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History 2AA3 Notes: Modern Caribbean
Spring 2011
Dr. Rankin
Contact and Conflict
- Hispaniola: Haiti and Dominica was heavily populated by indigenous population.
Hispaniola had a complex system of chieftains fought against one another = can
organize themselves into political entity and the leaders had enough power to
create armies.
- Spanish were the first to settle
- Hispaniola became the first center of Spanish in Caribbean. It became the base of
wider exploration. The Spanish left when the Aztecs were discovered on the main
land period of neglect.
- The numbers of indigenous began to quickly fall
- Two groups:
1. Tanio- Arawak: larger islands. More passive
2. Carib: smaller islands. More violent
- Spanish solidified the difference between the two groups and embedded it in their
body of law
- Contact was originally peaceful but very quickly became violent Indigenous
rebellion against the Spanish; Spanish victory. Those that survived were enslaved.
- Spanish began to impose forced labour.
- Warfare, social destruction, slavery, disease (small pox) led to the demise of the
Native Population
- History of slavery had its roots in early contact period
- saw Caribbean as “empty” the working population came to see themselves as
the indigenous population
The Plantation Complex in the Caribbean
- Other Europeans entered by the 16th century
- Illegal traders: laws prohibiting trade with anyone else but Spain. The
English, French and Dutch began trading with Spanish Settlers in the Caribbean
- Raiding: realised that Spain was carrying money therefore attacked their
ships for minerals Buccaneers: own private advancement but also encouraged
as way of challenging Spanish power
- began making stops on the lesser islands. When the settlements became
permanent the indigenous began attacking the settlements. The indigenous retreat;
the English also deported them to Central America. Most territories were emptied by
Indigenous by the time the sugar cultivation started. This set the stage for
permanent African Settlement
- Early 17th C French, British and Dutch colonies established. Imported labour from
Sugar Revolution: experiment with different kinds of crops; decided to grow sugar
(first in Barbados)
- Sugar was being grown in Brazil where they were importing Africans. Portuguese
kicked out Dutch leaving Dutch with valuable resources and skills; many went to
Barbados to kick start the sugar industry
- Barbados kicked starts the sugar industry. It became the most populated and
wealthy in British Caribbean. Most workers were white but there weren’t enough so
they turned to Africa
- Poor treatment of indentured British set the stage for African Slavery de-
sensitized planters
Slave Society
- Structure of Society:
- Small portion of population
- Disproportionate power formal political and economic power

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- Division amongst whites: people who were born in Europe were of higher
status than those born in the Caribbean all whites had superior status to non-
Mixed/ Free Colour:
- varied significantly in number
- In general predominantly females; urban. They saw themselves distinct
from slave population
- Some owned slaves
- Work in trade and service sector
- Urban areas provided more opportunity than plantations where slaves
dominated most employment. Also, a little safer because of physical separation
from plantation and slaves. If a freed black lives in a plantation zone they could be
regarded as slaves; difficult to prove freedom.
- Owners created ranked system in which they favour some slaves over
another – grant privileges to some
- Field slaves were treated the worse
- Slave drivers: oversee other slaves and control work on the plantations.
Middle man between slaves and whites
Slave labour: most important function of slaves. The majority work on plantations
- Work determined their lives sugar plantations considered to be the hardest
- Work had significant impact on life longevity and what life was like didn’t live
long, children died young. Negative rate of natural increase = more die than are
born. This is directly related to the type of work they do. They were also not fed
well, poor living conditions.
- If Africans weren’t continuously being brought to the Caribbean they population
would have decreased greatly.
- Social mobility was possible. Slaves could gain their own freedom (buy). The
masters could also give them their freedom.
St. Domingue
- Worst treatment of slaves – rose up to become the modern state of Haiti
- Originally Spanish owned but was seeded to French
- It became the richest colony because of large amount of sugar and coffee
- Large amount of African slaves 1/3 of slave population. Planters believed it was
cheaper to import new slaves than to maintain the ones they already had. They
though if they worked them hard they would be unwilling and unable to revolt
- Grand blancs wanted to return to France – feared slave revolt and disease
- African culture remained strong amongst slaves. The increase of new slaves
always being brought in allowed voodoo to remain strong
- Creolization: process of which cultures mingle.
- 1000s of slaves gained freedom by fleeing into the mountains.
- Maroons: run away forming communities outside plantation life. They made money
from returning slaves, raiding and through subsistence farming
- 1751: Manckandle: one arm maroon who united many. Voodoo priest who
united maroons
- maroon direct way of avoiding planter control
- Forms of resistance:
- working very slow which made the planters believe they were stupid
- Break tools steal them and fix them so they can be used as a weapon
- Poison master: grinding glass very fine and eventually will eat through the
- monopolize task: become very important
Haitian Revolution
- Treaty of Ryswick: French possession of St. Domingue

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- Lasted from 1791 and 1804 led to the elimination of slavery and first republic.
Only one that achieved permanent independence
- Classes were very divided amongst themselves some planters wanted
independence while others remained loyal to the king
- Free blacks – issue of slavery minority thought it was wrong while most were for
it because they derived their income from slaves (coffee)
- Was sparked by the French revolution --? “Declaration of the Rights of Man” –
equality and freedom for all
- The planters supported the French revolution because they thought they could
control the island. Those who were loyal to the king began to distance and arm
- Planters liked “equality and freedom” bought thought it only pertained to Europe.
Ideas of it spread to the slaves.
- Planters hated the French control because of laws the French issued about
plantations. The mercantile system also restricted buying from non French colonies
- Slaves did not support the revolution. They thought that if they king knew of their
bad treatment he’d put a stop to it. They were worried about planter independence
because conditions would get worse.
- Each class took the French revolution to mean something different
- Vincent Oge active in pushing for black equality. He demanded the vote
because he was free. Led a small revolt and was captured and executed. He was
not fighting against slavery but talk of equality inspired many slaves.
- Robespierre threatened to abandon colony if equality not applied to free blacks
700 free blacks given citizenship
- August 1791: slaves rose up in revolt. Signal to begin
- took Northern provinces in ten days. They were well organized. The origins of the
new slaves helped organization – many were from Congo and were prisoners of war
and could speak the same language
- Vast destruction as a result of the years of anger because of their repression
- 1792 slaves controlled a third of the island.
- 1793 France declared war on Britain. Planters turned to Britain for help; said they
could have the island if they helped
-Toussaint L’Ouverture Former slave that fought for French if they agree to free
- Aug. 29 1791 France declared all people free. Toussaint got rid of Spanish and
pushed back British re-established back to France
- worried that French would re-establish slavery because of their dependence on
plantation economy
- decided he would rule the island as a dictator; believed only his rule would ensure
fairness of the island and protect slaves.
- 1801 created constitution gave him extensive power and declared that he
would be governor for life. This angered Napoleon therefore he dispatched large
force of French to get rid of Toussaint and re-establish slavery. Toussaint trusted
generals supported the French therefore there was little change of victory
- negotiate will be free but have to give back to France
- Toussaint died in French prison in 1802
- French regained control but once it was realised that they wanted to re-institute
slavery Toussaint’s generals changed sides and militarized against the French
French showed that they could not be trusted.
- Jean-Jacques Dessalines – would not negotiate with the French.
- French was not strong because of British naval blockade. Napoleon sold Louisiana
to US in 1803 – lose interest in the Americas
- Jan 1 1804 Dessalines declared free and named it Haiti independence gained
as a result of a successful slave revolt
- Since the rebellion had taken so long other places took over their place in the
- 1804 marked the end of colonialism but class difference still existed
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