Sample Paper on Caribbean History

Caribbean History

Introduction

            Caribbean history unveils the important role that the region assumed in fighting the colonial powers of European nations since the dawn of fifteenth century. It further reveals the role that the region played in perpetuating decolonization during the post world war period in the twentieth century. Genocide, slavery and conflict between the Caribbean and the colonial powers were particularly important in shaping the Caribbean history, which creates an impact that is disproportionate to the region’s small size (Oostindie, 2003). The Caribbean colonies were hoping to be freed from the colonial powers’ grip, as this would give them autonomy to manage their time and resources. This essay explores how the Caribbean nations realized their freedom by gaining independence from the colonial powers. It analyzes the various internal and external factors that helped the colonies to realize their dreams for independence, how and when this happened, how integration promoted success in gaining freedom and the struggles they encountered during this venture. The essay will mainly look at Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad Tobago, as these constitute the main Caribbean colonies that significantly fought for independence against the major colonial powers.

Analyzing the independence process in three Caribbean countries

Jamaica

            Struggles for independence in the Caribbean region started soon after Christopher Columbus’ exploration, which resulted in colonial invasions and the subsequent grabbing of most territories in the region. Jamaica, which constitutes to one of the largest Islands in the region, is one of the countries that were invaded by the colonial powers, and as such, it engaged in a series of activities that would translate into its ultimate independence. The great wealth in this country had first been noted during Columbus’ second adventure in the Caribbean region (William, 1992). This resulted to the invasion of Spanish colonialists and several counter attacks by the British rulers that transformed Jamaica into a British Colony. The British colonialists had been attracted by remarkable wealth that the Spanish rulers generated from the lucrative cash crops and the readily available labor force that mainly comprised of the African slaves. The unbearable level of emotional trauma among the slaves resulted in major conspiracies to fight for freedom.

The process of independence started as early as 1830s when the enslaved populations started to revolt against the British colonialists. Initially, the revolt started as a peaceful demonstration that had been organized by Samuel Sharpe in 1831 (Oostindie, 2003). Property loss and deaths led to major inquiries conducted by the British government, which resulted to the creation of a new law intended to end slavery in 1833. The freed slaves were however subjected to great hardships, which created significant tensions and the subsequent Morant rebellion that took place in 1865. The rebellion was brutally suppressed by the British government but constant efforts to gain freedom paved way for a certain measure of self-governance among the Jamaican citizens (UN, 2012). This took place especially when the Islanders were allowed to appoint nine members that could sit in the legislative council. This saw Jamaica becoming a Crown Colony, which was characterized by categories of middle and low class officials whose capacity to climb up the social ladder was inhibited by cases of discrimination, limited opportunities, restrictions by British authority and poor education. Great depression in the 1930s had a significant impact in contributing to the establishment of trade unions that played a central role in perpetuating independence. Economic decline particularly contributed to the emergence of a working class comprising of sugar and dock laborers. These organized themselves into a union intended to protest against a poor working environment and wages. Although the union was suppressed, it created a suitable platform upon which workers would revolt against their masters, which in return perpetuated progress towards independence. This is because protests by the union led to a major revolt that translated into major changes including the establishment of a labor movement and an aggressive party system. As a result of events carried out by the labor union, two parties, PNP and JLP were established in 1938 and 1943 respectively and these provided a platform upon which the Jamaican citizens voted for independence. Membership in the West Indies Federation was also important in pushing Jamaica towards gaining independence. As explained by Mark (2001), the first national elections conducted in 1944 allowed Jamaica to join the political union established by other British colonies. This motivated the nation to intensify its efforts towards realizing its dreams. This is because all other colonies in the Federation had agreed to decolonize their territories to be able to control their national resources. Jamaica however withdrew its membership after a referendum that allowed most people to vote for independence was carried out in 1961. Integration between the slaves and the independent communities that mainly comprised of the Jamaican Maroons was also important in perpetuating independence. This is because these populations established strong ties that the British colonialists could not suppress. As a result, their power outweighed that of the colonialists who did not have any other choice but to surrender the territory to its citizens. The country officially gained independence in 1962 and its leadership was frequently shifted between PNP and JLP (William, 1992). The major struggles surrounding Jamaica’s efforts to gain independence included exploitation, rivalry, bonded labor and suppression of revolts and laws intended to fight slavery. Rivalry between the ruling parties however characterized the country’s key struggle after independence. With PNP assuming the first leadership of the country after independence, its prime minister pioneered the socialist policies and strong ties with Cuba. This culminated to political unrest particularly during his second term in service. When JLP assumed power in 1980, its prime minister reversed all the policies that his successor has established and sought closer relationship with USA (Mark, 2001).

