A Fragmented Caribbean Empire

Social, Political and Cultural Influences

by Jerome Teelucksingh (Author)
©2022 Monographs X, 142 Pages
Series: Caribbean Studies, Volume 22


In A Fragmented Caribbean Empire, Jerome Teelucksingh examines some of the personalities and organizations that are often overlooked in analysis of the Caribbean region and its diaspora, and in particular the Indo-Caribbean presence in literature, migration and politics. Most of the existing scholarship on the Caribbean has tended to overlook this and other ethnic, religious and cultural minorities. The author utilizes interviews and delves into diverse archival sources to create a paradigm of a region with a rich historical past and a promising future. Research on indentureship and migration to North America and Britain elucidates the strong transnational ties between the Caribbean and other regions of the world, and shows how the Caribbean can be conceptualised as a global ‘empire’. Behind this lies the author’s unwavering conviction that the Caribbean should be acknowledged as important and given its rightful place in global history.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: The Burdens of Indentureship
  • Chapter Two: Indians and Their Involvement in Trinidad’s Party Politics
  • Chapter Three: Scientist and Politician: Rudranath Capildeo
  • Chapter Four: Caribbean History on the Global Stage
  • Chapter Five: Global Scholarly Networks and the Caribbean University
  • Chapter Six: Caribbean Migrants in Canada
  • Chapter Seven: An Awkward British Presence
  • Chapter Eight: Cultural Chauvinism
  • Conclusion
  • Series Index

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Empires are not created overnight. Some have been planned and others occur by accidents of history. Some empires have fallen, some are forgotten whilst others are being researched. Their achievements, downfalls and leaders are etched into the public’s historical memory. The Caribbean Empire has never been accepted as a reality and this is due to a number of reasons. However, the fact is that the Caribbean Empire exists and yet it is unknown. Various aspects of the Caribbean have ensured the region could be deemed an ’Empire’. However, due to the smallness in size, it is unlikely that this unassuming Empire will ever be acknowledged.

There are certain traits among past civilizations that can be compared to the Caribbean. The lifestyles of the Caribbean’s indigenous inhabitants, Saladoids, Tainos, Kalinagos, were strikingly similar to New Zealand’s early settlers who were hunter-gatherers. Many of the agricultural practices of the pre-Columbian peoples were strikingly similar to the Maoris. Likewise, the belief systems of these Caribbean inhabitants were similar to the native of Hawaii. The displacement of millions of First Peoples in the Caribbean and Latin America was not a unique phenomenon. The European settlement of Australia resulted in a similar displacement of millions of Aborigines who were relocated from fertile lands and water sources.

Some events in Asia and Europe can be compared to developments in the Caribbean. In the post-1100 era, the massive conversion campaigns conducted ←vii | viii→by Christian Europe against the Muslim countries of Middle East were similar to those experienced in the Caribbean from 1492. Interestingly, in the Caribbean there was no spread of religious ideas that occurred during the spread of Buddhism in the Far East. In the late 14th century in China, the overthrow of the Mongols resulted in the emergence of the Ming Dynasty with its founder Chu Yuan-chang (1328–1398). There were rebellions and rural distress during the Ming period. China, had aggressive expansionist campaigns in the 15th century and continued under the Ch’ing dynasty. Iran under the Safavid and Qajar dynasties experienced expansion of frontiers and embracing of Shi’ite Islam as the country’s major religion. This continued in other parts of the world including the Caribbean as frontiers were expanded and linked to the North America, Europe and Africa. In the 18th century, the Ottoman army and navy were also formidable forces just as the European intruders in the Caribbean region.

The Caribbean was on the receiving end of their share of expeditions and campaigns. The fierce resistance that unfolded between Europeans and the First Peoples, enslaved Africans and indentured Indians. The Choson dynasty in Korea resisted the Japanese invasion in 1592. Not surprisingly, Japan’s rule of Korea resulted in a liberation movement and divisive war. Such reverberations would be mirrored in the independence movements across the Caribbean in the 20th century.

The network of railroads and architectures that comprise the Caribbean Empire were built by arrogant conquerors. This was not a unique feature as infrastructure had been constructed occurred across Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and Australia. It was part of the physical landscape of conquest, migration, colonization and settlement. Simultaneous emotional and psychological landscapes had also become entrenched in the minds of the conquered and colonized in the Caribbean.

