A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO CARIBBEAN
First Immigrants to the Caribbean
The three main groups:
The Ciboney are thought to be the earliest arrivals to the Caribbean region. These people had a poorly developed
social structure and were relatively peaceful.
called the Arawak, Garifuna, or Kalinago).
The Taíno migrated through the Caribbean
from as far back as 2000 B.C and by about 600 A.D. they had moved from South America up through the Lesser
Antilles, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Jamaica,
and most of Cuba.
The Europeans believed that they were savages but saw that they
could be profitable as slaves, which eventually helped to decimate their
The Taínos lived in villages built around a square and their
social structure included a chief. The
Taínos smoked tobacco – a pastime they passed on to the Europeans.
The Taíno were dark-skinned and black-haired, but did not have
beards or body hair.
By the time of Columbus' explorations the chain from Trinidad and Tobago
northward through Guadeloupe, other than Barbados, had
become Carib nations.
The Caribs were less understood
and immediately marked as cannibals by explorers; their warlike nature kept
these islands from being easily settled.
Caribs had a male-dominated
society, and much of their life revolved around the sea. Women generally did
any work besides the hunting, and warriors were elected as their leaders. Their
resistance to settlers means that some Caribs still survive today on some of
Up to 1499
Portugal, Spain, France and
England had all developed into nation states
There was a great rivalry between
the nations and prestige, increased revenue, and the desires to be stronger,
richer and more important
By 1498 the Portuguese explorer
Vasco da Game had reached the Indian Ocean and India
Christopher Columbus reached the
West Indies in 1492, and landed in San Salvador, before going on to Cuba and
Hispaniola. He had planned to get to
The Spanish objective: “gold”,
“glory” and “to serve God”
The first Europeans in the West
Indies grew tobacco since sugar was too labour intensive
White planters were granted land
taken from the Indians
White workers could not abide the
heat and succumbed to diseases very easily.
Africans were imported to the West
Indies from 1505
Destruction of the
Aztec and Inca civilisations
England, France and the Dutch
The Line of
Demarcation was drawn by the Pope to benefit Spain and Portugal
Ruled by Spain
slaves to Spanish colonies
1530s under Henry VIII
seafarers John Hawkins, Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh
Up to 2000
trading ships in the Caribbean
powerful force in the Caribbean
By 1600 most of
the Arawaks were dead and the Caribs
were holding out in the Lesser Antilles
A steady trade
in Africans began
English and French came looking for places to establish permanent footholds; both
nations took control of the profitable trade with their own colonies and began
to squeeze out the Dutch; Spain forced to recognise the Dutch; Dutch lost their
commercial supremacy; increased importation of African slaves; sugar became
king; and the Spanish found the Line of Demarcation too huge an area to manage.
Jamaica was Spain’s only
significant loss; their mainland was intact, but for Guiana
and the French were in St Dominique.
on the American mainland. St Kitts partitioned with France until 1713. Found Barbados by chance. Nevis
1628. Montseratt and Antigua
1632. Captured Jamaica from
the Spanish in 1655; harassed by the Maroons; development of cane sugar
Martinique, Grenada, St Martin, St Lucia,
St Croix and St Barth and colonised Guiana.
in Guiana and Curacao;
most successful traders in the West Indies;
supplied the French/English colonies; Spanish rule in Netherlands ended
by the English and French, to destroy the Spanish and force them to recognise
English/French settlers. Henry Morgan – the
leader of the buccaneers – was motivated by riches; attacked Panama, Cuba, and Trinidad; knighted; and Deputy Governor of Jamaica.
Tobacco versus sugar
few workers, small bulk, small scale and little capital. Supply outran demand by the 1630s.
intensive; dependent upon technology; a complex operation requiring expert
advice/assistance. The first sugar mill was located on Hispaniola
Spanish West Indies – sugar cane, tobacco, dyewoods and hide. The
Amerindians grew pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cotton, tobacco, corn, cassava, and
yam. They were also keen fishermen.
The sugar revolution
on extraction and not construction; no real benefit to the islands; and wealth and
profits went abroad and to large plantation owners.
Barbados (1645) 11,000 small holders with an average of 10 acres each and there were
5,500 slaves. By 1667 there were 700
great estate owners with an average of 300 acres and 80,000 slaves.
of the “planter class”, large labour force and large estates.
Hierarchy of social groups on the estates
overseers, foremen, craftsmen, clerks, etc
overseers, foremen, craftsmen, clerks, etc
The French and English practiced mercantilism – restricted trade
with other nations – whilst the Dutch – practiced free trade.