Barbados

Barbados is another Caribbean country that had been inhibited by colonial powers and it thus faced significant struggles in the attempt to gain independence. Just like Jamaica, Barbados had been explored by the Spanish travelers but England became the first European country to establish a relatively permanent settlement in the region. English colonialists were mainly attracted by the rich agricultural lands and lucrative tobacco production, which led to their frequent invasion into the country in pursuit of free pieces of land. The process of independence was triggered by the introduction of sugarcane farming, which significantly transformed Barbados’ economy (Oostindie, 2003). With the large sugar plantations demanding for a huge labor force, slave trade intensified as most African slaves were supplied into the country to cultivate the plantations. The English sugarcane planters introduced oppressive slave codes that triggered rebellion among the slaves. Similar to the case of Jamaica, rebellion against the colonial oppression in Barbados intensified when the British colonialists gained control over the territory. These colonialists invaded the country in 1807 and intensified the slavery institution. Slaves serving in more than seventy plantations started to rebel against their masters (Dent, 1999). The impact of this rebellion was however different from that of Jamaica in that there was no widespread murder. Just like in Jamaica, the British Empire latter abolished slavery in Barbados and instead introduced an apprenticeship system. Barbados, as was the case with Jamaica, joined the West Indies Federation in the attempt to enhance its independence process. Membership in this federation was crucial in ensuring that the country was able to commit its efforts towards meeting the various conditions that all other member colonies had put in place to decolonize the Caribbean region. According to Braveboy-Wagner (1997), the Federation had attracted more than two-thirds of all the colonies invaded by the British colonialists. Gaining membership in this federation was thus important as it linked similar-minded members that were pursuing a common goal. The British rulers were however reluctant to surrender this territory. Enslaved populations thus employed a similar strategy as that adopted in Jamaica in that they established a trade union to be able to fight for the rights and the ultimate freedom of the poor citizens. This played a crucial function in promoting independence in the country in that it enhanced the creation of a democratic government that would eventually be used to vote for independence. Prior to this union, low-income populations that mainly included women were prohibited from engaging in local politics that took place in agricultural plantations. Leaders of the union however demanded for more rights of discriminated categories. This lowered the income qualification requirements that would allow individuals to vote, and hence, it helped to generate a huge number of votes that supported a democratic government and ultimate independence of the country. This new development enabled the country to establish the Barbados Labor Party (BLP) to be able to fight for the rights and the subsequent freedom of its citizenry. It also followed the example of Jamaica by terminating its membership in the West Indies Federation and instead became an autonomous colony. Barbados was declared independent in 1966 after engaging in peaceful negotiations. The major struggles that Barbados faced prior to independence included conflict and oppression by the colonialists, slavery and political domination by the British merchants. Conflict between members of Barbados Labor Party and the Democratic Lab our Party characterized the major struggles that the country faced after independence (William, 1992).

Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago, which is a twin Island in the Caribbean region also engaged in significant struggles in pursuit for independence. Just like Jamaica and Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago was discovered during Columbus’ adventures. The country first became a Spanish colony and later changed hands amongst several other colonial rulers but it eventually became a British colony. As was the case with Jamaica and Barbados, the need for a huge labor force to work in huge agricultural plantations opened an avenue for slave raids in Trinidad and Tobago. Colonies established by the Spanish, Dutch and French rulers were short lived as this country was later surrendered to the British rulers who established a lasting colony (UN, 2012). The British rulers revived slave trade to help address the severe labor shortage in huge agricultural plantations.

