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Jamaica, peasant uprisings, 19th century

Mimi Sheller


Peasant uprisings in nineteenth-century Jamaica can be understood as part of a longer history of slave uprisings and anti-slavery struggles. They also connect to the emergence of African and black liberation movements throughout the Americas, to wider working-class movements across the transatlantic world, and to ongoing peasant movements in twentieth-century Latin America. Thus they are an important link between different historical forms of popular social protest and political uprising. As Great Britain's largest and most economically significant Caribbean colony at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Jamaica was a major producer of sugar and coffee, but also had areas specializing in cattle pens and export items like ginger and logwood. Only towards the end of the nineteenth century would this be joined by the fruit trade, with the development of the banana industry. As an export-oriented colonial plantation economy, Jamaica was controlled and governed by a small, mainly white elite of landowners, joined by some merchants, while the vast majority of the population were of African descent. Jamaica has a lively history of slave resistance and rebellion, including the Maroon Wars of the eighteenth century and a major slave uprising in 1831. Slavery in the British West Indies ended between 1834 and 1838, as the transitional system known as “apprenticeship” finally gave way to ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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