British West Indies: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The British West Indies was a term used to describe the islands in and around the Caribbean that were part of the British Empire[1] The term was sometimes used to include British Honduras and British Guiana, even though these territories are not geographically part of the Caribbean.[2][3] As of 1912, the British West Indies were divided into eight colonies: The Bahamas, Barbados, British Guiana, British Honduras, Jamaica (with its dependencies the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands), Trinidad and Tobago, the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands.[4] Between 1958 and 1962 all of the island territories except the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, British Honduras and British Guiana were organised into the West Indies Federation. It was hoped that the Federation would become independent as a single nation, but it had limited powers, many practical problems and a lack of popular support. Consequently, the West Indies Federation was dissolved. Most of the territories, including all the larger ones, are now independent as separate countries with membership to many international forums such as the Organization of American States, the Association of Caribbean States, the World Trade Organization, the United Nations, the Caribbean Community, the Commonwealth of Nations and the Caribbean Development Bank among others. The remainder are British overseas territories. All the former nations of the British West Indies, except the Commonwealth of Dominica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, are Commonwealth Realms.[5]



The territories that were part of the British West Indies were (date of independence, where applicable, in parentheses):



Leeward Islands

Sir William Stapleton established the first federation in the British West Indies in 1674. Stapleton set up a General Assembly of the Leeward Islands in St. Kitts. Stapleton's federation was active from 1674 to 1685 when Stapleton was Governor and the General Assembly met regularly until 1711.

By the 18th Century each island had kept its own Assembly and made its own laws, but continued to share one Governor and one Attorney-General. Although unpopular, Stapleton's Federation was never really dissolved but simply replaced by other arrangements.

Between 1816 and 1833 the Leewards were divided into two groups, each with its own Governor: St. Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla and Antigua-Barbuda-Montserrat. In 1833 all the Leeward Islands were brought together and Dominica was added to the grouping until 1940.

In 1869, Governor Benjamin Pine was assigned the task of organizing a federation of Antigua-Barbuda, Dominica, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. St. Kitts and Nevis however opposed sharing their government funds with Antigua and Montserrat, which were bankrupt. Governor Pine told the Colonial Office that the scheme had failed due to "local prejudice and self-interest". Thus the only achievement was giving the Leewards a single Governor. All laws and ordinances, however, had to be approved by the each island council.

In 1871 the British government passed the Leeward Islands Act through which all the islands were under one Governor and one set of laws. Each island was called "Presidency" under its own Administrator or Commissioner. Like earlier groupings this federation was unpopular but was not dissolved until 1956 to make way for the Federation of the West Indies. The Federal Colony was composed of all islands organized under Governor Pine's previous attempt.

Windward Islands

In 1833 the Windward Islands became a formal union called the Windward Islands Colony. In 1838, Trinidad (acquired in 1802) and St. Lucia (acquired in 1814) were brought into the Windward Islands Colony, but were not given their own assemblies (having previously been Crown Colonies). In 1840 Trinidad left the Colony. The Windward Islands Colony was unpopular as Barbados wished to retain its separate identity and ancient institutions, while the other colonies did not enjoy the association with Barbados (but needed such an association for defence against French invasions until 1815). Thus the individual islands resisted British attempts at closer union. Barbados in particular fought to retain its own Assembly.

From 1885 to 1958 the Windward Islands Colony consisted of Grenada and the Grenadines, St. Vincent and St. Lucia for the entire period. Tobago left in 1889 when she formed a union with Trinidad. Dominica joined the Windward Islands Colony in 1940 after having been transferred from the Leewards and remained in the Colony until 1958. After 1885 the Windward Islands Colony was under one Governor-General in Grenada and each island had its own Lieutenant-Governor and its own assembly (as before). Attempts at a Federal Colony like in the Leewards were always resisted. The Windward Islands Colony broke up in 1958 when each island chose to join the new Federation of the West Indies as a separate unit.

Jamaica and dependencies

The remaining British colonies in the Caribbean except for British Guiana and the Bahamas were grouped under Jamaica out of convenience and sometimes for historical and/or geographical reasons. British Honduras was surrounded by hostile Spanish colonies and needed the protection afforded by the Army and Navy based in Jamaica. In addition, British Honduras had been founded by loggers and had expanded in population partly by the settlement of Englishmen arriving from Jamaica in the late 1600s and early 1700s (with settlers also arriving from England directly or being born in the colony). So from 1742 British Honduras was a dependency directly under the Governor of Jamaica. Then in 1749 the Governors of Jamaica appointed Administrators for British Honduras. In 1862 British Honduras became a Crown Colony and was placed under the Governor of Jamaica with its own Lieutenant-Governor. In 1884 it finally broke all administrative ties with Jamaica.

