The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 39, Issue 1

Article 2
Exploring the Marine Plantation: An Historical Investigation of the Barbados Fishing Industry

Pedro L.V. Welch


This article examines the historical factors underlying the development of a fishing industry in Barbados, from the time of European settlement to the 1890s. The discussion notes that in general Caribbean historiography has paid inadequate attention to the non-plantation aspects of social and economic life in the Caribbean colonies. In particular, the fishing industry has not been the subject of many scholarly enquiries – a lacuna that is all the more surprising when one notes that for some Caribbean territories the main economic activities centred on the sea rather than on agriculture, particularly sugarcane agriculture. One of the areas of discussion with which the article is concerned is the place of fishing in the economic and social lives of the formerly enslaved people. In that context, the argument is made that for freed persons in Barbados fishing provided the most significant alternative to plantation labour, in much the same way that the development of a peasantry did for freed persons in other Caribbean territories endowed with greater land resources. For that reason and others raised in the article the fishing industry represents another research frontier that will expand our contact with the way pre- and post-emancipation Caribbean societies functioned.