Empire and nation-building in the Caribbean

Empire and nation-building in the Caribbean: Barbados, 1937-66

Mary Chamberlain
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Empire and nation-building in the Caribbean
    Book Description:

    This original and exciting book examines the processes of nation building in the British West Indies. It argues that nation building was a more complex and messy affair, involving women and men in a range of social and cultural activities, in a variety of migratory settings, within a unique geo-political context. Taking as a case study Barbados which, in the 1930s, was the most economically impoverished, racially divided, socially disadvantaged and politically conservative of the British West Indian colonies, *Empire and nation-building* tells the messy, multiple stories of how a colony progressed to a nation. It is the first book to tell all sides of the independence story and will be of interest to specialists and non-specialists interested in the history of Empire, the Caribbean, of de-colonisation and nation building.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-278-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    John M. MacKenzie

    The decade of the 1930s surely constituted the nadir of the whole European imperial project. The Great Depression after 1929 seemed to represent the failure of the Western capitalism which had underpinned the entire economic structure of the imperial relationship. That massive cyclical downturn in a globalised world economy helped to produce major social stresses, strikes and riots in many parts of the world, including African colonies and, of course, the West Indies. These years also saw the maturation of a new indigenous political class, securing an education on a transnational basis and becoming increasingly alert to world movements that...

    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-25)

    The Great Depression of the 1930s had hit the West Indies like a hurricane, devastating the already precarious national economies in its wake and with it the even more precarious household economies of its workers. Migration – the great safety valve of the region – had come to a standstill. Work was intermittent or non-existent; wages were low, malnutrition rife, housing deplorable. Apart from the privileged few, West Indians were poorly educated and in many cases illiterate. Child labour was common. The nature of the franchise or the nature of local patronage meant that the West Indian colonies were governed...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The ‘romance’ of foreign: distance, perspective and an ‘inclusive nationhood’
    (pp. 26-50)

    So wrote the Barbadian, Clyde Jemmott, in New York in 1927, prefiguring one of the central tenets of nationhood that many began to imagine could become the West Indies. The ‘new nationality’ was to be like no other: an organically federated region whose borders were emotional rather than geographic, whose political identities and belongings had been shaped by the networks of transnational kin, and where an idea of Africa provided an authenticity and an awareness of race which made sense of dispersed networks of family and linked the black Atlantic experience. At a time – the 1920s and 1930s –...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The exigencies of ‘home’: Barbadian poverty and British nation-building
    (pp. 51-75)

    The majority of the black population were rural workers, or in cognate occupations such as hawking. The census of 1921 (there was no census in 1931) records that out of the total population of 156,312, plantation labourers totalled 32,728, or 21 per cent, of whom 12,387 were male and 20,341 or 62 per cent were female.³ The second largest group of workers were domestic workers. Totalling 25,255, or 16 per cent of the population, the overwhelming majority (88 per cent) were women: 22,247 were female and 3,008 were male.⁴ The third largest single occupation group were hawkers and peddlers. Like...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Gender and the moral economy
    (pp. 76-98)

    The planters had a monopoly on local employment, controlled access to poor relief and pensions (until the Richardson reforms), owned most of the land on which their labourers rested their houses or grew their provisions and, until universal suffrage in 1951, governed the island in their own interests. For the majority of black Barbadians, it was a relationship of almost total dependency, and rural life was lived in relation to the plantation. Until 1937 when the Masters and Servants Act was repealed, many workers were required to live on the plantations which employed them. Those who lived off the plantation...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Race, nation and the politics of memory
    (pp. 99-123)

    Of all the problems facing Barbados, race was the most pernicious and intractable. White people dominated the legislative chambers and courtrooms and owned most of the land and the major businesses. Rooted in the history of African slavery, race had become the external marker of status and the internal regulator of attitudes of inferiority and superiority. Power, as Foucault reminds us, was always more potent when invisible, and nothing could be more invisible than a normalisation of the paradigms of racial, or other, difference.³ If an enterprise of nation was to succeed, the issue of race required urgent resolution.


  11. CHAPTER SIX ‘A common language of the spirit’: cultural awakenings and national belongings
    (pp. 124-148)

    Building a nation required not only a leap of the imagination but also a self-confidence in, as Edward Said put it, ‘the independence and integrity of their own culture, free from colonial encroachment’.³ It is not surprising therefore that, conterminous with political debate, was increasing interest inculturein order to resolve the conundrums of West Indian nationhood. Cultural activities, however, had no historic provenance unless and until they could be owned and revered as legitimate by the very people who generated them – an acceptance and reverence which at present was impossible to achieve precisely because the Imperial master...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN From diffidence to desperation: the British, the Americans, the War and the move to Federation
    (pp. 149-173)

    The start of the Second World War in 1939 turned the attention of the Colonial Office – and the United States – on the Caribbean. The support of West Indians was vital. In the Eastern Caribbean Barbados was the trans-shipping point for inter-island trade, the first and last port of call for United Kingdom shipping and the home of one of the most important cable junction and automatic relay cable stations in that part of the world. British Guiana was a source of bauxite (as was Jamaica after bauxite was discovered there in 1942). Trinidad was the largest oil producer...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Conclusion
    (pp. 174-195)

    After the withdrawal of Jamaica and Trinidad from the Federation, Britain was faced with the small and needy islands of the Eastern Caribbean, and with no plan ‘B’, the British were forced to make policy on the hoof, reverting to the only solution they could envisage – federation. They conceded that the islands,

    may still wish to be linked in a Federation, but their lack of resources, is such that they are unlikely to be able to support more than a rudimentary federal machine. We have not, frankly, determined what, in these circumstances, the ultimate political future of these territories...

    (pp. 196-212)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 213-218)