The Caribbean Irish
Before I picked up this book, I had no idea the Irish were among the earliest settlers in the Caribbean. The Caribbean Irish is a fascinating look at a somewhat forgotten period of history. During the 1600s, as the British set out to colonize the West Indies, they relied heavily on the Irish as a source of indentured labor. But by the 1800s, the Irish had all but disappeared as their labor was replaced by African slaves.
It is hard to imagine life during Cromwell's reign as he developed a policy to rid Ireland of the Irish, particularly by encouraging the transplantation of those considered undesirable. He particularly singled out political prisoners, or the unfortunate like orphans and widows or anyone at the wrong place at the wrong time. And while some Irish did manage to become planters and businessmen, this account looks primarily at the role of servants, and how their experiences contrasted with that of slaves brought to the island as sugar production became more widespread. Although both lived and worked in deplorable conditions, the indentured servants had at least the hope of being free at the end of their contracts, provided they lived that long, unlike slaves who were kept in bondage without any of hope of freedom. And it seems that by the 1800s as their labor was less in demand, they managed to find other opportunities outside the islands.
I found this to be an engaging account of those who often didn't have a voice during British global expansion into the West Indies. And I liked the fact that this book made me aware of a part of history that I otherwise wouldn't have known about.
Thanks to Chronos Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.