The Chinese in the West Indies, 1806-1995: A Documentary History

The Chinese in the West Indies, 1806-1995: A Documentary History

The Chinese in the West Indies, 1806-1995: A Documentary History

The Chinese in the West Indies, 1806-1995: A Documentary History

Synopsis

The Chinese in West Indies "starts with an excellent introductory essay to place nineteenth-century Chinese immigration in its wider context: the worldwide Chinese migrations, the post-slavery Caribbean background, the contract labour schemes developed after emancipation... All the documents are well chosen, and together they deal with virtually every important aspect of the migration of Chinese people to the West Indies and their subsequent experiences". Foreword Book jacket.

Excerpt

by Bridget Brereton Professor of History University of the West Indies, St Augustine

In his important book Indentured Labor, Caribbean Sugar: Chinese and Indian Migrants to the British West Indies, published in 1993, Walton Look Lai gave us the first comprehensive history of indentured Asian migration to the British Caribbean. He covered the whole period of contract immigration (1838 to 1918), considered all the receiving colonies (though inevitably concentrating on Guyana and Trinidad because they received by far the most Asians), and analysed not only the indenture system but also the processes of post-indenture adjustment by the migrants up to 1918. As several reviewers of that book pointed out, it was especially valuable for its analysis of Chinese contract migration, a subject which has received far less scholarly attention than Indian indentured immigration. Two excellent chapters described how the Chinese were brought to the Caribbean, mostly between 1852 and 1866, and analysed their experiences in the colonies.

In the present book, Look Lai has returned to the West Indian Chinese community to compile an extensive collection of primary source materials which illustrate its history between 1806 and 1950. As with his earlier book, Look Lai confines himself to the English-speaking Caribbean, with just one or two documents (and one family biography) on Suriname. The much larger Chinese migration to Cuba, and the small movements to the French Antilles, are mentioned in the Introduction but are not dealt with in the documents. For the British Caribbean, however, Look Lai has provided an immensely rich collection of sources, which will allow for a far deeper understanding of the circumstances under which the Chinese came to this region and the processes by which they were transformed from agricultural labourers into prosperous traders. Other books have dealt with the Chinese community in the region, notably the classic (1915) study by Cecil Clementi on the Guyanese Chinese, and the more recent but less ambitious works of Marlene Kwok Crawford (also Guyana), Trevor Millett (Trinidad) and Lee Tom Yin (Jamaica). Now, with this . . .

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