There were many different factors which influenced the conditions in not only Barbados but across the British Caribbean which eventually led to uprisings in the various territories but namely Barbados. These factors can be broken down into 3 categories of Economic, Social and Political.
Economic Factors eating up to the riots Barbados’ economy was in a dreadful state due to many different factors, both internal and external. One of the more substantial external factors was The Great Depression of the sass’s which originated in the United States of America but affected all the countries of the world.On October 29, 1 929 the American stock market crashed and officially started The Great Depression.
This had a kind Of domino effect across the world. Firstly, the collapse of the stock market caused a significant drop in the value of stock which caused many businesses to go bankrupt since no one would buy the stock. Since banks had invested most of their clients’ money in the stock market, when it crashed many banks were forced to close. This threw the masses into a frenzy in which those lucky enough to reach their bank before it closed withdrew all their money.This massive cash withdrawal from the banks caused the banks to close. Those who didn’t make it in time went bankrupt. The next place affected by the economic turmoil was the working sector. In an attempt to make up for the lost capital as a result of the stock market crash businesses started to cut wages, which were already low to begin with.
Even with these new wage cuts some businesses still ended up having to close and layoff their workers. Unemployment saw a surge due to this and also made existing conditions such as malnutrition.Overall The Great Depression set the scene for the black populous of Barbados who was ready to do whatever it took to improve their situation.
World War I was another significant external factor which impacted the state of Barbados’ economy during this period. Since there was a shortage of sugar on the world market Caribbean sugar was now in greater demand and of a higher price. Sugar production in England saw a decline after the war which resulted in less imports from England.
For a country like Barbados who was heavily dependent on imported goods, the working class found it hard to afford food, which would be scarce and overpriced.This situation combined with the low wages people received made the people more dissatisfied and restless. From even before The Great Depression the wages of most of the black population in Barbados were very low and generally unsatisfactory.
According to the Deane Commission the unreasonably low wages was one of the major factors contributing to the rebellion. The conclusion reached by the Commissioners was that the wages Of unskilled manual workers, clerks, shop assistants and agricultural workers were not enough to provide for an average family.Between 1 838 and 1937 would have been a very rough period financially for the average family because this was when wages were much lower in comparison to after the riots. See Appendix 2 for an idea of how bad the situation was across the Caribbean. According to Buckles and Shepherd the wages for most workers in Barbados during this time remained at less than a shilling a day.
Low wages were due partly to The Great Depression since during the depression consumer spending was reduced, businesses were not making enough money to keep them going so they had to cut wages and in some cases lay off workers.In attempt to cope with these low wages some black landowners tried to est. bliss themselves as peasant farmers growing sugar cane on a smaller scale to the larger sugar estates in order to u plenty their income. They later realized that they were growing these canes for enough seeing as how the cost of production outweighed the money earned from selling their canes. In this case peasant farmers were being paid less money for the same weight of canes as the larger sugar factories. This situation where there expenditure exceeded their income was made worse by the land tax they had to pay.
Wages had some devastating effects such as malnutrition, high mortality rates and poverty. Unemployment, much like wages, was a major factor which added to the unrest of the public leading up to the riots. One of the causes for some of the unemployment was the establishment of many large modern sugar factories. These factories not only replaced windmills but with their increased efficiency reduced the harvesting period from 5 to 3 months.
The period between harvesting and the start of the new season was referred to as hard time because it was very hard to find employment to be able to support one’s family.With these modern factories came revised methods of agriculture which meant there was less need for workers and resulted in some workers being laid off, only adding to the many unemployed people in Barbados. Employment left many families and individuals in a state Of despair which led to lawlessness and in some instances crime. Social factors Poverty was one of the most substantial contributors to the hardships endured leading up to the riots. Much like the next domino in line, with low wages and unemployment came poverty which affected many families in Barbados in many different ways.
In an attempt to escape poverty people moved to the parish of SST. Michael in droves to the point where half of Barbados’ population was concentrated there. This move still did not ease their burden because there were no more opportunities for employment in SST. Michael. With SST. Michael now overcrowded it led to things such as poor housing and health. Another side effect of poverty was malnutrition, especially among infants. Since the economy was in such a bad state, only foods of a very poor quality could be imported at affordable prices for the masses and this was the cause Of widespread malnutrition.
