Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

An intolerance of idleness: British disaster "relief" in the Caribbean 1831-1907

Webber, Oscar (2019) An intolerance of idleness: British disaster "relief" in the Caribbean 1831-1907. NWIG New West Indian Guide, 93 (3-4). pp. 201-230. ISSN 1382-2373

[img] Text (An Intolerance of Idleness) - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (235kB)

Identification Number: 10.1163/22134360-09303053


Despite the fact that disasters, usually induced by hurricanes, were a near-annual experience in the nineteenth-century British-controlled Caribbean, the immediate response of white elites (plantation owners and colonial officers) to these events has remained largely underexamined. This article fills that lacuna by examining the concerns that, across the long nineteenth century, informed British responses to some of the most devastating nature-induced disasters in this period. Though the damages wrought by these events always necessitated some form of humanitarian relief, across the period 1831-1907 the survival of labor regimes and the plantation economy always remained the paramount concern of British officials. White elites viewed their minority control over colonies in the region as contingent on their ability to make African-Caribbean people labor for them. Consequently, because disasters so often destroyed plantations and other sites of labor, colonial responses to disaster were primarily informed by a desire to coerce the African-Caribbean population back to work. Reflecting a preoccupation with "idleness" that was mirrored in domestic poor relief and disaster relief throughout the British Empire, white elites often attempted to withhold needed foodstuffs and materials for rebuilding from the African-Caribbean population until they re-engaged in labor for the colonial state. This article, through showing that a preoccupation with idleness remained central to colonial disaster response, reveals an underexamined continuity between the eras of slavery and emancipation.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 The Author(s)
Divisions: International History
Subjects: D History General and Old World
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Date Deposited: 01 May 2020 23:11
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2024 22:12

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics