Economy and Environment in the Caribbean: Barbados and the Windwards in the Late 1800s

Synopsis

"Bearing in mind the recent renewed interest in the economic and environmental problems of small islands everywhere, (this) is a highly appropriate time to bring back to world attention the issues of that time, which served in large measure to define the patterns of development in Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent in the early decades of the twentieth century", -- David Watts, University of Hull, England

In this historical geography of the British colonies of Barbados and the Windwards (St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada), Bonham C. Richardson describes the economies, environments, and societies of the four geographically dissimilar islands and outlines the severe economic depression they experienced following the 1884 plunge in London sugar prices and the exacerbating effects of two catastrophes, a massive hurricane in 1898 and a volcanic eruption in 1902.

In response to these problems, the British parliament created the 1897 West India Royal Commission to outline a new policy for the islands' development. Concentrating on the years between 1880 and 1905, Richardson makes use of unpublished archival records, local newspapers, and records of the Royal Commission to explain the enormous changes in land-use patterns.

In a novel approach, Richardson emphasizes the effects of the islands' physical environments and devotes chapters to climate, waters, lowlands, and highlands. He also demonstrates how these environmental zones and resources were contested by different socioeconomic groups, leading him to one of his most provocative arguments: that depression-induced demonstrations and riots in the islands in the late 1890s in large part precipitated the Royal Commission'swise decision to advocate the break-up of sugarcane plantations into smaller shareholds. Thus, Richardson demonstrates the ways in which working people, far from being victims of colonialism, managed to influence British deci