Africans lived in tribes. Ibos (from
what is now Eastern Nigeria) had a reputation
for ending their sufferings with suicide.
from present day Ghana
(usually called Coromantees) were strong and efficient but not easy to
subdue. The Mundingoes, who lived near
the mouth of the River Gambia, were less troublesome, but they were considered
to be poor fieldworkers and more suited to domestic service.
had no common language and slave masters were quick to mix the different tribes
so that they could not easily communicate with one another.
African were experts in poisons, which they obtained from vegetation, with
which they made weapons to use against their white masters.
also practiced Obeah (particularly widespread in Jamaica). It was based on a belief in incantations
which could maim and destroy, or fortify and protect. The British tried hard to suppress it but
without complete success.
St Dominique Africans believed in the practice of Vodun (voodoo). In the 1790s it was a powerful unifying force
for a mass-rising of the slaves which was to result in Haiti.
Unrefined sugar was produced in the West
Indies and refined in the UK.
In 1753 there were 80 refineries in London and 20 in Bristol.
The sugar estate
several hundred slaves in barracks or small thatched huts.
working clothes, all-purpose knife, hat and possibly provision ground.
long (some 14 hours); no days off; two hours to work on provision ground and
for recreation; and the rest for sleeping.
usually 900 acres; one-third devoted to cane sugar.
slaves, factory workers, and craftsmen worked around the clock.
resulted in setting fire to cane fields and master’s buildings; murdering
tormentors. Rebellions occurred in Barbados (1649),
Guadaloupe (1656), Cuba
(1729 & 1731), and Jamaica
Maroons were situated in St Dominique and Jamaica, had their own communities
and witchcraft was practiced to ensure successful battles.
Regulations for slave society
adequate food and clothing.
in sickness and old age.
forbidden to grow and sell certain listed produce and to rear certain livestock.
for minor offences such as whippings and killed for more serious crimes.
were created but difficult to enforce.
from 4000 miles away
by governors loyal to Britain
and its way of life
of social distinctions
the same government as existed in Britain
were elected from large estate owners who were loyal to the planters and there
were many conflicts with the governors of the islands over money and taxes.
The islands, especially the sugar islands and Guiana
where there were low white populations, feared a mass uprising of African
up insurgence against their enemies, particularly the French in islands taken
by the British and vice-versa.
St Vincent – struck at their new masters,
Dominique revolutionaries unsettled the maroons, who had been peaceful since
1754, who attacked the plantations in 1795, were defeated by the militia and
shipped to Nova Scotia.
were independent movements for change by mullatoes and creoles only.
had been a revolution in France
(1789) and also in St Dominique (1798).
This was inspiration for all discontents.
The British Empire
there had been a long struggle to end slavery in the British
missionaries, Quakers, Moravians, Baptists, Congregationalists and Methodists
were all active in some way. The West
Indian planters and those who had much to lose in the British Parliament were
soundly against the idea. Other abolitionists included William Wilberforce, Granville
Sharp and John Newton (a former slave ship captain turned church minister and
writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace”).
slaves were restless. The Christmas
rebellion took place in Jamaica
in 1831 which had been blamed on the missionaries.
End of the slave trade in Britain
A new PM
Charles James Fox, was committed to abolition, the planters were in confusion
and the Act of Abolition came into force (1807).
Other nations renouncing the slave trade included:
(the first to do so), Sweden,
(1820) and Portugal
The Emancipation Act
into force on 1
August 1834. Introduced the apprenticeship
scheme; £20 million compensation to planters; and all slave children under 6
years would be free.
St Kitts there were conflicts and in Jamaica and Guiana
many fled the estates.
the apprenticeship system was a failure and full emancipation took place in
Other nations followed the British lead:
Sweden, France (1848), Netherlands
– Puerto Rico (1873) and Cuba (1880).
investment from absentee plantation owners
trade restored - lost protected market (1852)
owners lost slaves
with the principles of mercantilism
goods in great demand
encouraged to trade with the West Indies
of sugar from the West Indies dwindled
to diversify crops
remained on sugar estates in Antigua, St Kitts
and the Leeward Islands and migration from the
Windward Islands to Trinidad and Tobago and Guiana
for a new cheap and reliable labour force
The old labour force and the new
were kept in Barbados,
Antigua, Dominica and St Kitts. Some bought freehold and others squatted on
unused land. Free villages arose. Some
went to the towns and went into the professions. Others remained in poverty.
were contracted to give five years service and then they could return
home. Many did, whilst others
stayed. The whole process was financed
and supervised by the government.
were newcomers in all colonies except Barbados and Puerto
Rico. More labour was needed wherever sugar was grown. India provided
the bulk of this labour (500,000 came to the West Indies
and settled mainly in Guiana and Trinidad). Some 30,000 Madeirans settled in Guiana.