Struggles for independence in Trinidad and Tobago started in early 1830s as several former slaves that had later been recruited into British marines realized the need to end slavery in this country. As was the case with Barbados, the slaves in Trinidad and Tobago engaged in peaceful protests with the hope that the colonialists would surrender the territory. In the meantime, slaves working in the plantations were engaged in apprenticeship that lasted for six years. The protests went on until a decree to end apprenticeship was reached (Dent, 1999). This was attributed by an integrated agreement amongst several influential colored members, which led to the declaration of de facto freedom in the country. Full emancipation was later granted in the country, and as such, British planters started importing workers to help compensate for the lost slaves. Trinidad and Tobago remained a crown colony until 1925 when seven members of the colored descent were appointed to join the Legislative Council.

Trade unions intended to perpetuate freedom for the slaves were crucial in promoting ultimate independence of the country. According to Torreon (2014), labor riots that took place in 1937 stirred peace of the country and this led to the establishment of a union movement that would allow for the realization of the workers’ freedom. Subsequent general elections that were conducted in 1956 further led to the establishment of the People’s National Movement, which opposed leaders of Democratic Labor Party that initially ruled the country. The West Indies National Party was later founded, and this led the country into achieving full independence in 1962 (Torreon, 2014). Membership in the West Indies Federation was also important in motivating Trinidad and Tobago to enhance its commitment towards realizing full independence. This is because the country was closely following Jamaica’s footsteps in liberating its territory from the British colonialists. This ensured that the country would be able to meet all the requirements put in place by other members of the federation in effort to decolonize the entire Caribbean region. A major struggle that Trinidad and Tobago faced prior to independence was the oppression by the colonial planters that had invaded the country. Collapse of the West Indies Federation also presented a significant challenge to Trinidad and Tobago especially because it had hoped to use it as a platform for gaining independence (Braveboy-Wagner, 1997).

Conclusion

            The Caribbean region engaged in crucial events that perpetuated the realization of independence in different countries within the region. A great deal of agricultural wealth had been realized by Christopher Columbus during his explorations. This paved way for the invasion of Spanish colonialists that were later replaced by the British rulers who established permanent colonies in the region. The need for a huge supply of labor force that could work in huge agricultural lands led to increased slave trade. The activity however culminated into severe emotional and psychological torture, and hence, enslaved populations decided to revolt against their rulers. While Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago employed peaceful demonstrations, Jamaica employed violent revolts in the attempt to gain independence. The three countries further established trade unions and federations to help create a platform through which independence would be achieved. These activities ultimately resulted in full independence that these countries obtained at different times.

References

Braveboy-Wagner, J. (1997). Caribbean Public Policy: Regional, Cultural, and Socioeconomic Issues for the 21st Century, Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Dent, D. (1999). The Legacy of the Monroe Doctrine: A reference Guide to US Involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Mark, T. (2001). From Occupation to Independence: A Short History of the People of the English-Speaking Caribbean Region, Capital & Class, 74(1):111-132.

Oostindie, G. (2003). Decolonizing the Caribbean: Dutch Policies in a Comparative Perspective, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Torreon, B. (2014). Latin America and the Caribbean: Fact Sheet on Leaders and Elections, retrieved on 30th January, 2015 from https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/98-684.pdf

  1. (2012). Development Paths in the Caribbean, retrieved on 30th January, 2015 from http://www.afd.fr/webdav/shared/PORTAILS/PAYS/ALC/pdf/Etude-CEPALC-Development-paths.pdf

William, C. (1992). A wasted Opportunity: Shortcomings of the Caribbean Basin Initiative Approach to Development in the West Indies and Central America, Law and Policy in International Business, 23(4):78-91.