Colour, class and gender in post-emancipation St. Vincent, 1834-1884
This thesis examines the experiences of the inhabitants of St. Vincent during the first fifty years of freedom. It examines social changes, work opportunities and areas of conflicts that developed during the period. It also details the effects of the declining economy on the islanders. The main subjects of the thesis are the agricultural labourers who were freed from slavery. It investigates their working lives, their attempts to achieve independent status as freeholders and their family and religious experiences. It also examines the changing attitudes towards them that were held by the planter class, the clergy and colonial officials, and how these views influenced the formation of a free society. In particular, the thesis investigates how perspectives of race, class and gender differed within the island, and how these divergencies created hostilities between different social groups often leading to unrest. While the main focus of the thesis is St. Vincent, it also compares conditions in St. Vincent with other Caribbean islands and Britain. This has helped illustrate how some local conditions, such as the lack of available land, ineffective plantation management and economic factors, reduced the opportunities for the freed people of St. Vincent. However, it also illustrates a commonality of experiences among the poor in both the Caribbean and Britain. It illustrates how the lives of the poor in the Caribbean were often restricted by the same class and gender biases experienced in Britain, as well as by racial prejudices held by the ruling authorities. The thesis relies on a variety of source material. Most of the primary sources were official Colonial Office dispatches, newspapers and Wesleyan missionary letters and reports. Throughout the thesis, I have questioned the motivations of the writers of these documents and interpreted the discourses they employed. I have also attempted to place the findings of my research within current debates among Caribbean historians of the postemancipation period to illustrate the importance of further gender analysis and research.