Population and Economy In Jamaica, 1807-1834 by B.W Higman
It is generally conceded that of all the British West Indian colonies Jamaica's economywas the most diversified in the period of slavery. Having admitted this much, however,it is usual to underscore the dominance of sugar and the plantation. The 'minor staples'and other economic activities are seen as strictly marginal. Thus while Jamaica isaccepted as an exception to the rule of monoculture the degree of deviance is thought tobe insignificant.1 There is no doubting the dominance of sugar. What is required is a measure of theextent of that dominance. Here an attempt will be made to provide such a measure forthe period immediately before emancipation.2 Since the concern of this analysis is with the links between the structure of the economy and the slave population, emphasis will be placed on the distribution of the slaves between the different forms of economicactivity. This is not the same as assessing the contribution of sugar to the wealth ofJamaica or the export sector, or tracing the dependence of other activities on the sugar plantation system. But it has often been assumed that because sugar was the principal export crop it also determined the distribution of the slave labour force. Hence adescription of the pattern of activities and institutions on the sugar estate is sometimesthought to suffice as the basis for an analysis of Jamaican slave society.3 It is necessaryto test the adequacy of this assumption. For outside the sugar estates there was a varied set of occupations and activities, in a varied set of environmental situations (bothphysical and social), in which the slaves could be involved. If it is agreed that these various forms of economic activity may have had different effects on the growth and structure of the slave population, and vice versa, the importance of the exercise will be even more apparent...
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