Special Features
March 6, 2020

Special National Heroes Month Feature

Not ‘His’tory

Extracts from “Slavery, Law and Society in the British Windward Islands 1763-1823” by Dr Bernard Marshall

AS OUR COUNTRY commemorates National Heroes Month and in particular remembers the last battles to preserve the Independence of our country, it is necessary, if we are to appreciate the significance of the events of this month, that we try to get behind the lies and distortions spun by the colonisers in what was taught as history but is in reality ‘his’ story.

One such effort at seeking the truth and educating our people on these Independence wars, called the “Carib Wars”, is a study by a local historian, the late Dr Bernard Marshall, entitled, “Slavery, Law and Society in the British Windward Islands 1763-1823”. As part of our contribution towards getting our people to view history from the perspective of the victims of British colonialism, SEARCHLIGHT will in our Weekend editions publish extracts from this seminal work of Dr Marshall.

Establishing Colonial Foothold

We begin with the first chapter of Dr Marshall’s book, outlining Britain’s early steps to take control of our homeland. He begins chapter 1 in this manner: “In the second half of the 18th century, Great Britain’s possessions in the West Indies were enlarged with the additions of Dominica, St Vincent, Tobago, Grenada and the Grenadines. Known as the Ceded Islands of the Eastern Caribbean, these were Britain’s fruits of victory in the Seven Years War with France and her sovereignty was acknowledged at the Treaty of Paris 1763 which brought that war to a
close. Before 1763, France’s right to the colony of Grenada and the Grenadines had not been disputed, but both powers had not been able to agree on the ownership of Dominica, St Vincent and Tobago. In 1748 however, they had arrived at a compromise…

to regard these islands as neutral or outside the penetration by either, and that they be left in free, undisturbed possession of the indigenous inhabitants, the Caribs, estimated at 60 families in Dominica and 3000 persons in St Vincent”.

The author went on to point out that sugar was not a major product of St Vincent before 1763; agricultural production for export, mainly by French settlers using slaves being concentrated in tobacco, coffee and cocoa and that only Grenada produced sugar, but Britain had other ideas as Dr Marshall details: “Great Britain was anxious for rapid development of her new possessions and no time was lost in formulating political and administrative arrangements for this purpose. The four colonies (Tobago, St Vincent, Grenada and the Grenadines and Dominica) were grouped together in a federation…the British Windward Islands Federation, with headquarters in Grenada”.

Narrow selfish efforts caused the demise of the Federation and Dominica separated by 1771 leaving the British to try and find means to establish sugar colonies in the other islands. Most of the older sugar colonies were experiencing difficulties with soil exhaustion increasing production costs while reducing output. Britain began introducing policies to encourage the immigration of white people, even French settlers, and to offer incentives. St. Vincent presented challenges of its own.

(Part 2 next week)