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Brief history of the caribbean through emancipation

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Brief History of the Caribbean through Emancipation 1492 – When Queen Isabella of Spain sent Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic Ocean. His official mission was to discover a new trade right to Asia and “ Christianize” the “ heathers” who lived there. ? Christopher Columbus and the Spanish “ conquistadores” who followed him made little secret of their real interest. ? When Columbus landed in the Bahamas and saw the native Arawaks adorned with gold trinkets, he was convinced that mythical “ El Dorado” – Golden Land – must be nearby. In years the conquistadores pushed further and further into the Americas, driven by their greed for precious metals. ? They were also driven by a lust for power. Many were “ hidalgos” or knights, who helped to grab enough land and wealth in the New World to join the Spanish ruling class. Once the land had been claimed for Spain conquest, the Spanish Monarchy awarded them “ encomienda” – rights to rule over areas of land inhabited by Amerindians. ? The Spaniards forced the Indians into slavery in gold mines and on their colonial farms and ranches.

Destruction of the Arawaks by the Spanish; Carib resistance to the British and French ? When the Spanish arrived in the Caribbean, there were two Amerindian peoples living there: the Arawaks centered the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles, and the Caribs in the Eastern Caribbean. Both had come from the tropical rain forest areas of northwestern South America. ? The Indians were subsistence farmers and fishermen, growing corn cassava, sweet potatoes, cotton and tobacco. They navigated among the islands in dug-out canoes, which they used for inter-island trade, and in the case of the Caribs, to raid the Arawaks for goods and slaves. The Arawaks when Columbus encountered included their major subgroups. 1. The Lucayanons – living in the Bahamas 2. The Borequinos – Puerto Rico 3. Tainos – Cuba ? Though not warrior like the Caribs, the Arawaks made a brave effort to oust the Spanish from the Greater Antilles. Their resistance was crushed by the Spaniards superior weaponry, vicious fighting mastiffs and armor-covered horses. ? The Spaniards’ system of forced labour completed the destruction of the Arawaks, who died from starvation, abuse, and New European diseases, especially small pox. Unable to successfully enslave the Amerindians the Spanish turned to African Slaves supplied to them by Portuguese traders. ? England, France and Holland refused to recognize Spain’s claim to “ ownership” of the entire Caribbean, and in the early 17th century after years of warfare with Spain began to colonize the Lesser Antilles. ? The Carib living on these islands put up a fierce and prolonged resistance to the European invaders. Early attempts to colonize Grenada and St. Lucia had to be abandoned because of Carib ferocity, and later settlements in St. Kitts, Antigua, Montserrat, Grenada and St.

Lucia were attacked repeatedly by the Caribs. ? In Grenada, the Caribs fought the French for three years and finally hurled themselves into the sea rather than submit to French domination. From Small Farms to Sugar Estates: the Big Planters Take Over ? Barbados was uninhabited when the Europeans arrived and a British Colony there quickly grew and flourished. The colonists originally tried to make their fortune growing Tobacco, as pipe-smoking was a new fashion in Europe. ? These small tobacco farms required a cheap labour force, so the colonists brought in white indentured labourers from Europe.

These were often convicts or debtors who signed themselves into servitude with the hope of some free land after a few years bonded labour. ? By the 1640’s tobacco was no longer very profitable, so the settles on Barbados turned to growing sugar cane, setting a pattern that was soon to be followed in all the French and British islands. ? The turn to sugar transformed the colonies and signaled the start of an era of exploitation which was to bring misery to hundreds of thousands of people. ? Unlike tobacco, sugar had to be grown on large plantations and required costly investment in buildings, equipment and labour. Wealthy entrepreneurs steadily bought out or drove out the small farmers and consolidated their holdings into larger sugar estates. ? Many of these big planters became “ absentee landlords” who left the running of their estates to attorneys and overseers while living luxuriously in England on the profits from sugar. ? The Plantation required an endless supply of labour. Plantations work was so grueling that few people would voluntarily sign themselves into this kind of servitude; so the government of Britain and France forcibly transported to the colonies thousands of convicts, paupers, and political or eligious dissidents. But even these were not enough. ? Because the white labourers were Europeans it was harder for the planters to rationalize the use of cruelty to keep them subdued. ? Africans on the other hand, were a non-European race and had already been slaves on Spanish and Portuguese plantations. ? Spain, France and Britain readily embraced the idea and enslaved African workforce kept in submission by barbarous and inhuman methods. ? The Dutch initially controlled the slave trade. From commercial bases on the islands of Curacao and St.

