What is Peasantry?
Peasant farming is described as small-scale farming for subsistence as well as for cash sale in the market. Initially, small farmers in the British West Indies produced crops for domestic use as well as for sale in the market. However, after 1860 these farmers began to export their crop. Reasons for the development of alternative crops
1. After 1834, small-scale agriculture grew out of the free-village movement as free blacks were determined to leave the sugar estate. Ex-slaves wanted to become independent of estate labour and to earn a living from the cultivation of small crops. 2. The decline of the sugar industry during the 19th century led to the cultivation of alternative export crops. West Indians needed to find new ways of earning a living. These new crops developed fastest from the 1890s when sugar prices slumped. 3. Peasant farmers could afford to cultivate new crops as no large amount of capital or expensive equipment was required. Land was available and small plots of land could produce favourable yields. Markets were available locally and abroad for the sale of these crops. How ex-slaves were able to acquire land
1. Ex-slaves squatted on Crown land.
2. The missionaries in Jamaica assisted ex-slaves to acquire land. 3. Land speculators sold land to the ex-slaves.
4. Ex-slaves pooled their resources to buy land (in the case of British Guiana). 5. Planters sold unused estate lands to the ex-slaves.
Growth of the Peasantry
Peasant farming was confined to territories where land was available for ex-slaves to acquire land. Large territories such as Jamaica, British Guiana and Trinidad had land available so ex-slaves were able to develop peasant farming. However, in these territories sugar was the main export crop. In the Windward Islands, sugar became unprofitable so new crops were cultivated. Land was available in the hills of the Windward Islands for cultivation of these new crops. In Antigua, St Kitts and Barbados the scarcity...
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