Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Sherry Johnson

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Noble David Cook

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Gwyn Davies

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Thomas A. Breslin

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Cuba, Havana, environment, shipbuilding, forest, colonial Latin America, 18th century

Date of Defense



This dissertation examines the construction of Spanish naval warships in Havana, Cuba, between the accession of the Bourbon family to Spain’s throne in 1700 and the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763. The rapid increase in timber consumption after the Royal Havana Company gained the obligation for shipbuilding in 1741 led to significant changes in the social and environmental landscape. This dissertation concludes that Cuba’s maritime industries under royal authorities and the Royal Havana Company were the product of deliberate and centralized Spanish reforms that had demonstrable and measurable consequences on the island.

This period of shipbuilding consumed large amounts of Cuban timber and initiated extensive deforestation on the island that is often associated solely with sugar cultivation. As harvesting crews moved farther and farther out from Havana seeking valuable timber, they altered the organization of the natural landscape. Primary source analysis of correspondence and government orders for ship construction reveal the contentious nature of naval administration between colony and metropole. Bureaucrats, laborers, skilled tradesmen, and apprentices arrived on the island, putting pressure on the Cuban environment to support a rapidly growing population. Contracts between authorities in Havana and private subjects demonstrate how those living on the island were responsible for implementing the policies that led to the destruction of large tracts of timber as the Royal Havana Company and the navy sought increased knowledge and control over the environment.







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