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The Jamaican Peasantry in the 19th

CenturyThe Jamaican Peasantry in

the 19th Century
CAPE Caribbean History- Unit 1CAPE
Caribbean History- Unit 1

May/June 2015

Dianne-Lee FergusonDianne-Lee Ferguson


African Caribbean Peasantry could have singlehandedly revived the dying economies of
the British West Indies between 1850 and 1900 if they were allowed to exist without planter Commented [WU1]: Note addition to hypothesis

hindrance. Formatted: Highlight

You have the option of further narrowing your hypothesis to focus on Jamaica instead of
the British West Indies if the scope of the information is too broad. As you progress through the
body, please bear that in mind. You hypothesis would not change. I t would read in Jamaica
between 1850 and 1900 rather than in the British West Indies between 1850 and 1900.

According to William Roseberry peasants are persons who, by “owning or controlling

land and resources, produce primarily agricultural crops for their own subsistence, but who also
produce a surplus product, a portion of which is appropriated, directly or indirectly, by
representatives of a larger economic system” (47). The peasantry emerged from the proto-
peasantry which existed during the time of slavery. Commented [WU2]: You need a citation from Sidney Mintz for
this term. You can expound on it in the footnotes.

Before emancipation in 1834 the proto-peasantry had emerged from an attempt by the
planters to save operational costs by allowing the slaves to produce their own food rather than
to provide it directly for them. The slaves began to grow surplus and sold their produce in the
markets. This context allowed the slaves to cultivate skills such as those required to engage in
the market activities of selling and purchasing goods. Some slaves were able to buy their
freedom from the profits gained through this enterprise. They were able to diversify the
economy by providing a source for produce such as yam and sweet potato. This group formed
the bulk of the peasantry of ex-slaves that developed after emancipation. Already capable of
being self-sufficient, they were able to make a living through cultivation. Commented [WU3]: While all of this information is relevant,
place the information about slaves being able to buy their freedom
in the footnotes. Additionally, condense the info on the context of
Sidney Mintz, a Caribbean anthropologist, proposes that despite the attempts of slavery the proto-peasantry and expand in the footnotes.
to isolate the individual in his hardship the Caribbean ex-slaves were still able to maintain ideas
of collective activity or cooperative unity. This was exhibited through various economic
practices which subsequently contributed to the economy. William Arthur Lewis attributes their
economic contributions to the peasants’ determinacy to earn money to separate themselves
from the plantation. Commented [WU4]: Please cite your sources properly. See the
MLA manual.

Planters opposed the development of the peasantry due to consequent independence it Commented [WU5]: Are there any historians who negate the
contribution of the peasantry. Include a line from one here.
would provide the slaves. Providing land for the slaves to cultivate would lead to a reduction of Commented [WU6]: Rephrase, poor choice of words
their labour force. Shortage of land hindered the development of the peasantry. Therefore
some ex-slaves were forced to continue working on the plantation to support themselves. This
was beneficial to the planters that would have fewer labourers to work on their plantations if
not for the problem of land for the ex-slaves. To further encourage this, the planters would use
various methods to prevent the peasants from obtaining land or land suitable for cultivation.

The assessment for the further potential of economic growth that the peasantry
represented is critical due to the many contributions it made to the economy in its
compromised state. An understanding of the possible contributions that the peasantry could
have achieved as well as of those that they did in spite of the odds can lead to a further
appreciation of the role they played in the development of the economies of the British West
Indies. From the peasantry emerged the peasantry emerged the economic practices of credit
unions and collective ownership.

This research paper pursues evidence to show that the peasantry of the British West
Indies could have further contributed to enhancing its failing economies if not for the
opposition faced by the plantocracy in its attempt to preserve the profitability of sugar
production after the emancipation of slaves and the subsequent apprenticeship period.

Please be mindful of the word limit as you proceed. This is not bad for a first draft,
however, you need to cite your sources more effectively, condense where necessary and make
use of your footnotes. Please see IA examples.