The class structure of the Caribbean landscape also experienced a gradual makeover. In the post-World War Two era, the term ‘working class’ was synonymous with trade unions and those involved in manual and lowly paid mental labour; whilst the upper and middle classes were defined by their wealth and occupational status. However from the 1970s, during the oil boom, the working class in many countries became part of the middle class. Inflation and economic problems have contributed to some in the middle class being relegated to the working class. The rise of gated communities, weakened Labour movements and drug trafficking have changed the composition and behavior patterns of the Caribbean class structure.

This book is neither a definitive source documenting the region nor claims to record the details of personalities and activities of the Caribbean. Chapters on indentureship, interpretation of Caribbean History, emergence of universities, ←viii | ix→contribution of politics, intellectuals and migration are part of the multilayered Caribbean Empire. These topics are the foundation in understanding the building blocks of the Caribbean region.

The first chapter provides brief insight into indentureship in the Caribbean and other areas of the world. The sinister twins of colonialism and imperialism had a deleterious impact on the region. The constant need for cheap, human labor during the 19th and 20th centuries drained India. Chapter Two focuses on the impact of Indians in the political life of Trinidad and Tobago during the 1920s and 1930s. The historical forces that were shaping the British Empire had a significant influence on the socio-political evolution of the British West Indies. The early elections in Trinidad and Tobago, was indicative of the rise of a racial consciousness which would have implications on future efforts along the road to self-government.

The focus on personalities is one of the attempts to pinpoint the builders and shapers of the Caribbean Empire. It is in this context that Chapter Three focuses on the brief life of Rudranath Capildeo, a Caribbean personality, who made a noteworthy contribution to the scientific field. His local recognition was primarily due to the service as leader of a political party that helped guide Trinidad and Tobago to independent status.

In attempting to understand the perception of the Caribbean, there is need to examine the manner in which the region is viewed by other researchers and those outside the region. In Chapter Four, the perception and value of Caribbean History is examined. Undoubtedly, Caribbean History is often undervalued in the fields of World History and Global History. In retrospect, West Indian or Caribbean History cannot remain hidden or camouflaged and continue being marginalized and overlooked.

In Chapter Five there is an analysis of the university in the Caribbean as the most significant space from the 19th century. The tertiary institution incorporated a significant section of the region into the scholarly networking of the British empire. Interestingly, these networks which developed were not limited to universities but included secondary schools and technical education. A fundamental product of the scholarly networks was the gradual creation of a Caribbean identity. It was from these intellectual and academic spaces that local leaders and creative minds emerged.

The diverse Caribbean diaspora provide proof there is a constant shifting of the boundaries of the Caribbean Empire. The citizens of the Caribbean Empire are scattered across the globe. And, this makes it difficult to adequately conceptualize the region. Chapters Six and Seven, focus on the West Indian immigrants in Canada and Britain. Their positive contributions cannot be judged in isolation. The socio-historical experiences in their homeland played a major role in shaping ←ix | x→and influencing their perceptions. The Caribbean population is firmly entrenched in the society. They have made invaluable contributions to the political, religious, social and economic spheres. Yet they have remained an ‘invisible’ ethnic group.

In the 21st century, an empire cannot be simply defined by borders or geographical space. The final chapter focuses on selected literary texts, examining cultural chauvinism. The arguments prove the need to be carefully trained and appreciative of textual analysis and comparative studies. The comparative analysis and cultural chauvinism featured in the works of Caribbean-born writers as V.S. Naipaul, Edgar Mittelholzer and Samuel Selvon have been ongoing by critics in the region and abroad.

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An obscure part of the New World is momentarily touched by history; the darkness closes up again; the Chaguanes disappear in silence. The disappearance is unimportant; it is part of nobody’s story.”


X, 142
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (June)
migration Global History Caribbean identity racism culture politics religion ethnicity Trinidad and Tobago A Fragmented Caribbean Empire Social, Political and Cultural Influences Jerome Teelucksingh Caribbean Studies
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. X, 142 pp., 9 b/w ill., 1 table.

Biographical notes

Jerome Teelucksingh (Author)

Jerome Teelucksingh is a senior lecturer at The University of the West Indies, His publications include Rise and Fall of an Empire and Civil Rights in America and the Caribbean, 1950s–2010s


Title: A Fragmented Caribbean Empire