West Indies Federation

The West Indies Federation was a short-lived federation that existed from 3 January 1958 to 31 May 1962. It consisted of several Caribbean colonies of the United Kingdom. The expressed intention of the Federation was to create a political unit that would become independent from Britain as a single state--possibly similar to the Australian Federation, or Canadian Confederation; however, the Federation collapsed due to internal political conflicts before that could happen.



Cricket is traditionally the main sport in the British West Indies (though others sports such as football and basketball have challenged its dominance from around the 1990s onwards). Most of the countries and territories listed above field a combined cricket team called the West Indies cricket team or "Windies", which is one of the ten elite international teams that play at the Test match cricket-level. The British West Indies hosted the 2007 Cricket World Cup.


Fraudulent documents

There have been a number of fraudulent documents and other deceptions (including motor vehicle license plates) sold by various parties claiming to be issued by the British West Indies, playing on the confusion with the British Virgin Islands.[6][7][8] The British West Indies is not a country, nor is there any official "British West Indies" governmental authority using that name, and any documents supposedly issued by that "government" are invalid.[9]

Native nationals of the British West Indies are considered as either British Overseas Territories citizens (BOTC) or British Overseas citizens (BOC) and would obtain a British passport stating the name of the British territory they are from.

Related British laws

Acts by the British Government which have governed nationality laws in the territories includes:

See also


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

"BRITISH WEST INDIES (see 4.607* and separate articles on the various islands).-For administrative purposes, British Guiana and British Honduras are usually regarded as an integral part of the British West Indies, with which they have much in common. These two colonies are, therefore, included here. The area of the group remained unchanged in 1921, no new possessions having been acquired by Great Britain in the Caribbean and no territory alienated. The total pop., according to the latest estimates available in 1921, was:-Bahamas, 59,049; Barbados, 200,368; Jamaica, 891,040; Turks and Caicos Is., 5;615; Cayman Is., 5,564; Antigua, 32,865; St. Kitts, 22,415; Nevis, 11,596; Anguilla, 4,230; Dominica, 40,315; Montserrat, 10,182; Virgin Is., 5,557; Trinidad and Tobago, 386,707; Grenada, 74,490; St. Vincent, 53,210; St. Lucia, 51,505; British Guiana, 305,991; British Honduras, 43,586.

The Supply of Labour.-Though Barbados has a redundant population, the labour supply in the rest of the West Indies was insufficient for agricultural requirements, and the position had been aggravated by the emigration of British West Indians to Cuba, to which island they were tempted by the promise of higher wages, which did not, however, always materialize. Toward the end of 1919 this form of emigration began to assume serious proportions, no fewer than 21,573 labourers leaving Jamaica for Cuba, whilst only 6,457 returned. Recruiting for Cuba was also actively carried on in Barbados. With the slump in prices in 1921, however, the tide set in to some extent in the opposite direction, many labourers returning to their homes. In the British West Indies it was beginning to be realized that it is only by the payment of suitable wages, improved housing conditions and the offer of other amenities, that labourers can be induced to remain in their island homes. In British Guiana the shortage of labour was particularly acute, and with a population averaging only 3.3 to the square mile, no development of the hinterland on a large scale was possible.

In 1913, Mr. James McNeil and Mr. Chimman Lall visited the British West Indies to report on the system of indentured immigration prevailing in British Guiana, Jamaica and Trinidad, and though their report was favourable, Lord Hardinge, the then Viceroy of India, announced in the Indian Legislative Council in April 1 9 16 the determination of the Government to abolish the indenture system. It was at first proposed to terminate the system gradually in order that the colonies might have time to adjust themselves to the change; but in practice emigration from India was completely suspended in the same year. In 1919, the need for labour having become acute in British Guiana, a deputation comprising representatives of all classes of the agricultural and commercial communities visited England to urge upon the India Office and leaders of Indian public opinion, who were then in London, the desirability of the resumption of Indian immigration on a free colonization basis. Representatives of the deputation and of the West India Committee subsequently visited India, where they interviewed prom inent leaders and the members of the Government, who agreed to send a commission to British Guiana to report on the suitability of that country for receiving immigrants. The appointment of this commission was, however, delayed, it being felt desirable to await the views of the public in India regarding the proposals for dealing with the Indian question in Kenya Colony before proceeding further with the matter. In July 1921 an offer of the Indian Government to send a deputation to British Guiana was under consideration.