Eustatius, Holland kept the Spanish, British and French colonies supplied with slaves as well as food and other goods. ? After the ocean journey in the hold of a slave ship, the Africans were held in walled-in slave camps on Curacao before being reshipped to other colonies. At the height of Holland’s “ Golden Age” these camps often held more than 15, 000 people at a time. African Resistance to Slavery ? The dominant theme throughout the slavery era was the continuous struggle between the planter’s coercive power and the slaves’ determined resistance.

Everything was pitted against the Africans: cruel torture devices on board the slave ships, the whips and guns of the planters and overseers, pisses of soldiers and dogs sent out after runaway slave. ? By 1700 slaves greatly outnumbered Europeans in most Caribbean Colonies, and the planters lived in constant fear of a slave insurrection. They thus resented to horrible punishments and executions of ‘ trouble-makers” to keep the slaves from rising against them. ? But the slaves did revolt, repeatedly and often violently. There were hundreds of mutinies or attempted mutinies by slaves during the “ middle passage” across the Atlantic. On the islands, especially Jamaica, slave organized large scale uprisings in which plantations were burnt and the slave-masters killed. ? Some of the leaders of these revolts are remembered in the Caribbean for their daring; Cuffy in Guyana, Nanny and Tacky in Jamaica, and Morales in Cuba. ? In certain colonies large numbers of slave escaped from the plantations and set up independent communities beyond the reach of the planters. This was possible only where the terrain provided protection for the runaways, as did the mountainous interiors of Jamaica, Dominica and St.

Vincent and the jungles of Guyana and Suriname. ? In Jamaica the Maroons – as the rebels there were called – waged two long wars against the British forcing the colonist to strike treaties recognizing them as free men. In Guyana and Suriname, they were called “ British Negroes” since they lived in the wild interior. Mercantilism: Consolidation of the Colonial System ? In the mid-17th century, France and Britain had little interest in the moral niceties of the slavery issue because the economic logic for slavery was so strong. The transportation of slaves to the Americas formed one side of a three-legged “ triangular trade”. Slaves ships would load up with guns, ammunition and manufactured goods in the British and French parts, then sail to Africa to the Middle Passage across the Atlantic and the sale of the Africans in the Caribbean and North American colonies. Finally, the ships loaded up with colonial sugar, cotton and tobacco and speed back to England and France where the raw produce was refined and re-exported to other countries. The triangular trade was one aspect of the mercantilist system of economic policy becoming the dominant view in England and France. ? According to mercantilist theory, a nation could accumulate wealth by controlling colonies which would supply raw materials for industry, and also provide a capture market for the goods produced. Mercantilism depended on monopoly. For instance, the British colonies could buy only British goods and had to ship all their produce in British ships. In return, they were given a monopoly of the sugar market in England. They system produced enormous profits for the colonial planters, the slave traders and the merchants who financed the trade and processed the sugar. ? Many spin-off industries also profited: shipbuilders, iron-managers (who made the handcuffs and leg irons), and the industrialist who manufactured the goods sent to Africa. ? In both Britain and France, these interests used their wealth to buy political influence, keeping the colonial system entrenched for over 100 years. ? The Caribbean became an arena for imperialist rivalry.

France and Britain first fought three wars to drive the Dutch out of the Caribbean and reserve the lucrative slave trade for themselves. Then they turned on each other. ? Disputes which began in Europe were fought in the Caribbean with the colonies as pawns. French and British worship would attack and ravage each other’s colonies, or seize and occupy them. ? In the latter part of the 18th century many of the islands flipped back and forth between French and British ownership. ? Tiny Dominica, an extreme example, changed hands twelve (12) times.

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