In Place of Slavery: A Social History of British Indian and Javanese Laborers in Suriname

Synopsis

Rosemarijn Hoefte explores the rise of indentured servitude on the sugar plantations of Suriname after the end of slavery in that Dutch Caribbean colony in South America. In this first study ever of bonded labor in Suriname, she discusses and compares the social, cultural, and economic consequences of migration and plantation life and offers insights into the system of indentured immigration in general.

Slavery was abolished in Suriname in 1863. Between 1873 and 1940 more than 34,000 British Indians and nearly 33,000 Javanese (a unique presence in the Caribbean) entered Suriname and effectively replaced the former slaves. Working under a contract that included the so-called penal sanction, they were forced to place their labor power at the unqualified disposal of their employers; the employers had the right to press criminal charges against the laborers who broke their contract.

Focusing on Plantation Marienburg, the largest and longest-surviving sugar mill in Suriname, Hoefte examines the reactions of the planters, the colonial state, and the former slaves to this influx of two large ethnic groups with different cultural backgrounds. She describes the hierarchical organization of the plantation and discusses such aspects of indenture as wages, housing, medical care, religion, and education. Both an economic analysis and a pioneering social history, the book fills a gap, in the study of immigration in the Caribbean.