Government and Administration.-The question of political federation of these scattered colonies, which was discussed periodically, had failed up to 1921 to awaken any marked degree of enthusiasm in the several communities. Indications were not wanting, however, to show that a better understanding was being gradually brought about, in spite of the continued difficulties of communication. This was no doubt attributable to the work of a series of intercolonial conferences from 1899 to 1921, the main object of which had been to bring about a greater degree of uniformity in all matters of common interest concerning the British West Indies. All proved eminently successful, the Customs Conference in 1919, for example, having resulted in the adoption of uniformity of definition and arrangement of the West Indian tariffs, whilst the conference on law in 1916 was followed by the establishment of a West Indian court of appeal for the colonies lying to windward of the Caribbean.

A further step in the direction of closer union has been the formation of an Associated West Indian Chamber of Commerce, which held conferences in Trinidad in 1917 and Barbados in 1920. In 1920-I Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent individually petitioned the King for the substitution of representative government for the crown colony system. In the case of Grenada, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to whom the matter was referred, consented to advise the King to approve of the introduction of the elective system into the constitution, the council to consist of the governor, as president, six official, three nominated unofficial and four elected unofficial members, the electives to be chosen by the people on the basis of the system of elected representation, already operative throughout the island in municipal affairs in the case of the district boards. The petitions of St. Lucia and St. Vincent, on the other hand, were rejected on the grounds that the signatories were not sufficiently representative in character.

In 1920 the Prince of Wales made Barbados his first port of call in his empire tour in H.M.S. " Renown," and visited in succession Trinidad, British Guiana, Grenada, St. Lucia, Dominica, Montserrat, Antigua and Bermuda on his homeward voyage. His Royal Highness, who was received with manifestations of the greatest loyalty wherever he went, took the opportunity of refuting the suggestion that Great Britain might be willing to dispose of her West Indian possessions to a foreign country in part settlement of her debt.



Barbados. .. .. .






British Guiana .



British Honduras .



Jamaica. .. ..


Trinidad and Tobago



Grenada. .. .



St. Lucia. .. .. .



St. Vincent. .. .



The Leeward Is... .





The World War.-The British West Indies contributed gen.; erously in men, money and produce toward the prosecution of the World War. Many hundreds of West Indians came over to England independently to enlist, and a contingent comprising 15,601 officers and men was recruited voluntarily for active service. The numbers of men recruited in the various islands, British Guiana and British Honduras, were: The men were embodied in the British West Indies Regt., which served with distinction in France and Flanders, and also in Egypt and Palestine, where they participated in the victorious advance to `Amman. The total casualties were: Killed or died of wounds, 185; died of sickness, 1,071; wounded, 697. Private contingents were also sent over for enlistment by the Trinidad Merchants' and Planters' Contingent Committee and the Barbados Citizens' Contingent Committee for recruitment in the United Kingdom. In order to provide for the welfare of the West India and Bermuda military contingents, and of men coming over independently to serve in His Majesty's forces during the war, the West Indian Contingent Committee was formed in London at the instance of Mr. Bonar Law, the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, in 1915. The total contributions made by the British West Indies toward the cost of the war, relief funds, etc., amounted to over £3,250,000, the most notable amount included in that figure being the annual contribution of £60,000 for 40 years voted by the Jamaica Legislature.


The war brought about a remarkable revival of prosperity to the British West Indies. the total trade of those colonies rising from £25,809,884 in 1913 to £43,637,324 in 1919. The chief staples, sugar, rum, molasses, cacao, cotton and arrowroot, all commanded greatly enhanced prices, the only industry, indeed, that reaped no benefit being that of the production of lime and lime products in Dominica, which was adversely affected by the lack of shipping facilities and by import restrictions in the United States. Some anxiety was caused in 1912 by the decision of the Imperial Government to withdraw from the international convention for the suppression of sugar bounties and cartels, but the remaining high contracting Powers, having decided to adhere to that agreement, no ill effects resulted. Though Great Britain withdrew from the convention she decided to adhere to the principles of it and not to give a preference to sugar produced within the Empire or to cane over beet. In Aug. 1918 she gave to the signatories of the convention six months' notice of her intention to resume complete liberty of action in respect of her policy with regard to sugar, and the Finance Act of 1918 provided for the granting of a preference of one-sixth off the duties on sugar, molasses, tobacco, coffee, cacao and other products imported from within the Empire into the United Kingdom, and a preference of 2s. 6d. per gal. on rum.

