Peasantry and the Caribbean

Topics: Caribbean, British Empire, Jamaica Pages: 9 (2764 words) Published: February 21, 2012
Course description
The slaves in the British Caribbean had high expectations of freedom. They hoped that it would give them, amongst others, the vote and control over their time and labour. This course explores the extent to which these and other expectations of freedom were realised in the period between the abolition of slavery in 1838 and independence in the early 1960s. It examines in some detail the various factors inside and outside the region that impacted on the ability of the former slaves and their descendants to fulfil their hopes of freedom, such as the legal and extra-legal constraints that sugar planters placed on the lives of their former slaves; a social hierarchy in which colour coincided with class; and the decline of the sugar industry. These and other obstacles, however, did not prevent the former slaves and their descendants from trying to realise their notion of freedom. Through such means as petitions, the formation of political organisations and unions, migration, and revolt, they contested the terms of their lived freedom. By exploring these means and the social, political and economic condition of the former slaves and their descendants, this course will try to debunk the myth that slave emancipation was a crowning achievement.

Learning outcomes
After completing the course students should:
1.Be familiar with the main economic, social and political
developments in the post-emancipation British Caribbean.
2.Understand that freedom was a highly contested issue in the post-emancipation British Caribbean.
3.Be able to describe and explain the methods used by the former slaves and their descendants to negotiate and contest the actual lived terms of freedom 4.Be familiar with the main historical debates about the

post-emancipation British Caribbean.
5.Have enhanced their presentation skills and their ability to analyse and evaluate primary and secondary sources.

Teaching programme
The course is taught through two 2-hour seminars a week over nine weeks, one of which is largely structured around the use of primary sources. It proceeds in a chronological order, engages with key debates in the history of the post-emancipation Caribbean, and explores recent areas of research. Week 1: Setting the scene

Week 2: Freedom in the immediate post-emancipation period
Expectations of freedom
The first taste of freedom
Week 3: The development of an independent peasantry
The 'flight from the estates'
The problem of land
Week 4: Further obstacles to freedom
The decline of the sugar industry
Indentured migration
Week 5: A political watershed
Morant Bay
Crown colony government
Week 6: Social tumult and reform
Migration and other upheavals
Social reform
Week 7: Black power
Race consciousness
Week 8: Organising labour
Class consciousness
Labour riots
Week 9: On the road to independence
Independence from below
Independence from above
Week 10: Independence and thereafter
>From West India Federation to independence
Independence = Freedom?

The seminars in weeks 2 and 3 provide the framework for the rest of the course. They set out the slaves' notion of freedom and show that in years immediately following the abolition of freedom the ex-slaves quickly learned that they would not be able to realise that notion without struggle. One of the two seminars in weeks 4 till 9 consists of a Discussion Paper (DP). Two people prepare a 1,000 word answer to a set question (which is also an essay question) and devise 3 discussion questions that they want the group to discuss. They email the paper on the Thursday preceding the seminar to the rest of the group. One student is nominated by the tutor as the principal respondent. The seminar starts with a brief presentation of the DP (do not out what has been emailed!!) followed by the principal respondent's views on the paper which will be circulated to the rest of the students in the seminar (bullet-point...
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