Enslaved Africans harvesting sugar
From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, the economy of the Caribbean
was based primarily on plantation agriculture. European traders brought
millions of enslaved Africans to the region to produce sugar, tobacco,
coffee, cotton and other commodities that were shipped to Europe and North
America. The demise of slavery in the Caribbean began with the Haitian
Revolution of 1791-1804 and concluded with emancipation in Cuba in 1886.
Another source of plantation labor was indentured workers from Europe,
Africa and Asia. Between 1838 (the final year of emancipation in the British
colonies) and 1917, colonial governments brought nearly a half million
workers from India to the Caribbean.
Given its centrality to the creation of wealth in the Caribbean, agriculture
figured prominently in prints and photographs. Publications featured detailed
drawings of plants, landscapes of plantations, and illustrations of field
labor and production processes in mills. Artists also documented a variety
of rural customs and illustrated the life of small-scale Caribbean farmers
who operated outside the plantation system. Generally, artists portrayed
workers not as distinct individuals but as elements of economic production.
Next: Natural History & Disasters