Cuba: A Concise History for Travellers


176 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-894494-93-3
DDC 972.91






Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a professor of geography at the University of Toronto.


This is indeed a concise history, 176 pages, including illustrations.
Alan Twigg is not a professional historian. He does list “some
bibliographic sources” and provides an index, but there are no
footnotes or references. Twigg’s main qualifications for the task he
set himself are his journalistic flair and enthusiasm, informed by much
travel in Cuba and some reading. His bibliography is strong on the
memoirs and biographies of recent Cuban politicians and weak on the
standard histories of the island. He believes that vacationers will
enjoy their stay all the more if they have some knowledge of the local
history. I like to think he is right; this book will not satisfy the
well-informed visitor, but if it inspires others to read up on Cuba on
their return home, Twigg’s time and energy will have been well spent.

Twigg dashes through the years of the Spanish conquest and the colonial
period with a lack of caution and a degree of oversimplification that
will make any informed reader blink. He gives the years of “American
Control” very short shrift. Capsule comments on the contribution of
personalities dominate, with a good number of the few pages in this
section devoted to political corruption and the gambling and sex tourism
of the Batista years. Twigg relishes recording the visits of Mafia
bosses and Frank Sinatra more than analyzing the intricacies of the
sugar economy and structure of post-slavery society. By page 55, he has
reached “Castro’s Early Life” and, inevitably, stays with Castro
for the rest of the book.

In his rush through Castro’s career, Twigg is stronger on events and
loves than on politics and economics. Life in the Sierra Maestra, the
Bay of Pigs, and the missile crisis each receive a few paragraphs of
attention. What Twigg fails to bring to the fore is the fact that Castro
has used his enormous political skills to remain in power as a ruthless
dictator. Twigg concludes the book with a brief chapter on the death of
Che Guevara and another in which he reviews the attempts to assassinate


Twigg, Alan., “Cuba: A Concise History for Travellers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,