Uploaded by K Huggins


Indentureship is a form of contractual labour where workers are employed under
stipulated conditions and for a certain time period. East Indians arrived in the region in
1838 and that first group went to British Guiana. They arrived in Trinidad in 1845.
With the abolition of slavery, the planters turned to Asia for a new supply of labour and
for decades thousands of East Indians(1838) and Chinese{1853) were brought to the
West Indies under a contractual arrangement to labour on the sugar plantations mainly in
Guyana Trinidad and to a lesser extent Jamaica.
The Chinese came in small numbers when compared to other groups. Although they were
hard working they lacked experience and physical capability to work on the plantations.
As soon as they could, they left the plantations and became involved in more suitable
activities such as shop keeping, retailing, and huckstering They too added to the class
structure of the region.
The East Indians came in larger numbers and were from different castes - agricultural,
Untouchables and Brahmin. They were housed together and placed in gangs regardless of
their caste. For the East Indians plantation life afforded them privilege of retaining many
of their cultural practices. These new immigrants brought new religions, language, food,
dress, festivals, music and general lifestyle.
For some, plantation life in the region was one of oppression and as soon as they could
they left the plantations became involved in business( peasant proprietors who worked
part time on the estate and cultivated their lands (sugar cane, rice, ground provisions,
British planters turned to contracting free labour from china, Africa, India and to offset
their labour difficulties. Although, these persons were given a contract to work for a
small wage for a period of five to seven years and-were guaranteed passage back home or
a piece of land at the end of their indentureship period, they were also treated harshly and
Most of the indentured labour came from India. Between l838 and 1917, nearly half a
million East Indians were imported to work on sugar estates in Guyana. Both Guyana and
Trinidad had only recently begun sugar cultivation and had large tracts of fertile land
where new plantations were established. Approximately 145, 000 East Indians went to
Trinidad, 38,000 to Jamaica, 2500 to Grenada, and smaller numbers went to St Vincent
and St Lucia. Thousands Of Chinese also came and went to Guyana, Trinidad and
Effects of the Migration
1. Demographic impact
• The larger British colonies of Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad received the largest number of
Asian immigrants, and their legacy and influence are still prominent in these areas today. More
than 400,000 thousand East Indian immigrants entered the Caribbean between 1838 and 1917,
and approximately 20,000 Chinese immigrants came between 1852 and 1893.
2. New cultural input
• East Indians brought with them new religions – Hinduism and Islam – as well as their own
language and cultural practices. The Chinese tended to integrate more with the existing culture.
• The Dutch brought Indonesians from Java to their colony of Suriname, where they now
comprise around 15% of the population, thus adding to the racial and cultural mix of the region.
3. Economic effects
• The arrival of the Asian indentured workers helped boost the sugar production industry,
especially in Guyana, but resulted in a depression in wages as demand for other workers
necessarily decreased. This coincided with a general economic downturn in the region.
• The Chinese fostered economic diversity through their introduction of rice cultivation in
Guyana, where rice production is still a major part of the economy.
4. Social impact
• Racial tensions increased in the regions that received the most Asian immigrants. Conflicts
arose as a result of competition for work, lands and women. Female workers were not as valued
as men by the recruiters and so only a small number arrived on the scheme.
The Caribbean Diaspora
Before most Caribbean countries gained independence, citizens could travel relatively
freely, for example for work or education, to other territories belonging to the same
metropole. After 1838, this included now free ex-slaves within the British territories.
The financial means for poorer Caribbean citizens to travel was provided by the
emergence of credit unions, partner plans, colonial banks and other financial institutions,
and, by the 20th century, technological advances in transport and communications made
travelling via sea and land cheaper, faster and more efficient.