Malnutrition also impacted on the mortality rate and general health of the Barbarian public. Poverty affected aspects of Barbarian life such as housing, public health and the availability of medical services which only made the public more unruly. Health amongst the Barbarian population was a very pressing issue, especially in a poverty stricken territory like Barbados. Basically there were 3 periods in life infancy, adolescence and life past the age of about 40 but the most critical stage was infancy.Buckles and Shepherd states that in Barbados 217 out of every 1 000 babies died before reaching the age of 1 year old as a result of poor health services. Malnutrition also affected the mortality rate amongst infants because the diet of the poor did not include many high- protein foods.
Malnutrition also decreased the resistance to disease which led o many epidemics in the region. Poor housing also played a part in the poor general health in Barbados. The availability of running water and bathroom facilities allowed for things like the spread of disease seeing as how in housing areas the houses were very close together.Hookworm was the most commonly spread disease as a result of this. Hookworm lowers efficiency, productivity as well as resistance to disease and can eventually lead to death. Another disease was Tuberculosis which was responsible for 15 percent of all deaths in the West Indies therefore making it the largest single cause of death, as stated by Greenwood and Hammer. Health was of great concern to the public because it had a significant impact on both social and economic life in Barbados. Another large problem was the lack of medical services available to the masses.
The white planter elite class as well as those in the medical profession both were against free or subsidized state medicine because they thought the people would not have as great of an appreciation for it than if they were paying for it. Doctors suggested a subscription type of medical service but the masses could not afford this. The few doctors in the West Indies, let alone Barbados, situated themselves mostly in towns which made them accessible only to those with money and transportation available.Even though the doctors were located in towns they were still inaccessible to the urban population and even more inaccessible to those living in rural areas.
The working class had very little medical services and this made them more eager for some change, further fuelling the general dissatisfaction leading up to the riots. In the British West Indies, in some territories more than Barbados, education was being held back by the white planter class because they med it unnecessary for an agricultural society.Planters also fear that education make the average rural laborer more aware of what he was receiving for his work and unhappy with his earnings. When planters were forced to comply with the requirements of education they just covered the bare minimum such as basic reading, writing and arithmetic. They did not want laborers learning even simple agricultural science because planters thought a laborer should only be able to understand instructions and not to mistakes when taking measurements or measuring quantities.
This lack of education led to high illiteracy rates all throughout not only Barbados but the whole British Caribbean.For a greater understanding as to the actual illiteracy rates in the British Caribbean see Appendix 1. As of the late 1 ass’s 1 in every 3 West Indians was unable to read and write, 1 in every 4 never attended school at all and most of the population received less than 4 years of schooling as stated in Greenwood and Hammer. It is also stated that the school attendance rate was only about 66% and as a result of all these factors many children finished school without knowing how to read or write.
These statistics show that despite education being mandatory nearly everywhere it was never really put into action.This meant that children had to look for work and although in some cases it was illegal the parents allowed it in an attempt to better support their families. The planters did not mind this because they had no problem employing children. The low quality of the little education was due to the government spending a small portion of their budget on education. Even though the Barbarian government spent it was still insufficient and this was distributed poorly because the towns would eave received a larger portion than the rural districts and boys would have received more than girls.
Parents saw education as an opportunity for their children to gain a higher social status and also a better life. The population felt like there were fewer opportunities for them because of them not meeting certain conditions like being a particular sex or race or living in a certain area. This lack of education further discontented the masses and it was only a matter of time before they had enough. Political During this time there was a very limited franchise available to the masses ND this made the people yearn for change and this in turn influenced the riots.This limited franchise was based on certain requirements such as being of a specific race or gender, land ownership and paying a certain amount in taxes.
Conditions before 1906 were such that franchise would only be extended to males who paid at least 10 shillings in land tax per year. In 1 919 the franchise became available to literate women of age 25 who were paying a land of 2 pounds. As result of unemployment and low wages most persons would not have been able to meet the land requirement or the payment of land taxes requirement.It was so bad that according to Greenwood and Hammer no more than 7% of the population was eligible to vote based on the requirements.