Following an inquiry by a royal commission, of which the late Lord Balfour of Burleigh was chairman, in 1909, a conference was held at Ottawa in 1912 between representatives of the Dominion and the British West Indian colonies, the Bahamas, British Honduras and Jamaica excepted, to consider the question of closer trade between Canada and the West Indies, and on April 9 in that year an agreement was signed providing for a reciprocal trade agreement, the basis of which was a mutual preference of 20% on the chief products of the countries concerned, with a minimum preference on flour in favour of Canada, of 12 cents per 100 lb. and 15 cents on 96° test sugar not over No. 16 Dutch Standard in colour in favour of the British West Indies. Certain concessions which the Canadian refiners had enjoyed of importing foreign sugar at the British preferential rates were withdrawn. The agreement came into force on June 2 1913, and Grenada gave her adhesion to it in the same year.

In 1920 a further conference was held at Ottawa at which all the West Indian colonies, and also the Imperial Government, were represented. A new agreement was signed on June 18 1920 and brought into force in May 1921, under which Canada agreed to give to British West Indian products a tariff preference of 50%, whilst the British West Indies similarly agreed to extend to Canadian products tariff preferences of 50% in the case of Barbados, British Guiana and Trinidad, 333% in that of British Honduras, the Leeward Is. and the Windward Is., 25% in Jamaica, and io % in Bahamas, the Legislature of which colony afterwards voluntarily increased the preference to one of 25%. Certain products were again specifically dealt with, the preference on Canadian flour entering the West Indies being not less than is. per 196 lb. and that on West Indian sugar being not less than 83.712 cents per 100 lb. on 96° test. The Government of Canada further agreed to endeavour to arrange for a weekly freight, mail and passenger service, with steamers of 5,000 to 6,000 tons burthen, capable of steaming 12 knots per hour, between St. John (New Brunswick) or Halifax (Nova Scotia), down the islands lying to windward, British Guiana and back, the colonies contributing £27,000 per annum; also a service of freight, mail and passenger steamers of 3,500 tons burthen, capable of steaming 10 knots, from Canada to Nassau (Bahamas), Jamaica, Belize (British Honduras), and back, fortnightly, the colonies concerned contributing at the rate of £13,000 per annum toward any loss involved in the event of the service proving unremunerative. The Canada-British Honduras service was inaugurated in Jan. 1921.

A declaration appended to the agreement recommended for favourable consideration the laying of British-owned and British-controlled cables as soon as possible, to connect Bermuda with Barbados, Trinidad, British Guiana, the Windward Is., the Leeward Is., and Turks Is. or Jamaica.


In the matter of steamship communication the British West Indies were decidedly worse off after the war than be fore it. In 1915 the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. terminated the transatlantic contract steamer service on the ground that they had been precluded from using their terminal port at Southampton. In the same year the fortnightly intercolonial contract service was also terminated by mutual agreement between the company and the colonies concerned. For some time thereafter the company continued to berth small passenger steamers for the West Indies at irregular intervals; but this service was also brought to an end in 1920, and passengers between the West Indies and the mother country were afterwards compelled to travel by foreign steamers, cargo boats, or via Canada or the United States. An intercolonial service was performed in 1921 by direct steamers running between St. John (New Brunswick) and Halifax (Nova Scotia), down the islands, and back. Under the Canada-West Indies trade agreement referred to above this service was to become a weekly one. The British Government, toward the close of the year 1920, agreed to contribute twothirds of the cost of a temporary transatlantic steamer service for three months if the West Indian colonies would provide one-third, but this proposal was not acceptable to all the colonies concerned, mainly because it was felt that the steamers which it was proposed to use were unsuitable. In 1921 the British Government further offered to contribute £90,000 per annum toward a subsidy for a transatlantic steamer service, and proposals were made for the invitation of tenders. This proposal was, however, rejected by Trinidad, which in 1921 enjoyed a fortnightly mail and passenger service provided by the Royal Netherlands West India Mail, free of expense to the colony. The Dutch line agreed in June 1921 to allow their steamers to call at Barbados as well as Trinidad.


