Rise and Fall of an Empire
A Progressive Caribbean
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- List of Tables
- I Slavery and Genocide
- 1 Slaughter of the First Peoples
- 2 A Lost Generation: Enslaved Children
- II Religion, Culture and Conflict
- 3 Destroying Unity: Hosay Massacre of 1884
- 4 Caribbean Responses to the Italian-Ethiopian War
- 5 Media and Caribbean Culture
- 6 Relevance of Dancehall Culture
- III Literary Criticism
- 7 Abuse, Exploitation and Oppression
- 8 Caribbean Novels and Their Realities
- 9 Shortcomings in A New World Order
Many persons tend to associate the word “Empire” with a mighty, powerful country or civilization in the past or present. It is normal to use the terms—British Empire, Roman Empire, Inca Empire, American Empire or Spanish Empire. Some would be familiar with evolution of the Maurya Empire, Byzantine Empire, Babylonian Empire, Qing Empire or Ottoman Empire.1 It would be difficult for some persons to readily accept the term—Caribbean Empire. In retrospect, it is easier to accept such a term when one considers the fact that Caribbean people (and the diaspora) have been major contributors to global development and progress.
The world’s history is one of invasions, conquests and expulsions. There was a continuous onslaught, initiated by “discoverers” and “explorers” against indigenous peoples. From the late fifteenth century, imperialism and colonialism wreaked havoc on millions of persons in the Caribbean. A cursory overview gives the impression that the Caribbean never produced mighty conquerors as Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Saladin the Muslim warlord, Julius Caesar and Hannibal. However, this is a misleading view. There are countless ←xi | xii→and often forgotten persons and organizations who fearlessly fought against slavery and indentureship and vehemently opposed colonialism and imperialism. Their names are neither recorded in history books nor displayed on memorials.
Some persons would ask—what would be the criteria in defining a region or country as an Empire? Is it the size of the population, amount of resources, achievements of the citizens or military conquests? It is obvious that there are no rigid laws or theories that determine whether a country should be defined as an Empire. Undoubtedly, the Caribbean migrants who have made valuable contributions to their host societies will certainly be part of any justification that the region be acknowledged as a Caribbean Empire. Determining if the Caribbean Empire is progressive will be a never-ending debate. Indeed, the story of the Caribbean Empire is one in which persons from different ethnic, religious, geographical and class backgrounds have strengthened the foundation for future citizens. Additionally, the observances of festivals as Divali, Hosay, Ramleela, Christmas and Eid have also contributed to the uniqueness and diversity of the Caribbean region.
The chapters provide ample proof that genocide, slavery, culture and ideology were crucial components in the evolution of the Caribbean. Additionally, within the nine chapters there is emphasis on the intersection of literature, media, religion and history within a Caribbean framework. The book is divided into three major sections: Slavery and Genocide, Culture and Conflict and Literary Criticism. Additionally, there is initial emphasis on the challenges and achievements of the Caribbean since the arrival of the Spanish in 1492. One of the salient features of this work is that it examines a cross section of the Caribbean society. This book highlights some invaluable and diverse aspects of Caribbean society and the global influences. There is an emphasis on both organizations and personalities in building the Caribbean Empire. Additionally, there is a focus on lesser-known events, individuals and organizations that have contributed to the creation or regression of the Caribbean. I have argued that some of these personalities and groups made valid contributions to the improvement and betterment of Caribbean societies. The never-ending list of “builders” of this grand ←xii | xiii→empire includes the First Peoples and persons of Chinese, Syrian, Spanish, African, French and Jewish descent.
In Chapter One, there is an analysis of the past injustices against the First Peoples (indigenous Indians) in the Americas from the late fifteenth century and their continued grievances. The arrival of the Spanish began a destructive wave in which the cultures and religions of these Indians were mocked and destroyed. These innocent tribal victims were killed, raped, forced into reserves, robbed of their lands and suffered due to a capitalist greed. This clash of civilizations has resulted in the disappearance of numerous cultures, languages, religions and ancient wisdom.
The link between the past and the present is obvious as land disputes and other cultural issues are being raised by the First Peoples in the twenty-first century. There will also be an historical overview of the harsh treatment of Indians by the Spanish and later Europeans. There will be emphasis on the rich culture and contributions of Indians to the economy of the Americas. Additionally, this chapter will contain a discussion of the recommendations and solutions to preserve the culture and legacy of the First Peoples. Undoubtedly, governments need to be more sensitive and aware of the importance of pre-Columbian history, tribal cultures and the contributions of the First Peoples.
Chapter Two focuses on the children of enslaved parents who were a crucial component of the labor force on the West Indian plantations. The fertility of women, mortality of infants and productivity and occupational mobility of children were inextricably linked to profit maximization. The rigorous labor demands in the British West Indies meant there was constant pressure to accelerate the transition from childhood to adulthood. The decline and fluctuating profits of sugar planting in the British West Indies would have directly impacted on the treatment and workload of enslaved children. It was evident that the cost-conscious planters contributed to enslaved children being overworked. The paucity of young slaves in the historical records gives the deceptive impression that they were improperly socialized in the rigorous regimen of West Indian plantation. However, their role in the estate gangs, involved in minor tasks, was critical in ensuring the smooth and efficient daily operations of the estate. An absence of children on an ←xiii | xiv→estate would have entailed more work for the first and second gangs. The survival of children to adulthood amid an unsanitary and inhospitable environment is a testimony to the hardiness and survival mechanisms imbued in some of these enslaved children.
A critique of the Hosay Massacre in Chapter Three sheds light on the factors responsible for the tragic killing of Indo-Trinidadians in the Hosay festival. The event occurred in South Trinidad during October 1884. Hosay was a religious and relatively peaceful festival that posed a threat to colonial authorities. The festival posed a threat because this occasion was a crucible for religious and working class unity. The gender barrier was also transcended as African and Indian women were present in the procession. Women, especially those of the Shia sect, were occasionally present in the procession and usually surrounded the tadjahs. And, the age barrier was crossed as evident from the fact that children and youths were in the procession. Teenaged sons, brothers and nephews often accompanied the older men. Thus, the suppression of Hosay in 1884 provided a golden opportunity for the colonial ruling class to sabotage solidarity among the colony’s working class. Both the government and the estate owners had a vested interest in a fragmented and polarized society.
The global connections in Chapter Four resonated during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia (in Africa) in 1935. It had a significant impact on persons of African descent residing in the British Caribbean colonies. Both Britain and France were guilty of deliberately ignoring Italy’s aggressive actions. As the war between Italy and Ethiopia progressed, Blacks in the Caribbean colonies became increasingly agitated. Religious tensions increased, in December 1935, when it was revealed that the Roman Catholic Church intended to make a substantial loan to assist Benito Mussolini, leader of Italy.
One of Trinidad’s popular pro-Black newspapers, The People, had frequent Biblical references condemning Italy’s aggression. It was obvious from the writings and speeches that race/ethnicity appeared more important than religion for many groups and Blacks in the Caribbean and abroad. The pro-Ethiopia editorials, opinions and weekly summaries sought to convince its readership that Ethiopia was bravely defending her empire against great odds. In 2020, there is no longer a ←xiv | xv→foreign threat but the challenges of the African nation include border conflicts, refugees and violence.2
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- Publication date
- 2020 (July)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XVIII, 180 pp., 4 b/w ill., 7 tables