Emancipation is defined as various efforts to obtain political rights or equality, often for specifically disfranchised groups. Many countries and states have gone through this revitalizing process during one period of time in their historic accounts. For Caribbean states, this period was also a mark of re-development and re-establishment of economies and societies. Emancipation in the Caribbean was the catalyst for many positive steps in the future but also setback in humanity with respect to human rights. In this paper one will analyze the structural techniques and traits used to facilitate the construction of Caribbean societies, post emancipation. Furthermore, one will also identify the continuities and change that was brought about by three key strategic techniques consisting of peasantry, indentured workers and social and economic class. The year 1838, gave rise to the first glimpse of a new class in Caribbean society Peasantry traced back in Caribbean history as noted by Woodville K. Marshall, gave insight on the development and establishment of a new social class which had profound affects on Caribbean societies abroad (Marshall, 1968, p99). A peasant in the Caribbean, was defined as an ex-slave whom during and after emancipation in 1838, started to occupy and seize abandoned land to start small farms and plantation harvest for the livelihood of themselves and their families. Marshall states that there were three main stages of maturation in peasantry during the period of 1838 to present day. The first stage, period of establishment from 1830 to 1860 was signified by the large number of growing peasants and land seizure. The second stage, period of consolidation from 1860 to 1900 was marked by the successful expansion of peasant crop export (Marshall, 1968, p101). Lastly, Marshall suggests that the third stage, of which was saturation, was the drawing point of peasant expansionism from 1900 onward. Shortage of land imposed a limit on this development. As a result, shortage of land leads to a decrease amoung peasantry over the years and dramatically declines the production rates (Marshall, 1968, p102). The reality of peasantry in the Caribbean is seen a positive and rewarding element in Caribbean history. The so called role of peasants helped to innovate economic life in Caribbean communities. Peasants also helped to diversify and alter monocultural traditions (Marshall, 1968, p103). Peasant economies flourished on the highly demanded plantation staples of Caribbean consisting of coffee bananas, pinapple, sweet potatoes and many other Caribbean vegetables and fruits. Peasants did not only play a role in establishing a healthy and stable economy, they also helped to pave the way for the first “villages” and “communities,” consisting of some of the most structured social institutions; schools, churches and markets. As Marshall says, peasants initiated “self-generating communities” (Marshall, 1968, 103). Following emancipation and peasantry, a new type of modernized slavery was introduced into some Caribbean states in 1843.
Indentured workers were sought to be just workers but would soon adapt to the peasant ways of building Caribbean societies. Post emancipation gave way to many problems and circumstances. After emancipation, most regions remained dependent upon plantation economics and primary commodity production. As discussed previously, ex-slaves had turned to peasantry and had became more independent and focused more on their “self-generating communities,” which left some colonial powers with the question of how to get plantation grounds started again, the most cheap, legal and efficient way (Haraksingh, p212). The era known as the “new slave” came upon the Caribbean in 1845. Indentured labour was initiated by colonial imports of over-sea workers from Asia. Two countries in particular, China and India were major role-players in indentured labour. Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, Cuba and...
Bibliography: Bridget Brereton, “Society and Culture in the Caribbean: The British and French West Indies, 1870-1980” in F.W. Knight and C.A. Palmer, The Modern Caribbean, 85-110.
Kusha R. Haraksingh, “Control and Resistance among Overseas Indian Workers: A Study of Labour on the Sugar Plantation of Trinidad, 1875-1917,” in Beckles and Shepherd, Caribbean Freedom, 207-214.
Rosammunde Renard, “Immigration and Indentureship in the French West Indies 1848-1870”, in Beckles and Shepherd, Caribbean Freedom, 161-168.
Woodville Marshall, “Notes on Peasent development in the West Indies since 1838,” Social and Economic Studies, vol 17, 1968, pgs. 1-14.
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