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East Indians in the Caribbean

Indians were first brought to the Caribbean from the mid-1840s to work on white-owned sugar plantations as indentured labor to replace newly freed African slaves. The majority of immigrants were young men; later disturbances on the plantations forced the authorities to try and correct the imbalance. Indenture was usually for five years and the laborer was subject to restricting and paternalistic regulations that were sometimes described as “a new system of slavery.” After an initial number of years it was possible for the laborer to return to India but since many were offered land in order to entice them to stay near the estates, most stayed in their new country.

The racial tensions and stereotypes of later years were formed during the colonial period. Indians worked for less than Africans and were regarded as cheap and malleable labour. There were differences of culture between the Hindu and Muslim Indians and the Christian Africans. While the Africans, who were more likely to be literate in English, filled the jobs in the urban and commercial sectors, Indians were most likely to remain laborers and small farmers.


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