaction

Special Mention, 2019 Elsa Goveia Book Prize, Association of Caribbean Historians

In 1762, British forces mobilized more than 230 ships and 26,000 soldiers, sailors, and enslaved Africans to attack Havana, one of the wealthiest and most populous ports in the Americas. They met fierce resistance. Spanish soldiers and local militias in Cuba, along with enslaved Africans who were promised freedom, held off the enemy for six suspenseful weeks. In the end, the British prevailed, but more lives were lost in the invasion and subsequent eleven-month British occupation of Havana than during the entire Seven Years’ War in North America.

The Occupation of Havana offers a nuanced and poignantly human account of the British capture and Spanish recovery of this coveted Caribbean city. The book explores both the interconnected histories of the British and Spanish empires and the crucial role played by free people of color and the enslaved in the creation and defense of Havana. Tragically, these men and women would watch their promise of freedom and greater rights vanish in the face of massive slave importation and increased sugar production upon Cuba's return to Spanish rule. By linking imperial negotiations with events in Cuba and their consequences, Elena Schneider sheds new light on the relationship between slavery and empire at the dawn of the Age of Revolutions.

About the Author

Elena A. Schneider is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley.
For more information about Elena A. Schneider, visit the Author Page.


“Offers a compelling argument. . . . Makes clear that the siege and occupation of Havana was not one but all, the end of an era of rights and privileges for people of African descent, a new dawn for creole oligarchs dreaming of sugar and slaves, and a middle point in an eighteenth century of interimperial conflict and collaboration.”--H-Net Reviews

"During the eighteenth century, Havana was the crown jewel of the Spanish Caribbean, a place of dazzling wealth and formidable power. Behind this impressive façade, however, lay a more complicated history of war, trade, and slavery that Havana shared with its British neighbors. Elena Schneider brings this entangled Anglo-Spanish history to life as no historian before her has done. The result is a landmark in the history of the British and Spanish Atlantic worlds."--Eliga Gould, University of New Hampshire

"At every level, from its treatment of geopolitics in the Atlantic world to its fine-grained social history, this is a splendid book. No previous scholar has so clearly recounted the 1762 siege of Havana in all its contexts; no reader of this volume will be able to doubt that event's significance."--Fred Anderson, Emeritus, University of Colorado Boulder

"The Occupation of Havana unravels national and imperial narratives about eighteenth-century British and Spanish struggles over the 'key to the Indies.' In their place, Elena Schneider offers a cross-cutting analysis that demonstrates how overlapping imperial connections and frictions shaped Caribbean lives well beyond war and commerce. Meticulously researched, this book is full of surprises."--David Sartorius, University of Maryland

"A gripping history of the British siege and occupation of Havana. Part military history, part social history, this book brilliantly reveals the origins, course, and lasting impacts (in Cuba, Britain, Spain, and the United States) of this monumental, yet remarkably understudied, event in Atlantic history. Beautifully written, The Occupation of Havana will last for generations."--Ada Ferrer, New York University