In 1919 Visct. Milner appointed a committee to consider the desirability of establishing a tropical agricultural college in the West Indies, and in the event of their decision being favourable to report on the subject generally. The committee issued their report in 1920, favouring the establishment of a West Indian agricultural college in Trinidad. The proposals having commended themselves to the majority of the West Indian colonies, the agricultural college committee was called together again in the autumn of 1920 with a view to making the necessary arrangements for the incorporation of the college and for carrying out the plans generally. The objects for which the college was established are to afford to young men opportunities for instruction in the principles of agriculture and in the cultivation and preparation for market of tropical produce of every kind, including especially sugar and its byproducts, rum and molasses, cacao, coffee, cotton, coco-nuts, rice, citrus and other fruits (notably bananas), and dyewoods, many of which commodities constitute the raw materials employed in the manufactures of the mother country; for the training of scientific investigators in matters pertaining to tropical agriculture amid suitable surroundings; for creating a body of British expert agriculturists well versed in the knowledge of the cultivation of land in the tropics, and of scientific advisers possessing an intimate knowledge of the means of combating pests and diseases, the control of which is fundamentally essential to the successful development of agriculture in the tropics. Attached to the college will be a model sugar factory, the various units of which have been contributed by the principal British sugar machinery manufacturing and allied firms. Industries. - Sugar remained the principal staple. This industry was developed by the extension of the central factory system, whereby the canes from the surrounding estates, as well as those grown by peasant farmers, are dealt with at a central base, the concentration thus effected permitting of the instalment of machinery by which the maximum amount of sugar can be extracted from the cane. Thanks to the devoted care given to cultivation, and to the assistance of the local agricultural scientists who make it their constant aim to combat insect pests, the cacao industry, which is mainly centred in Trinidad and Grenada, continued to prosper. The Jamaica banana industry suffered from a succession of hurricanes in 1915, 1916 and 1917, but afterwards showed rapid recovery. The cultivation of citrus fruit on the other hand made little progress - except in Dominica, where the lime industry continued steadily to increase after the war - owing to the prohibitive import duties in the United States and the inadequacy of shipping facilities for fruit between the West Indies and Canada and the United Kingdom. The Sea Island cotton industry, which owed its development in the West Indies to the ravages of the boll-weevil in the United States, received a check in 1920, through the appearance of the still more dreaded boll-worm in St. Kitts and Montserrat, to which it was brought by a Brazilian vessel. A comparatively new industry, which made rapid progress, was that of rice. Formerly rice was imported into British Guiana in large quantities for the consumption of East Indian immigrants. Now that colony not only produces enough rice for its own requirements but also a substantial surplus which is available for export to the neighbouring colonies. The exports of rice from British Guiana rose from 45,223 lb. in 1905 to 18,110,400 lb., besides 4,390,051 lb. of paddy, in 1920.

Almost as rapid has been the development of the petroleum industry in Trinidad. The existence of petroleum deposits in Trinidad has long been recognized. As far back as 1864 the Trinidad Petroleum Co., promoted by Mr. H. B. Sheridan and the 11th Earl of Dundonald, started drilling for oil at La Brea. Oil was struck, but competition with the new oilfields in the United States proved too formidable, and this and other causes forced the company into liquidation. Two years later, a civil engineer, named Derwent, started boring at Aripero. He, too, struck oil, but failed to make a financial success of the venture. No further steps were taken toward winning oil until about 1900, when Mr. Randolph Rust, a local resident (Mayor of Port of Spain in 1921), imported modern oil-boring machinery and successfully struck oil at Aripero in 1901. Other prospectors came on the scene, and in 1910 followed the successful flotation of the Trinidad oilfields, and Trinidad enjoyed such a boom as no West Indian colony had experienced, at any rate for many a long day. On April 27 in the following year Sir George Le Hunte, the then governor, opened the valve at the end of the pipe line on Brighton pier, thus inaugurating the new industry, which has since been developed at a rapid rate. With many new wells being drilled it was certain that the production of oil, which in 1920 amounted to 72,905,947 gal., would undergo material expansion.

(A. E. A.)

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