Dominican Historian Brings Volcanic Island's Past to Life

January 14, 2011 Purnell Cropper

By Purnell T. Cropper

Tom Brinker Jr., Professor of Accounting, and Dr. Wayne Morra, Associate Professor of Economics, led Arcadia students on a trip to Dominica, a Caribbean island noted for its lush forests, mountainous terrain, unique history and precarious economic development. After seven weeks of coursework in Glenside, the group arrived at Melville Hall Airport in Dominica after dark on Sunday, Jan. 2.

The first full day of activity began the next morning with an hour-long ride north from Roseau, Dominica's capital, to Portsmouth. Dr. Lennox Honychurch, who wrote one of the course’s central texts, The Dominica Story: A History of the Island, gave the first in a series of lectures scheduled for the nine-day adventure. A native of Dominica, Honychurch is a passionate storyteller and the island’s preeminent historian. He greeted the group at historic Fort Shirley in the Cabrits, an 18th century army garrison built by the English at Prince Rupert’s bay to defend their interests on the island from encroachment by other colonial powers, specifically France.

There, Honychuch provided a historical and cultural overview that appealed to group's diverse academic interests, which included everything from accounting to conservation biology. He spoke about the island’s unforgiving topography, which has had a profound effect on the country's development; its inhabitants, from the Arawak-speaking Amerindians to today’s cultural mishmash; historical turning points, such as the revolt of the 8th West Indian Regiment; and the banana industry boom that allowed small farmers a degree of prosperity from the 1950s through the 1990s. The talk was followed by a walking tour of the area surrounding Fort Shirley, which Honychurch was instrumental in restoring.

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