Jubilees: How Trinidad and Tobago Remembered Victoria’s Jubilees, the Jubilee of Emancipation, and the Centenary of British Rule
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, within a single decade, Trinidad
and Tobago celebrated several significant anniversaries. In 1887 and in 1897, along with the rest of the Empire, the Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Victoria were observed in each island — which were separate colonies in 1887 but united administratively by 1897. These were grand Imperial commemorations. In 1888, the two colonies celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of full emancipation in the British Empire. This event was marked throughout the British Caribbean, and generated considerable public debate about slavery, race, emancipation and the “progress of the Race” since the end of slavery. And in 1897, an anniversary unique to Trinidad — the centenary of British rule — was commemorated in that island. The article considers the public celebration of these events in the context of each island’s political, social and economic history. It seeks to probe what they may tell us about internal social conflicts and tensions, the process of identity formation especially by the islands’ elites and their black and mixedrace middle strata, and the construction of competing narratives about the colonies’ history. Comparisons with the celebration of these anniversaries in some other British Caribbean colonies will be briefly attempted.