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Leeward Islands, labor protests

Glen Richards


Situated in the northeastern arc of the Caribbean archipelago, the Leeward Islands consist of Anguilla, Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, Nevis and St. Christopher or St. Kitts, the British Leeward Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and the Dutch islands of St. Bartholomew, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten. First occupied by the Taino and Carib aboriginal inhabitants, the islands were claimed for Spain by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, but actual conquest by Europeans did not occur until the seventeenth century when they were seized by the English, Dutch, and, briefly, in the case of St. Kitts, the French. By the late seventeenth century the Dutch islands had become trading posts, while the British islands had evolved as plantation colonies which produced first tobacco and, later, highly profitable sugar, utilizing imported African slaves as the main form of labor. The abolition of slavery in the British Leeward Islands in 1834 by an act of the British parliament ushered in a new phase of free labor and opened the way for sometimes violent, at times organized, labor protests by the black workers of these territories. That year witnessed the first major labor disturbances in the island grouping. The Emancipation Act had provided for adult agricultural ex-slaves to serve six years of apprenticeship during which they would be compelled to continue working without pay ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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