To make things more fair the people opted for representatives of ordinary to be placed in the government but the colonial governors denied this request. They denied it because there weren’t enough educated people to make significant contribution to situations. The few educated people were not really involved in any kind of nationalist movement because they went abroad and never wanted to return to their country.They also thought the country wasn’t able to support itself economically seeing as how it was still dependent on the mother country. The governors didn’t see them worthy of representative government far less self- government. In an attempt to change this opinion colonies diversified their economy with the introduction of alternative crops. Barbados introduced the cotton industry but it did not survive because of things such as disease and problems harvesting the cotton. Despite this effort colonies remained dependent on the mother country and under the Crown Colony System of government.
The masses were becoming more and more unruly with the notations in Barbados and were in desperate need of help in the form of a revolutionary. In the CSS Barbarians were experiencing many problems and had no way to change that without being represented by someone in the House of Assembly. Eventually they received representation in the form of Charles Duncan O’Neal and Winter Crawford. These 2 gentlemen became the voice of the people, speaking out against the suffering of the black populous when Charles Duncan O’Neal became a member of the House of Assembly.Barbados received the revolutionary who would bring change to Barbados in 1937. This was Clement Osborne Payne, a labor rights activist Clement Osborne Payne was born in Trinidad but his parents were Barbarian. He attended the Bay Street Elementary School in Bridgetown but later returned to Trinidad in search of a job since there were practically none available in Barbados. He stayed there for many years and migrated back to Barbados after about 20 years.
When Payne arrived he declared himself as a returning national which allowed him to enter the working force of Barbados.Employment was still very hard to find but eventually Payne found a friend in an unemployed engineer named Fit Archibald Chase. Shortly after this Payne found a job working for a member of both the planter class and the Chamber of Commerce. He began holding public meetings and demonstrations showing their disapproval of the Letters Patent. There was a constitutional amendment that would shorten the term of members of the legislative from life to 5 years.
This would take away some of the decision-making power from the conservative sugar planters.All of Pane’s work caught the attention of Grantees Adams since he was of the opposite view and hosted rival meetings which would contradict Pane’s public influence. Payne felt his position was ere helpful because he gained acceptance from the whites and respect from the public which was important for achieving his goal of introducing trade unionism to Barbados.
Payne felt that for the black Barbarian working class to attain improvement of their working and living conditions they had to be more aggressive in their approach.He then used pamphlets about better conditions to stir the ‘masses of agitation’. He held his largest meeting at Golden Square, one of the most densely populated slums in Barbados at that time. This meeting shifted the focus from constitutional proposals to taking taters into the hands of the masses and unifying the people under a common goal. This meeting also gave birth to the slogan “Educate.
Agitate but Dona violate”. Apart from his large crowd of supporters Payne kept a few disciples, his friend Chase, Israel Loves, Lyric Grant, Mortimer Skeet and Darleen Allen.As the crowds at Pane’s meetings grew increasingly larger each time uniformed policemen began attending his meetings. He often scorned them saying they were the puppets of the capitalists. The Government say Payne as a radical who needed to be silenced in order to maintain the status quo of Barbados. Together the Barbarian Government and the Trinitarian police discovered that Payne was born in Trinidad and not Barbados. They prosecuted him for false declaration to immigration authorities upon arrival in Barbados.
Since he could not afford a lawyer he was unrepresented and given a choice of paying a fine of 10 pounds or 3 months of imprisonment with hard labor. This was a very harsh sentence so Payne appealed. Pane’s followers rose more than enough money to pay the pine and this caught the eye of Grantees Adams who then represented him before the Court of Appeal and together his sentence was reversed.
The very ext day after he was convicted Payne began a march with his followers to Government House where he demanded and audience with the Governor to protest his condition.This request was obviously denied but when ordered by the police to vacate the premises he stood firm. The police then arrested him and his followers and Payne was refused bail. That same night the Government deported him back to Trinidad.
This was when the masses could take no more so on the 27th of June 1937 the masses erupted into violence not only in the city but in rural areas as well. The deportation of their leader was the most important factor which influenced the riots.