Slavery In Caribbean History
The African slaves were brought in and placed in horrible working onditions because of their value as durable, skilled workers who had a good understanding of the methods of cultivation within these specific industries. They were viewed as high-end durable products as opposed to human beings because of their physique and ability to sustain long periods of work at a high efficiency rate while also being able to battle diseases and recover from injuries faster than other ethnicities of workers or slaves.
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In the mid-1600’s, the Europeans settled on Caribbean shores and discovered that sugar cane can be extremely well cultivated on Caribbean soil. Initially, this expensive rop offered great ways for farmers and growers to make vast sums of money. Several of those profiteers continued to buy up land and went from owning small farms, to acreages and ultimately large sugar plantations. To cope with the vast lands and rigorous work, the landowners soon began to bring in slaves to help ramp up production.
It was estimated at those times that it cost about $1 , 780 to purchase the land and approximately $5,000 to $1 5,000 accommodate slaves in terms of wages and lodging. Creating these slave plantations were worth their opportunity cost because of the incessant demand for sugar during that timel. The sugar plantations were a main catalyst for slavery because of how lucrative that market was at that time. Barbados had over 150 square miles of ripe land waiting to be exploited and cultivated into sweet goodness.
The royal family had created a huge market in terms of demand for sugar and Barbados used this to employ over 80 percent of the slave population within its nation on nearly 1 75 plantations strewn throughout the island, some of which encompassed over 450 acres2. Brazil was another example of a nation with ample fields ripe for sugar plantations needing requiring slave labour. After initially enslaving several Indians and using them for labour purposes, The Portuguese who ruled over Brazil at the time were hit hard by epidemics such as smallpox and malaria which severely depleted their slave labour force.
As a means of replenishing their plantations work force, they brought in several slaves from the Caribbean and employed them in their plantations. With rigorous working conditions and next to little compensation, the average life expectancy was set at about 1 6 years from the day an individual stepped onto the plantation3. With such effects it was easy to see just how sad the lives that any of the Caribbean slaves led were. The inception of the sugar market led to newer agricultural adventures upon its saturation.
The Caribbean for instance began to focus more on the production of other goods such as coffee and grains. They would later shift gears and supply vast amounts of wools and meats. The common thread between these two markets was in fact their unlikely benefactors, who were tucked away across the ocean in Europe. The same could be said about Brazil whose mining boom gave way from sugar plantations. Though this work was much more rigorous, it did in act offer the slaves an opportunity to buy out their freedom at a much easier rate.
This notion drove tens of thousands of slaves south to Brazil and made them somewhat Of an epicenter in terms Of slave labour. Agriculture soon began to arise in Brazil as cocoa and cotton began to develop their own major markets and demand. As time wore on, there became unrest among the slaves. Several felt that they were being treated unfairly even as slaves. Rebellions began and slave owners responded mostly by offering them insurrection by perhaps improving working conditions or food regiments and ther times giving them partial freedom.
In 1 806 there was a slave rebellion that was done in a peaceful manner with the hope of raising awareness about the struggle the slaves were undergoing. They wanted their work rates lowered and wage benefits such as crops of their own to either harvest or consume4. The tides were changing and the European markets had shifted away from strong agricultural production. When slavery was entering its abolishment process, the financial and social structures within the Caribbean forced several free slaves back into a semi-slave role.
This role declared them s free persons working for wages, however these new slaves remained underpaid and worked in horrid conditions, some of which were just as bad as the plantations they had longed to escape from5. It goes to show the power of domestic markets and their impact on the socialization of African slaves. The slave people’s freedom became somewhat co-dependent on the rise and fall of domestic markets. Should supply need to increase, the demand for labour would need to be increased thus thrusting many former or current slaves back into the mix.
The mentality associated with keeping hese slaves labouring on had its own social, political and economic effects. The wealthy feared that allowing slaves to have their own rights and pursuits would ultimately push them out of their settlements and spark wars6. With change comes the notion of greater change and the settlers weren’t prepared to change their lifestyles so as to accommodate the enslaved. By keeping things at its status quo at that time, their social lifestyles would continue in comfort and they did not want to relinquish the level of comfort with which their lives were at.
Also, from a political stand point, the foreigners would ave to meet the political needs of the slave people in providing them with the rights and freedoms offered to those from their own lands. The notion of a more successful African, Indian or Asian person worried them and loosening the grip on their social and political desires would only create more unrest among the non-enslaved population7. Finally, the economic setbacks were not solely in relation to meeting the market demands of their home nations, but also in regards to the livelihood of the families of the plantation owners and noblemen.
With many slaves only being able to perform well in heir trade whether it be mining, picking cotton or harvesting sugar cane, cocoa or other fruits of the land, the market would saturate and those controlling that market will stand to lose money. Ultimately, the success and wealth related to the Caribbean industries played a huge role in hindering the social, financial and political progress of the enslaved. One could argue that the European colonies in the Caribbean, South America and inland areas were all built on the work of slaves.
Their economy soared not only because of eastern demand for their goods but for the cheap labour they used to roduce it. The slaves had little financial incentive and were beaten or threatened to maintain order and keep production levels high. With such levels of production matching the soaring demand, these cash crops raked in mass amounts of wealth that plantation owners just didnt want to see decrease8. In a nutshell, everybody profited except the slave labourers themselves.
However, though they were beaten down, several of the African slaves maintained a strong spirit and will to push forward. They were thrown into a system where their pursuit of happiness and sense of succeeding in all ocial and financial aspects of life were stripped from them. As time went on the Caribbean slave people began forging a better identity in which they would educate themselves and become self-sufficient so as to continue progressing towards a brighter future.