Caribbean Studies

Topics: Slavery, Caribbean, Plantation Pages: 6 (1985 words) Published: November 23, 2014
David Answer


Caribbean Studies

Mrs. Anderson

"The history of the Caribbean is the history of exploitation of labour." Discuss with reference to Encomienda, Slavery and Indentureship.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, exploitation is defined as being the action or condition of treating someone or a group of people unfairly in order to benefit from their work, also, labour refers to work that is done using bodily strength and effort. In a historical sense, the Caribbean can be defined as being a group of countries sharing the same background of forced labour through the institutions of colonization, indentureship and slavery in some form or another (Robottom and Clayton, 2001). Understanding this, the historical Caribbean would be inclusive of the Bahamas and Guyana as well as some Central American countries. As it speaks to colonization, there were three main Old World colonizers that set out for land to conquer and riches to claim; Spaniards, the British, and the French, each of whom utilized systems of exploitation in order to obtain what they had sought from the so called "New World", which were mainly new lands for the Feudal Lords or Kings and/or Queens of their respective mother countries. In contemporary Caribbean society, the population is one of the most demographically diverse regions in the world, this is a result of the heavy colonization of the region that was initiated by Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the Caribbean in search of a shorter route to India, thus the reason for calling the region the West Indies, which resulted in more European colonists coming to the Caribbean in search of the riches and produce of the region.

The exploitation of labour has long been the very backbone or foundation on which the diasporic and historical Caribbean has been formed through the Old World colonists importing slaves and indentured labourers from various parts of the world like West Africa, India and China.

Firstly speaking with reference to the Spaniard Encomienda system which started formally in 1503; the term "Encomienda" was coined from the Spanish verb encomendar, which means to entrust. This therefore means that both parties had entrusted their resources to each other, as the main objectives of the Encomienda system that was seemingly to be to the benefit of the indigenous people was to spread the doctrines of the Christian faith, provide adequate housing facilities and food provision for the native people of the colonized islands (Yeager, 843). In exchange for these amenities, the natives would have to work for the Spaniards as slaves. The Encomienda system was considered to be the most damaging institutions that the Spanish colonist implemented in the New World.

The Encomienda system was also developed as a means of obtaining adequate and cheap labour. However it may be said that in being able to obtain this labour, the Spaniard Encomenderos were rewarded with land as well as the natives that accommodated that same land due to their endeavours on successful conquests. This was as early as 1499, and this took four years to become a formal rewarding system for the Spaniard Conquistadores.

The Queen of Spain, Queen Isabella, did not support the notion of enslaving humans to do work. Knowing this, the Spaniard Encomenderos did not let Queen Isabella know that they were forcing others to labour on their plantations, so they sent her tributes from the indians such as goods and metals. However, the abolition of the encomienda system was becoming imminent as of 1510 when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had begun to regret allotting such power to Columbus, therefore they sent an agent to oversee the running of the system. Word had gotten to the King and Queen by means of this agent about the mistreatment of the natives of the region, thus leading to its abolition in 1542 and in effect its replacement by the crown governed Repartimiento system.

This Encomienda system had impacted...
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